National Foundation Day

National Foundation Day

Share Button

建国記念の日 February 11

February 11, 2019, is Japan’s national holiday. The day is the same as other countries national day which is to celebrate national pride. However, there is something different from other countries who have grandiose festivities, including fireworks, parades parties, flag raising etc.

This day is quieter in Japan than its counterparts since it was re-established in 1966. All celebrations are far from the norm than they used to be. Many people are happy to have such a holiday. It’s not because the day is their national day but because it is a day they can have a rest after a busy life. Why it is subdued than the mainstream? Why it is named as ‘建国記念の日’, not ‘建国記念日’ which only miss ‘の’ (means ‘of’ in English)? There are many controversial legendaries and statements about this holiday’s history. 


Japan’s National Foundation day (‘建国記念の日’, also Kenkoku Kinen no Hi) can trace back to 11 February 660 BC when Japan’s first emperor, Emperor Jimmu crowned.  This holiday was designated as a national holiday in Meiji period in 1873. It was named Empire Day (紀元節, Kigensetsu) at the beginning and was believed to unit Japanese people together by their love of the deified emperor.

However, its first celebration was on January 29 of the Gregorian calendar. It was named Empire Day (紀元節, Kigensetsu) at the beginning and was believed to unit Japanese people together by their love of the deified emperor.  And because most of Japanese were still using the Chinese lunar calendar. They celebrated this day as Lunar New Year instead of National Foundation Day. This was not what the government desired for. Thus, Japan moved the holiday to February 11 of the Gregorian calendar in 1873 and claimed this day was the day when Emperor Jimmu went to the throne.

This holiday was abolished after World War II. Then it was re-established as National Foundation Day in 1966 by revising its name from 建国記念日  to 建国記念の日 which can be interpreted as it’s to commemorate the founding of a nation not to emphasize the date when Japan was established.

Myth of Emperor Jimmu

It was believed that in 660 BC, Emperor Jimmu united clans by his military strategy and this unified clan formed original Japan.  On February 11, 660 BC, He crowned as Japan’s first emperor. There is no evidence that says Jimmu existed. However, people believed he was a direct descendant of Amaterasu, the Shinto sun goddess. There are many stories and legendaries about Emperor Jimmu. You can find his stories in the Kojiki ( Records of Ancient Matters).


  1. Wikipedia: National Foundation Day 
  2. TokyoWeekender: The Story Behind National Foundation Day
  3. CultureTrip: Why Does Japan Celebrate National Foundation Day?
  4. JapanInfo:  Japanese National Foundation Day and the History Behind It

Leave a Reply

Notify of