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National Foundation Day

National Foundation Day 2018 and 2019

The National Foundation Day which is now celebrated on 11 February each year was originally proclaimed on January 29 from the luni solar calendar.

YearDateDayHoliday
201811 FebSunNational Foundation Day
12 FebMonNational Foundation Day
Holiday
201911 FebMonNational Foundation Day

The shift from luni solar calendar to the Gregorian calendar in 1873 caused the National Foundation Day to fall on the same day with the Lunar New Year. The government had concerns that the National Foundation Day celebration might lose its essence to the Lunar New Year falling on the same day; hence, it was moved to 11 January. The National Foundation Day was originally known as Kigen-setsu or the Empire Day as it was believed based on the Chronicles of Japan called Nihonshoki, that it was the date Emperor Jinmu (Japan’s first mythical emperor) was appointed to the throne.

However, the Empire Day was abolished after World War II due to the over reliance on the Shinto mythology and continuing reinforcement of the Japanese nobility. Nevertheless, many descendants of those who had great socio-political power, feudal titles and ranks continued to occupy elite roles in the Japanese society. The people’s laments and grief over the abolishment of the Empire Day called for the re-establishment of a national holiday in 1966. Hence, it has been renamed as the National Foundation Day. The earlier holiday, Kigen-setsu was celebrated with much nationalism and extravagance over large parades and festivals. The people of Japan would be seen hoisting the national flag expressing patriotism and participating in traditional float parades around the compound of the Meiji Shrine.

In contrast, the current celebration of the National Foundation day is more discreet as it is relatively controversial although raising the Japanese flag remains a customary practice. Most importantly, the essence of this holiday has stayed and still is the same – a day for people to express patriotism and love for their nation.