National Foundation Day (建国記念の日)

National Foundation Day is a national holiday in Japan. Its date is February 11. It used to be Kigensetsu (the day commemorating the ascension to the throne of the first emperor, Jimmu).

It is originated from the day on which the Emperor Jimmu is believed to have ascended to the throne (New year's day of the 58th year of the sexagenary cycle, first day of Kanoetatsu) based on "Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan). It falls on February 11, 660B.C. under the Gregorian calendar.


The Article 2 of the law concerning national holidays (National Holiday Law) prescribes that the aim of "National Foundation Day" is to "reflect on the establishment of the nation and to nourish a love for the country. In 1966, with revisions to the National Holiday Laws, the National Foundation Day was added to national holidays. The application of the law started on February 11, 1967.

The National Holiday law prescribes that the date of the National Foundation Day be designated by a government ordinance, although the dates of other national holidays are designated by the law. Based on this stipulation, the cabinet (Japan) enacted an ordinance (Ordinance No. 376, 1996) to establish the day for commemorating the National Foundation Day. The ordinance stipulates that "February 11 be National Foundation Day."

Shrines and temples hold "National Foundation Festivals" all over Japan on this day.


February 11 designated as "National Foundation Day" was once a holiday named Kigensetsu. Kigensetsu was established in 1872 as a day for cerebrating the founding of Japan based on the day on which "Nohonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan) says the Emperor Jimmu ascended to the throne. This Kigensetsu was abolished, with the abolishment of "matters related to national holidays" (imperial edict No. 25, 1927) under Article 2 of the supplementary provisions of "the law of Holidays of People" enacted in 1948.

The movements for the revival of Kigensetsu became active around 1951. Legislators of the house of Councilors and members of the Liberal Democratic Party (Japan) submitted a bill as legislation by House members to call for the establishment of "National Foundation Day" (建国記念日) on February 13, 1957. However, such bills did not pass, because the then leading opposition party, Japan Socialist Party, opposed to and criticized the establishment of National Foundation Day, citing "a return to a prewar period and the prime example of reactionary conservatism" as the reason.

Such bills were submitted nine times but fell through. At last Japan Socialist Party compromised with a revised bill, in which the possessive particle "の" was inserted into the name of the day to allow an interpretation of "cerebrating the foundation of a nation itself." On June 25, 1966 the revision of the National Holiday Law was enacted to establish "National Foundation Day" (建国記念の日).

The revision states, "National Foundation Day is designated by a government ordinance to reflect on the establishment of the nation and nourish a love for the country. Article 3 of its supplementary provision also states, "Prime minister shall consult Council for National Foundation Day and respect its report when planning to establish an ordinance to designate the date of National Foundation Day as stipulated in Article 2 of the revised National Holiday Law." The Council for National Foundation Day consisting of experienced academics was established in the Prime Minister's Office. After about 6 months of discussions, seven out of nine members approved the day. A report was submitted in which "February 11" is the day of "National Foundation Day".
On the same day,"an ordinance to establish the date for National Foundation Day" (Ordinance No. 376, 1996) was promulgated in which "February 11 was designated as National Foundation Day"

Council for National Foundation Day

The Council for National Foundation Day, an affiliate organization of the Prime Minister's Office was established on July 11, 1966 and abolished on December 15 of the same year.
(The maximum number of council members is 10.)

It held a total of 9 meetings from July 28 to December 8 of the same year and submitted a report dated December 9 recommending "February 11" (with opinions of individual members).

"Public hearings on National Foundation Day" were held concurrently in Sendai City, Tokyo, Osaka city, and Hiroshima City as the fifth meeting on October 24 of the same year.
(Two members participated in each hearing.)

The names of members were listed on the report in the order of Japanese syllabary regardless of posts such as chairman, or deputy chairman.


Tsusai SUGAWARA (Chairman. He attended all the meetings. February 11.)

Tadashi YOSHIMURA (Deputy chairman. He attended all the meetings. February 11.)

Genichi ABE (He was absent only from the fifth meeting. It is not desirable to make it a national holiday. If a day must be chosen, January 1 is innocuous.)

Soichi OYA (He attended only in the second meeting. He resigned immediately before the ninth meeting with no description of his opinion.)

Azuma OKUDA (He attended all the meetings. Day of Risshun [the first day of spring]. An importance should be placed not on the human society but on the land.)

Shigeo OKETANI (He was absent only from the first meeting. February 11.)

Shigeru SAKAKIBARA (He attended all the meetings. February 11.)

Shigeko TANABE (She was absent only from the sixth meeting. February 11.)

Seiichi FUNAHASHI (He attended all the meetings. February 11. On the condition that it be not an event sponsored by the government.)

Masatoshi MATSUSHITA (He was absent only from the first, second, and sixth meetings. February 11.)

Survey of public opinions on National Foundation Day

Public relations department of the Prime Minister's Secretariat took opinion poll at the request of Council for National Foundation Day.
Official gazette data edition No. 449 dated on November 30, 1966

The day proposed by parties were added to the choices (Liberal Democratic Party of Japan: February 11, Socialist Party of Japan: May 3, New Komeito Party: April 28, Democratic Socialist Party: April 3)

Nationwide polls were conducted from September 29 to October 6 of the same year through individual interviews with 10,000 men and women over the age of 20 (valid respondents: 8,700) by researchers of Central Research Services, Inc.

The results were reported in the sixth meeting on November 4 of the same year.

February 11 (Day of former Kigensetsu): 47.4%(4,124)

Any day will be fine: 12.1%(1,053)

May 3 (Constitution Memorial Day): 10.4%(909)

Nothing in particular: 7.5%(651)

April 3 (Day of promulgation of Seventeen-Article Constitution by Prince Shotoku:6.1%(529)

April 28: (Anniversary of signing the peace treaty as Japan: 5.8%(507)

Those who responded not a specific day but a season, or (calendar) month (e.g. Spring, autumn, April, and September): 3.1%(271)

Those who responded answers that defeat the purpose of questions: 2.1%(186)

August 15: 2.1%(183)

Other day (Lunar New Year, April 1, November 3,others): 1.4%(124)

New Year's Day: 1.3%(109)

The first day of spring: 0.5%(43)

Former Genshisai (Shinto festival of origins):0.1%(11)

Various theory

Some suggest that February 11 is a day of festival of Kara-ninja Shrine or Karakamino-yashiro Shrine, a Myojin-taisha Shrine built within the palace of Heian-Kyo and Kunaisho as two of the "three shrines enshrined in the Department of the Imperial Household" (the day of the Ox (one of the twelve animals of the oriental zodiac) after Kasuga-matsuri Festival and the day of the Ox before Niiname-sai festival).


As controversy over National Foundation Day continues, Mikasanomiya Imperial Prince Takahito--a younger brother of the Emperor Showa and a member of Shigakukai (The Historical Society of Japan)--urged Taro SAKAMOTO (historian), director of the society, to adopt a resolution on opposition in a meeting of the society. However he did not agree saying that doings so is not appropriate for Shigakukai, an academic society. Sakamoto was criticized by public opinions and mass media, because Mikasanomiya who had got angry and walked out the general meeting issued a comment to criticize "dictatorship of the director." Some nationalists got angry to know that Mikasanomiya had such intention for the resolution and right-wing group members who participated in "International festival for cerebrating Kigensetsu" caused a scandal by intruding into the imperial palace in 1959.

[Original Japanese]