Everyone celebrates this guy’s birthday

Everyone celebrates this guy’s birthday

by Takahiro Takiguchi
Stripes Okinawa

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.

With his 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.

This year, however, the holiday falls on Saturday, which means no extra day off.

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.

The current Emperor Akihito is scheduled to renounce his throne on April 30, 2019, which would make his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, the next emperor. That would the shift the holiday from Dec. 23 to Feb. 23 in 2020.

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.

Rare opportunity

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.

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.

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