Final celebration for Akihito
Stripes Okinawa | .
published: December 10, 2018
The Japanese celebrate a national holiday not on Dec. 25th, but instead on the 23rd!
While Japan doesn’t recognize Christmas, the Emperor’s Birthday is one of the 16 Japanese national holidays.
Called “Tenno Tanjobi,” Japanese celebrate the birthday on Dec. 23 every year. Emperor Akihito was born on that day in 1933, and his birthday has been celebrated as a national holiday since 1989 when he was enthroned as the 125th Emperor of Japan.
Although the current form of Emperor’s Birthday holiday was legislated in 1948, the holiday itself has been celebrated since ancient ages.
As the holiday is based on the birthday of reigning emperor, it has changed according to who was the Emperor at the time.
With the current Emperor’s birthday being right in the middle of the holiday season, it often will create a nice holiday weekend or an even longer New Year’s holiday. In fact, the holiday falls on Sunday this year, which means the following Monday is observed as a holiday, thus making a long weekend.
This will also be the final time the Dec. 23 is celebrated, as Emperor Akihito will renounce his throne on April 30, 2019. This will make his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, the next emperor, and thus shift the holiday from Dec. 23 to Feb. 23 in 2020.
Consequently, no emperor’s birthday will be celebrated in 2019.
According to the bill that the Japanese Diet will introduce by the end of the year, the new emperor’s enthronement day (May 1) and its proclamation to the World (Oct. 22) will be holidays.
If the bill passes, it will make Golden Week, from late April to the beginning of May, a 10-day holiday.
The bill is expected to be passed and legislated by the end of year.
Although birthdays of former emperors are usually not celebrated as holidays, there are two exceptions – the birthdays of the Meiji Emperor and Showa Emperor. Meiji Emperor’s Birthday is currently celebrated as Bunka-no-hi (Culture Day) on Nov. 3 while Showa Emperor’s has been celebrated as Showa Day on Apr. 29
The Emperor’s Birthday holiday also provides the unique opportunity to see the emperor and inner garden of Imperial Palace, which is restricted to regular citizens.
On his birthday, the gates of the Imperial Palace open for the public to congratulate him while the Emperor, Empress and other members of the Imperial family appear on the balcony of the palace to receive their congratulations. In fact, this is one of only two chances each year where citizens are allowed to enter the inner garden. The other is Jan. 2.
About 30,000 people visit the Imperial Palace for the birthday congratulations each year.
During the appearance, the Emperor will often say a few words of gratitude while the visitors waving miniature flags of Japan shout out birthday salutations.
Ex-Emperor’s birthday still celebrated
Like the birthday of Japan’s current Emperor Akihito (Dec. 23), April 29 was originally celebrated as the birthday of Emperor Hirohito. He reigned before, after and – most notably – during World War II. After his death in 1989, he was renamed Emperor Showa, and Japan’s parliament kept his birthday as a national holiday.
His birthday, along with Constitution Memorial Day (May 3), Greenery Day (May 4) and Children’s Day (May 5), form the string of holidays that comprise Golden Week.
The Showa Era is the longest and most dramatic reign of an emperor in Japan’s history. Emperor Showa was the longest living emperor. He died at age 87 after reigning for 63 years. In fact, The Showa Era literally covers some of modern Japan’s brightest and darkest hours.
Emperor’s appearance in the Imperial Palace
Date: Dec. 23 / Location: Imperial Palace
Time: Gates open: 9:30 a.m. – 11:20 a.m.
1st appearance of Emperor: around 10:20 a.m.
2nd appearance: around 11 a.m.
3rd appearance: around 11:40 a.m.
For more information, visit Imperial Household Agency web page at www.kunaicho.go.jp or call 03-3213-1111.