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National Foundation Day


National Foundation Day

National Foundation Day
Observed by Japan
Type National
Significance Celebrates the founding of the nation
Date 11 February
Next time 11 February 2017 (2017-02-11)
Frequency annual

National Foundation Day (建国記念の日 Kenkoku Kinen no Hi) is a national holiday in Japan celebrated annually on February 11, celebrating the foundation of Japan and the accession of its first emperor, Jimmu.[1]


  • History 1
  • Current practice 2
  • See also 3
  • Notes 4
  • References 5


The origin of National Foundation Day is New Year's Day in the traditional lunisolar calendar. On that day, the foundation of Japan by Emperor Jimmu was celebrated based on Nihonshoki, which states that Emperor Jimmu ascended to the throne on the first day of the first month.

In the Meiji period, the Japanese government designated the day as a national holiday. This coincided with the switch from the lunisolar calendar to the Gregorian calendar in 1873. In 1872, when the holiday was originally proclaimed,[2] it was January 29 of the Gregorian calendar, which corresponded to Lunar New Year of 1873. Contrary to the government's expectation, this led people to see the day as just Lunar New Year, instead of National Foundation Day. In response, the government moved the holiday to February 11 of the Gregorian calendar in 1873. The government stated that it corresponded to Emperor Jimmu's regnal day but did not publish the exact method of computation.

In its original form, the holiday was named Empire Day (紀元節, Kigensetsu).[3] The national holiday was supported by those who believed that focusing national attention on the emperor would serve a unifying purpose.[4] Publicly linking his rule with the mythical first emperor, Jimmu, and thus Amaterasu, the Meiji Emperor declared himself the one, true ruler of Japan.[5]

With large parades and festivals, in its time, Kigensetsu was considered one of the four major holidays of Japan.[6]

Given its reliance on Shintoism and its reinforcement of the Japanese nobility, Kigensetsu was abolished following World War II. Ironically, February 11 was also the day when General MacArthur approved the draft version of the model Constitution in 1946.[7]

The commemorative holiday was re-established as National Foundation Day in 1966.[8] Though stripped of most of its overt references to the Emperor, National Foundation Day was still a day for expressing patriotism and love of the nation in the 1950s.[9]

Current practice

In contrast with the events associated with earlier Kigensetsu, celebrations for National Foundation Day are relatively muted. Customs include the raising of Japanese flags and reflection on the meaning of Japanese citizenship. The holiday is still relatively controversial however, and very overt expressions of nationalism or even patriotism are rare.[10]

See also


  1. ^ Shinto and the State, 1868-1988,Hardacre, Helen. (1989). pp. 101-102.
  2. ^ The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature, (2005). et al.Rimmer, Thomas p. 555 n1.
  3. ^ American School in Japan: Japanese Holiday Traditions. retrieved November 21, 2005
  4. ^ Japan's Modern Myths: Ideology in the Late Meiji Period,Gluck, Carol. (1985) p. 85.
  5. ^ Hiragana Times: Emperor JINMU, retrieved November 21, 2005
  6. ^ p. 384Hirohito And The Making Of Modern Japan,Bix, Herbert. (2000).
  7. ^ Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II,Dower, John. (1999). p. 373.
  8. ^ Emperor Hirohito and Shōwa Japan: A Political Biography,Lange, Stephen. (1992). p. 172.
  9. ^ Leaders and Leadership in Japan,Neary, Ian. (1996). p. 239.
  10. ^ Nationalism: Critical Concepts in Political Science, (2000). et al.Hutchinson, John pp. 1889-1880.


  • Bix, Herbert P. (2000). Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-019314-0 (cloth) ISBN 978-0-06-093130-8 (paper)
  • Dower, John. (2000). Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-04686-1 (cloth) ISBN 978-0-393-32027-5 (paper)
  • Gluck, Carol. (1985) Japan's Modern Myths: Ideology in the Late Meiji Period. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-05449-0 (cloth) ISBN 978-0-691-00812-7
  • Hardacre, Helen. (1989). Shinto and the State, 1868-1988. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-07348-4 (cloth) ISBN 978-0-691-02052-5 (paper)
  • Hutchinson, John and Anthony David Smith. (2000). Nationalism: Critical Concepts in Political Science. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-20109-4
  • Lange, Stephen. (1992). Emperor Hirohito and Shōwa Japan: A Political Biography. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-03203-2 (cloth) ISBN 978-0-415-15379-9
  • Neary, Ian. (1996). Leaders and Leadership in Japan. London: RoutledgeCurzon. ISBN 978-1-873410-41-7 (cloth)
  • Rimmer, Thomas and Van C. Gessel. (2005). The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-13804-8
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