The Emperor’s Birthday is one of the most important holidays for Japanese citizens and has long been celebrated on 23 December. However, the holiday will not be observed in 2019 as Emperor Akihito is scheduled to abdicate on 30 April 2019, and Crown Prince Naruhito will ascend the throne. The Emperor’s Birthday will be celebrated on 23 February from year 2020 onwards.
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The Emperor’s Birthday honors the Emperor of Japan and the Chrysanthemum Throne, but it is also a time for Japanese citizens to have fun and express their patriotism. On the Emperor’s Birthday, people can enjoy many festivities. Currently, the Emperor’s Birthday is celebrated on December 23. The date of the holiday changes to correspond with the birthday of the current Emperor of Japan. In Japan, the Emperor’s Birthday is known as Tenno Tanjobi.
Birthday celebrations for Japanese emperors date back to Ancient Japan. These celebrations were held to honor the Emperor as a person and Imperial ruler. Prior to World War II, the Emperor’s Birthday was called Tenchosetsu. Tenchosetsu corresponded with Chikusetsu, or the Empress’ Birthday. In 1948, the Emperor’s Birthday became a public holiday in Japan. During the same year, Chikusetsu was eliminated and Tenchosetsu was changed to Tenno Tanjobi. Tennor Tanjobi is a literal translation of the Emperor’s Birthday and matches the current form of Japanese used in Japan. Tenno Tanjobi was a celebration of Emperor Showa’s birthday. During the Showa period, Tenno Tanjobi was celebrated on April 29 each year. When Emperor Showa passed away in 1989, April 29 became Greenery Day.
In 2007, April 29 became Showa Day. Today, the Emperor’s Birthday, Greenery Day, and Showa Day are all celebrated separately. After Showa’s death, Akihito ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne. Today, Emperor Akihito continues to reign over Japan. Empero Akihito’s birthday is December 23. Because of this, the Diet changed Tenno Tanjobi to December 23 before Akihito came to power. Japanese law states that the Diet must change Tenno Tanjobi to the birthday of the current Japanese emperor, so the holiday will be celebrated on a different day in the future.
The Life of Akihito
Tenno Tanjobi currently celebrates the life and accomplishments of Emperor Akihito. Akihito was born on December 23, 1933. His parents were Emperor Hirohito and Empress Nagako. Emperor Akihito was the first member of the Imperial family of Japan to marry a person from a lower social class. In 1959, Emperor Akihito married Michiko Shoda, a commoner from Tokyo. Throughout his life, Akihito continued to depart from the elitist ideals that the Imperial family had become known for throughout history. Emperor Akihito has also dedicated a large portion of his life to being a humanitarian. Akihito is credited for improving Japan’s reputation in East Asia. He visited many nations to apologize for Imperial Japan’s cruel actions. Emperor Akihito is also known to visit the sites of earthquakes, tsunamis, and other natural disasters. Emperor Akihito still continues to do what he can to promote peace and understanding throughout the world. Akihito is also a scholar with a genuine interest in science. Emperor Akihito has published a book on marine biology.
The Emperor’s Birthday is one of Japan’s most unique holidays, so Japanese people have many ways to celebrate.
Visiting the Imperial Palace
Many people use the Emperor’s Birthday as an opportunity to visit the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. On December 23, the Imperial Palace opens to the public. Normally, most of the Imperial Palace is restricted to regular Japanese citizens. On the Emperor’s Birthday, people can take a tour of the Imperial Palace’s inner rooms and courtyards. This is a rare experience, so people from across Japan often travel to Tokyo to enjoy the holiday. There is also a large ceremony at the Imperial Palace. Prior to the beginning of the ceremony, huge crowds of people gather in front of the Imperial Palace to await the arrival of Japanese Emperor. When the ceremony begins, the Emperor will look at the crowds from his balcony. He will often say a few words of gratitude while the visitors shout out birthday salutations. During the ceremony, the Emperor is accompanied by the Empress and other members of the Imperial family.
Since the Emperor’s Birthday is a patriotic holiday, many Japanese people hang the national flag of Japan on their homes. People also bring miniature flags to the celebration at the Imperial Palace.
During the week before the birthday celebration, many Japanese citizens write letters to the Japanese Emperor. Most of these letters are generic, but some people write messages that are quite personal. These personal letters often come from individuals that have been directly impacted by the Emperor’s actions. Emperor Akihito often receives letters from people who are appreciative of his dedication to humanitarianism. Before the Emperor’s Birthday, many street vendors sell parchment and postage to people who want to write a letter to the Japanese Emperor.
Places to Celebrate
Since all of the events for the Emperor’s Birthday occur at the Imperial Palace, Tokyo is the best to celebrate the holiday.
The Emperor’s Birthday is a patriotic holiday that honors the current Japanese Emperor and his life.