The original name of today’s Japanese holiday was Kigensetsu or Empire Day. The date is considered New Year’s Day by way of the traditional Japanese lunisolar calendar. It commemorates the establishment of the capitol city of Yamato and the founding of Japan by the mythical emperor Jimmu in 660 BCE.
In 1872, the Meiji government declared that the date would be commemorated as Kigensetsu or era day. This was one way of validating the legitimacy of the Emperor after the abolition of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
In 1928, Kigensetsu became associated with the phrase Hakko ichiu or “eight cords, one roof” which is attributed to Emperor Jimmu. Since 1928 the phrase was considered to be the unification of the eight corners of the world unified under the sacred rule of the Emperor. It was thought that all the races of humanity would then be realized as all brothers of one family. This, in turn, became the driving force of the imperialistic drive leading up to World War II.
The holiday was suspended at the conclusion of the war but was revamped as “Kenkoku Kinen no hi” or National Foundation Day. Although the holiday is very low key, it remains somewhat controversial because of its association with the earlier ultra- patriotic, expansionist Kigensetsu holiday.
Even though the nationalistic, patriotic flavor of Kigensetsu is gone, National Foundation Day is still an important day for the Japanese people. Celebrations include the raising of flags. People also reflect upon the meanings of Japanese citizenship.
The Blue Jay of Happiness wishes 幸せな日財団 to you.