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Kenkoku Kinen no Hi: Japan’s National Foundation Day

Japan is a country steeped in a rich history and fascinating culture, both of which the Japanese people reflect on each year on 建国記念日 (けんこくきねんび), or National Foundation Day in Japanese. This is a major holiday in Japan, celebrating the beginning of the country’s history. In this article, you’ll learn all about Japan’s National Foundation Day, from its origins to modern-day celebrations and traditions.

Are you ready to dive in? Let’s get started!

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1. What is National Foundation Day in Japan?

National Foundation Day is a day to commemorate the founding of the country and cultivate a love for it. It’s celebrated on the day the first Emperor of Japan was crowned as the “Day that Japanese history began.” This national holiday was first celebrated during the Meiji Era, where it was known as Kigensetsu.

While many countries celebrate Foundation Day on the date that they became independent, Japan is different. In the past, Japan was ruled by an Emperor. The lineage of many generations of Emperors can be traced back to times of mythology thousands of years ago. The first Emperor was crowned by God with the purpose of expanding her realm, and has been respected by the Japanese people since ancient times. This is why Foundation Day is celebrated on the day that the first Emperor was crowned—the beginning of 日本の歴史 (にほんのれきし), or Japanese history.

2. Foundation Day Date

Japanese Flag Waving in the Wind

Each year, National Foundation Day in Japan takes place on February 11.

3. How Does Japan Celebrate National Foundation Day?

On National Foundation Day, Japan holds events such as political lectures, symposia, and gatherings throughout the country. The Emperor system has its controversies, with opinions being divided in recent years about it following the female line. The National Foundation Day is an opportunity to hear the views of experts on the state of the country, and to deepen one’s own thoughts.

Starting with the Meiji Jingu, which is dedicated to Emperor Meiji, there are shrines that hold festivals for events such as National Foundation Festivals and Kigensai. There are a variety of festivals held that involve doing things such as pulling a portable shrine and playing drum and pipe music through a spectacular parade.

While remembering the many ancestors who were instrumental in the development of Japan for thousands of years since ancient times, people make wishes that the country will be even more prosperous in the future.

4. First Emperor of Japan

Who was the first Emperor of Japan, or 初代天皇 (しょだいてんのう)?

The correct answer is Emperor Jinmu. According to the Nihon Shoki, Emperor Jinmu was crowned on Lunar New Year’s Day of 660 B.C., or February 11 on the solar calendar. The Nihon Shoki is a book that was compiled at the beginning of the eighth century and is the oldest history book in Japan. In the book, it’s recorded that Emperor Jinmu was born with intelligence and a strong will.

Did you know that Japan has a unique way for counting years? It’s called the Kōki and starts counting from the year of the coronation of Emperor Jinmu. The first year in the Imperial Era was 660 B.C.

5. Essential Vocabulary for National Foundation Day

Japanese People Celebrating National Foundation Day

Ready to study some of the vocabulary words from this article? Here’s a list of the most important words and phrases for National Foundation Day!

  • 祝日 (しゅくじつ) — “holiday”
  • 建国 (けんこく) — “founding of a nation”
  • 日本書紀 (にほんしょき) — “Chronicles of Japan”
  • 神武天皇 (じんむてんのう) — “Emperor Jimmu”
  • 即位 (そくい) — “coronation”
  • 日本の歴史 (にほんのれきし) — “Japanese history”
  • 初代天皇 (しょだいてんのう) — “first emperor of Japan”
  • 建国記念日 (けんこくきねんび) — “National Foundation Day”
  • 歴史 (れきし) — “history”
  • 紀元節 (きげんせつ) — “Empire Day”
  • 公布 (こうふ) — “promulgation”

To hear each of these vocabulary words pronounced, and to read them alongside relevant images, be sure to check out our Japanese National Foundation Day vocabulary list! You can also watch the video above to learn more essential vocabulary with Risa!

Final Thoughts

As you can see, Foundation Day in Japan is a unique holiday that pays tribute to the country’s history and early beginnings, while simultaneously encouraging people to look ahead to the future. Does your country have a similar holiday? Let us know in the comments section!

If you’re interested in continuing to learn about Japanese culture and holidays, you may find the following pages useful:

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