Friday, February 11, 2011

National Foundation Day Japan

APP member, Michael Penn of PressTV in Tokyo sends in this interesting report on dueling conservative and liberal protests on Japan's National Foundation Day holiday.

According to, National Foundation Day in Japan was first recognized on February 11 in 1872 during the Meiji Period. It was originally established to honor the Imperial family line and the founding of Japan. It is now thought that the Meiji government wanted to raise the profile of the Imperial Emperor and unite Japan as a nation after the elimination of the Shogunate during the Edo period.

The story behind National Foundation Day dates back to an event recorded in the Nihon-Shoki, one of the earliest records of Japanese history. It states that the first Emperor of Japan, Jimmu, believed to be a direct descendant of the sun goddess, was given the title Emperor on February 11 in 660 BC. Although this is now considered to be a myth, at the time it was a strongly unifying idea and lead to the belief that Japan as a nation was (descended from the gods and therefore) invincible.

Until WW-II this day was celebrated with great pride and ceremony, however, as a consequence of the war, the day was abolished as it was seen to express inappropriate ideals. In 1966, the Japanese government brought a slightly more muted version of the day back to the public holiday calendar in the form of the National Foundation Day we know today.

On Kenkoku Kinen no Hi, Japanese people consider what it is to be Japanese and express their patriotism to their country. The Japanese flag, known as the "Hinomaru" or sun flag, represents the divine selection of the Emperor. It remains a strong symbol on this day and many people will carry and wave flags at local festivities.

Your editor's personal experience with National Foundation Day is touring the Yashukuni Shrine with a Japanese noble a few years back whose grandfather helped restore the Meiji Emperor. We were both fascinated to see so many elderly men and their grandsons all decked out in their Imperial Japan Army and Navy uniforms coming for picnics at the park that encircles the Shrine.

The groups of Yakuza and rightists thugs in their own type of 20th Century uniforms--Western busines suits or jumpsuits--gathering to pay homage at the Shrine captured our attenion as well. My elderly companion was simply besides himself with my continually taking pictures of these men and trying to talk with them. We lunched at the museum cafeteria on Japan Navy curry surrounded by fantasy Kamakazi fighters in full flying regalia.

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