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8 out of 10 Japanese didn't know Feb 11 was National Foundation Day

23 Comments

"When is 'Kenkoku Kinen no Hi' (National Foundation Day)?" In a man-on-the-street survey administered last month to 10,000 male and female Japanese age 18 and over in 10 cities around the nation, only 19.3% gave Feb 11 -- the correct reply -- the Sankei Shimbun (Feb 11) reported on its front page.

The awareness survey, held in advance of Wednesday's holiday, was conducted by the Junior Chamber of Commerce International Japan. As a yardstick for comparison, randomly selected foreign nationals residing in Japan were questioned on their knowledge of similar holidays in their own countries.

Broken down by age segment, only 14.9% of Japanese between the ages of 25 to 39 gave the correct answer, compared with 16.2% of those age 18 to 24 who replied correctly. The highest percentage of correct responses, with 44.3%, came from the age 60 and over group.

Other parts of the survey found that about 40% of Japanese respondents said they had never studied the history of the founding of Japan. Some 70% said they agreed it was necessary to provide full instruction on a nation's history, and about 60% agreed that it is desirable to hold events "to fete the founding of the nation." In response to the question "Do you feel pride in Japan?" 73.0% of the participants gave positive replies.

To compare the responses by Japanese with people of other nationalities, 300 foreigners residing in Japan, selected at random, were asked in an email survey if they knew their own country's founding day. Citizens of China (Oct 1) gave the highest percentage of correct responses, with 100%. Canadians (July 1) were next, with 97.7%, followed by Americans (July 4), with 91.3%.

"While Japanese say they feel pride in their country, it's something of a paradox that they don't know about its founding," Hirofumi Munehisa, speaker of the Japan Jaycee Assembly on National History, told the Sankei Shimbun. "In an ever-more globalized society, it will be necessary to provide well rounded education in national history, including a nation's founding, at the compulsory education level."

A sidebar to the article notes that traditionally Japan's founding date had coincided with the first day of the first lunar month in 660 BC, when the legendary Emperor Jimmu ascended to the throne. The event was originally observed at the same time as the lunar new year, but with the adoption of the Gregorian calendar from 1873, it was established as a public holiday, on Feb 11, and called "Kigensetsu" (Empire Day). In 1946, the allied occupation abolished observance due to its association with the practice of state Shinto. In 1966, the holiday was revived on the same date and renamed "Kenkoku Kinen no Hi."

© Japan Today

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23 Comments
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10/10 didn't know it was the 2675th anniversary of the founding of Japan.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I would bet that only one or two percent of Japanese can correctly give the official name for Aug. 15, which is 戦没者を追悼し平和を祈念する日 (senbotsusha wo tsuito shi heiwa wo kinen suru hi, day to commemorate the war dead and to pray for peace). I wonder who thought that one up!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It's not surprising considering the education (lack of) regarding some things in history here.

@ GalapagosnoGairaishu

That is because it is more commonly known as "shusen-kinenbi" as is called that by every broadcaster including NHK.

The "other" so-called "official-name" was adopted much, much later. In fact in other countries it was known as V-J day, or victory over Japan day.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

National Foundation Day is based on myth 660 BC of the first Emperor of Japan, so no one seems to be interested in it unlike Independece day or Revolution day.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Neither did everyone out of everyone.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Yeah, this event doesn't have the (semi-recent) historical significance, or the pomp & circumstance, of most other national days. When the day starts being marked with grand events, public appearances of the Imperial family, fireworks, etc. I'm sure awareness of it will start to increase.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Almost 10% of Americans couldn't get July 4th?!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

National foundation days are a big deal in countries where an event marked a a significant or dramatic day in that country's emergence. Be it Independence Day in the US or Liberation Day in France.

In countries where the reference event is set in mythoology or an unconnected historical event, such as with Japan's and England's national days, the events pass off with barely a murmour. The exception to this is where the celebration of your national day is a celebration of your country's identity as being separate from another e.g. Ireland's St. Patrick's Day is as much about not being part of Britain as it is about being Irish.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Should they know?

Let's be honest, the reason I know when a holiday comes in my home country is because that holiday becomes a marketing ploy for advertisers or reasons for a sale. Holidays seem less teaching points about the past and more about SALE! SALE! SALE!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Almost 10% of Americans couldn't get July 4th?!

I wonder if any of them saw different dates as the true founding of the USA. You could argue that the nation began not on the date when the first person signed the Declaration of Independence, but also on the date of the first shot of the revolution in April 1775, in 1781 when Cornwallis was defeated at Yorktown, the signing of the treaty with Great Britain, formalizing independence, in 1783, or even the date in 1787 when the Constitution was written.

I agree that July 4, 1776, is probably the best date to pick if you're choosing a single National Foundation Day for the USA< but I wouldn't say that any of those other candidates are outright wrong.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

This idea of foundation day is propaganda. It is a fiction. Nations are modern. There was no such thing as Japan until relatively recently.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"To compare the responses by Japanese with people of other nationalities, 300 foreigners residing in Japan, selected at random, were asked in an email survey if they knew their own country’s founding day. Citizens of China (Oct 1) gave the highest percentage of correct responses, with 100%. Canadians (July 1) were next, with 97.7%, followed by Americans (July 4), with 91.3%."

Uh, isn't this is a case of apples and oranges? The events of 1949, 1867, and 1776 were real things that occurred in China, Canada, and the USA. Who seriously believes that the mythical founding of Japan by the mythical Emperor Jimmu on February 11, 660 B.C. is in any way comparable? The re-establishment of this holiday in Japan in 1966 was pushed by Yoshida Shigeru, ex-prime minister and ardent Japanese nationalist who came to intensely regret his country's subservient place in the postwar international order. Japan couldn't easily rearm, but its leaders could pretend that the country had been founded before the birth of Buddha.

The fact that Japan doesn't have a real, clear-cut national independence day is sort of a point of pride. The country was never colonized by the West and therefore doesn't have such a day to celebrate. Abe has tried to push April 28 (the day in 1952 when the U.S. Occupation officially ended and Japan regained its sovereign status after six and one-half years) as such a day, but Japanese appear mostly indifferent to the idea. The truth is that if Japanese were "liberated" on any single day, that day was August 15, 1945--the day the country's awful, military-dominated government surrendered and lost all authority to continue ruling.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

The Emperor's Birthday (December 23) is basically the de facto "national day" of Japan.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Here it was just a day for everyone in the entire city to go to the same Denny's for lunch, apparently.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

April 28, 1952 should be foundation day as final departure of American occupation forces.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

How many care? It's just a chance to have a lie-in, conveniently placed in the middle of the week. Another silly 'national holiday' to circumvent the reality that time off work at one's own choosing is seen as shirking.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Most probably it wasn't taught in the school.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

MASSWIPE: China (Oct 1) gave the highest percentage of correct responses, with 100%.

Don't they have a huge parade and shut down mass transit every year in Beijing that day for it? And get a week off, besides? How could you forget that?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Yes, no clarity about when Japan 'started'.

But the Commonwealth of Australia was founded on New Years Day 1901. Maybe 10% of Australians know that. They celebrate 26 January, 'Australia Day', when the British flag was first raised in 1788, just across from where Sydney Opera House is.

It is a National holiday there. Some people call it Invasion Day. I call it my birthday (and on that day after 30 years here off and on, I always wonder why I am here freezing at work in winter when I could be there having the day off in the warm sun at the beach, with a beer and people I know all being nice to me without having to remember a secret language).

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@inshikoku

'Strain is a secret language all of its own....

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I agree that July 4, 1776, is probably the best date to pick if you're choosing a single National Foundation Day for the USA

Contempories saw the War of Independence as a civil war - American society was split on the issue and fought for both sides. Popular history has repainted this as a unified uprising of the masses against the British overlords.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Let's see. Himiko was a Japanese queen of Wa in the first half of the 3rd century. Her stamp pledged loyalty to the Chinese Emperor, I believe. Are Japanese proud of THAT aspect of their culture?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I really don't understand how any Canadians or Americans would not know July 1st or 4th respectively. While I'm not sure of the amount of Americans who know about Canada Day, I'm pretty sure that at least 90% of Canadians know of Independence Day.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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