A long history about today, February 12th (National Foundation Day)
Japan has a long history. The country’s actual founding date is not well understood. The date February 11 is a Meiji era Gregorian calendar conversion of the accession date of Emperor Jimmu (January 1, 660 BC), the first legendary Emperor of Japan.
Most Japanese do not celebrate National Foundation Day to the extent that Americans celebrate Independence Day. The reason for this lies in post-war history.
Originally, from the Meiji era to 1945, the day was widely celebrated as “Kigensetsu” or “Empire Day.” After the war, it was abolished by the GHQ (General Headquarters) led by Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers.
Japan, the loser of the war, was occupied by the victorious country and forced to accept many reforms in the name of democratization. One of these reforms was a revision of national holidays. Leaving the custom of celebrating the emperor’s accession would mean allowing Japan to unite around the symbol of the emperor. There was a concern that Japan would again become a military power.
MacArthur, who governed Japan after the war, set February 12 as the deadline for the plan that would decide Japan’s future. The day was also the birthday of Lincoln, a man MacArthur admired and had a portrait of in his office. Putting these things together, we can infer that MacArthur believed that February 12 was the day that a new Japan would be made.
Afterward, on February 13, 1957 (Showa 32), a bill for “National Foundation Day” was submitted and rejected nine times. In the end, it was not passed.
Much later, on December 9, 1966 (Showa 41), the Sato Cabinet declared that “National Foundation Day shall be February 11th.” The government established and promulgated a cabinet order (Showa 41, Cabinet Order No. 376), which came into effect on the same day. Nearly 10 years had passed since the first legistlation attempt.
That which seems like a mere holiday can have quite the history.