The war in Ukraine is approaching its first anniversary with no signs of a ceasefire. In a world reeling from drastic changes in the security environment and soaring raw material prices, Japan celebrated its National Foundation Day on February 11.
Although it was a day of celebration, it was also one of solemn reflection.
The war in Ukraine has taught us the importance of the will to love and protect one's country. Moved by the courage of the Ukrainian military and civilians, countries that had initially shown reluctance began sending their support.
If Japan were to suffer the same fate, would its people show that kind of courage and determination?
Japan's Creation Story
To love one's country, one must know its creation story. The Nihon Shoki describes the foundation of Japan on the Lunar New Year of the year kanototori (February 11, 660 BC in the Gregorian calendar). It explains that the first emperor of Japan, Emperor Jimmu, ascended to the throne at Kashihara Palace in the Yamato kingdom.
Since then, Japan has maintained its national identity through the reign of emperors from an unbroken imperial line, whether in the age of nobility or warriors.
In the 19th century, the Western powers rapidly colonized countries in Asia. This is when Japan achieved modernization through the Meiji Restoration, which established a national system where the emperor became a unifying force for the people.
In 1873, the Japanese government designated February 11 as the national holiday to celebrate Japan's founding. It became a day to commemorate the nation and its history, encouraging the people of Japan to overcome crises through unity.
Although the General Headquarters of the Allied Forces (GHQ) abolished this holiday during its occupation of Japan, it was restored in 1966 as National Foundation Day.
Courage and Determination
Japan's Public Holiday Law describes the national holiday as "a day to reflect on the establishment of the nation and to nurture a love for the country."
The need to reflect on one's relationship with one's country has been made ever more apparent by the war in Ukraine, as well as the increasing geopolitical tensions in East Asia, including the risks of a Taiwan contingency.
The intention here is not to encourage or approve of war. It is in fact the complete opposite. Showing love for and the will to protect one's country deters others from harboring aggressive ambitions in the first place.
A nation exists because earlier generations risked their lives to build and protect it. We can better love ourselves and our families and countrymen by learning about our country's founding, history, and culture. Not only that — it will also nurture respect for the culture and history of other countries.
In light of all that is happening in the world, a healthy love for one's nation and the determination to protect it should be encouraged.
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