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Lesson Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class- Holidays in Japan Series at JapanesePod101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind Japanese holidays and observances. I’m Becky, and you're listening to Season 1, Lesson 4- "National Foundation Day."
February 11 is "National Foundation Day." It’s 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 in the late 19th century, where it was known as "紀元節 (Kigensetsu)." 紀元節 (Kigensetsu) was the origin for National Foundation Day.
Now, before we go into greater detail, do you know the answer to this question- who was the first Emperor of Japan?
If you don’t already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep listening.
While many countries celebrate their national day on the date they gained independence, Japan is different. In the past, an Emperor ruled Japan. The lineage of many generations of the Emperor can be traced back to times of mythology, thousands of years ago. The first Emperor was a descendant of the sun goddess, 天照大神 (Amaterasu ōmikami), and has been respected by the Japanese people since ancient times. This is why National Foundation Day is celebrated on the day that the first Emperor was crowned because it represents the beginning of the history of Japan.
Throughout the country, events such as political lectures, symposia, and gatherings are held. The imperial system has its controversies, with opinions being divided in recent years about it following the female line of succession. National Foundation Day events are an opportunity to hear the views of experts on the state of the country and to deepen one's own thoughts.
Starting with the 明治神宮 (Meiji Jingu) shrine, which is dedicated to Emperor Meiji, many shrines hold events such as National Foundation Festivals and 紀元祭 (kigensai), which are ceremonies commemorating the founding of Japan. A variety of festivals involve doing things such as pulling a portable shrine and playing drum and pipe music through a spectacular parade. While remembering the many ancestors over thousands of years who were instrumental in developing Japan, we make wishes that the country will be even more prosperous in the future.
Here’s our fun fact for the day! Did you know that Japan has a unique way of counting years? It is called the 皇紀 (kōki) and starts counting from the year of the coronation of Emperor Jimmu. The first year in the imperial era was 660 BC.
Now it's time to answer our quiz question- who was the first Emperor?
The correct answer is "Emperor Jimmu." According to the 日本書紀 (Nihon Shoki)—a book which was compiled at the beginning of the 8th century and is one of the oldest history books in Japan—Emperor Jimmu was crowned on the lunar New Year' of 660 BC, or February 11 in the solar calendar. The book states that Emperor Jimmu was intelligent and strong-willed.
Well listeners, how was this lesson?
Did you learn something new?
In your country, how do you celebrate your national day?
Please leave us a comment telling us at JapanesePod101.com.
And we’ll see you next time!