Shōwa Day is a Japanese holiday that celebrates the birthday and life of Emperor Shōwa, or Hirohito.
|2020||29 Apr||Wed||Shōwa Day|
|2021||29 Apr||Thu||Shōwa Day|
This is a day of respect and patriotism. Along with many tributes to the late emperor, many people celebrate Shōwa Day by spending time with their friends and family. Shōwa Day is celebrated on April 29 each year. The holiday is part of a long string of celebrations known as Japanese Golden Week. Shōwa Day is closely associated with other holidays like Greenery Day.
The Life and Death of Emperor Shōwa
Before you can understand the importance of Shōwa Day as a Japanese public holiday, you must first learn about Hirohito’s role in Japan’s 20th century history.
Emperor Shōwa was born as the son of Emperor Taisho and Empress Teimei on April 29, 1901. Hirohito experienced a quiet childhood as he pursued studies and developed a love of learning. This dedication to learning carried over to his adult life when he dedicated many years to the study of nature and marine biology. In 1926, Hirohito ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne and became Emperor Shōwa. Shōwa is a Japanese name that means ‘enlightened peace’. Hirohito chose this name after he ascended to the position of emperor because he witnessed the devastation that was caused by World War I. Hirohito demonstrated a true dedication to maintaining peace, but other factors prevented him from acting effectively until after World War II.
Hirohito as the Emperor of Japan
Hirohito led Japan during a particularly turbulent part of its history. During the beginning of his reign, many of Japan’s military leaders seized the power that belonged to the Chrysanthemum Throne and led Japan along a warpath that caused the nation to be an aggressive imperialist. Emperor Shōwa opposed the Japanese military’s occupation of Manchuria and the atrocities committed during the second Sino-Japanese war, but he was powerless due to might of the military leader. This caused many people to see Hirohito as a reluctant supporter of Imperial Japan’s actions. Emperor Shōwa was powerless to do anything even throughout World War II when Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. After Japan suffered major military and civilian losses, Emperor Shōwa took the opportunity to put an end to Japan’s aggression. Emperor Shōwa announced to the Japanese people and the rest of the world that Japan would unconditionally surrender to the United States and the allied forces.
After the end of World War II, Emperor Shōwa worked with the General Douglas MacArthur and the Americans to decide on the future of Japan as a nation. This led to the drafting of a Japanese constitution. Under a new constitution, Japan became a constitutional monarchy. This also caused Emperor Shōwa to announce that he was a man and not a divine ruler. Instead of leading Japan as an emperor appointed by God, Shōwa became Japan’s democratic figurehead. In this new system, the power of the Japanese government rested with Japanese citizens and the Diet, or Japanese parliament. In the years that followed the creation of Japan’s new government, Emperor Shōwa led Japan to success within the global arena. Japan eventually gained the respect of other nations and became an economic superpower. Emperor Shōwa had several children with his wife, Empress Tojun. In 1989, Emperor Shōwa passed away peacefully after a battle with cancer. Emperor Shōwa’s son, Akihito, ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne in his place. Emperor Shōwa was the longest reigning Japanese emperor, holding the Chrysanthemum Throne from 1926 until 1989.
Shōwa Day is officially celebrated as a time to remember Japan’s history during the 20th century and its rise as an economic superpower. Since Shōwa Day is the beginning of Japanese Golden Week, many people in Japan use the holiday as an opportunity to begin their vacations. Many Japanese people take some time to visit locations across Japan and the world. Japanese people often go to natural areas, parks, and vacation resorts to enjoy Golden Week with their friends and family. In cities, many people attend lectures and public events that highlight Japan’s involvement in World War II.
These events explain how the mistakes of Japan’s military leaders led to great hardship for the Japanese people. They also explain how Shōwa’s leadership allowed Japan to recover and become the powerful nation that it is today. Unlike the many other holidays of East and Southeast Asia, Shōwa Day is not a time for partying and excessive excitement. It is a fairly quiet holiday for reflection and relaxation. Shōwa Day is a time for the Japanese people to realize how fortunate they are to have recovered from events that may have led to totalitarian rule. It’s also a great excuse to escape the routines and stressful aspects of regular life.
Shōwa Day is a patriotic holiday that allows Japanese people to reflect on history and enjoy the simple things in life.