Constitutional Memorial Day is a Japanese holiday that celebrates the drafting and implementation of Japan’s constitution after the conclusion of World War II.
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This is an important day for many Japanese people due to the many rights that were given to Japanese citizens by the new constitution. Constitutional Memorial Day is known in Japan as Kempo Kinen-Bi. The holiday is celebrated on May 3 each year. Japanese people use Constitutional Memorial Day to reflect on democracy and ideas such as freedom and human rights. Constitution Memorial Day is part of Golden Week. During this time, Japanese citizens often go on vacation with their families and friends.
Before you can fully understand the importance of Constitutional Memorial Day, you must learn about Japan’s situation during the early 20th century.
Imperial Japan and the Second Great War
During the years prior to Japan’s entry into World War II, Japan worked to expand its empire throughout Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Many scholars suggest that Japan became an imperial power as a means of avoiding colonization by Britain or America. Regardless of these reasons, the imperial expansion caused Japan to become more militarized. Eventually, this militarization spilled over into many aspects of Japanese society. Forced conscription and elimination of the freedom of speech were among some of the effects that came with militarization. One of the most critical effects caused by the militarization of Japanese society was the weakening of the Diet, Chrysanthemum Throne, and the civilian government. This caused the entire fate of Japan to rest in the hands of just a few military leaders. These leaders made the decision to invade Manchuria without the support of Emperor Hirohito or the Japanese public. Eventually, this military elite pitted the nation of Japan against the United States by attacking Pearl Harbor. After fierce fighting in the Pacific, Japan’s military was defeated and Emperor Hirohito was placed into a position where he could sue for peace. With American General Douglas MacArthur, Emperor Hirohito signed a treaty and ended World War II.
Drafting and Implementing the New Japanese Constitution
With the oppressive military leaders no longer in control of Japan, Emperor Hirohito was able to work with MacArthur and the Americans to create a new constitution that would benefit the people of Japan. The constitution was implemented on May 3, 1947. The new Japanese constitution was based off of the constitutions of America and Great Britain. Many of the rights that were implemented by this constitution were based off of Western ideals. This constitution declared that each Japanese citizen is entitled to the freedoms of assembly and speech. Workers’ rights and the right to due process were also guaranteed by the new constitution. The constitution also called for democratic elections to a prime minister, members of the Diet, and other public officials. Prior to the Second Great War, most Japanese citizens did not play a role in government affairs. These changes helped make Japan a nation that could be prosperous. Constitution Memorial Day marks these events that allowed Japan to transition from a totalitarian state to a constitutional monarchy with a democratically elected parliament.
Constitutional Memorial Day Celebrations
Many Japanese citizens observe Constitutional Memorial Day in their own ways.
Visit the Diet Government Buildings
During most of the year, many areas of the Diet government buildings are restricted to the general public. On Constitutional Memorial Day, the Diet opens its doors to visitors and gives tours throughout the day. Visitors can learn about the legislative process and see the places where some of Japan’s most critical decisions are made.
Attend Public Lectures
On Constitutional Memorial Day, there are often lectures at public offices and other locations. These lectures are usually provided by professionals from the Japanese government and universities. The themes of these lectures change each year, but they are always related to Japan’s history and the new constitution. Some popular lecture topics are the evolution of democracy, the progress of Japan, and the future of Japan.
Since Constitutional Memorial Day is part of Japan’s Golden Week, many people use it as an opportunity to travel to locations across Japan. A popular destination for people traveling during Golden Week is Hiroshima. Hiroshima has many exhibits and memorials to the people who lost their lives during World War II. The statues and artwork throughout this city are dedicated to a peaceful future for Japan and the world.
Reflecting on the Past
On Constitutional Memorial Day, many Japanese people will spend time with their family members while thinking about the past. Many people see the holiday as a time to appreciate the things that they may have taken for granted.