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EDITORIAL | National Foundation Day: A Call for Courage and Determination

On National Foundation Day — and amid the Ukraine war and the tensions in East Asia — the Japanese should reflect on their relationship with their country.



A performance of Japanese traditional musical instruments at the 35th Gathering of Chiba Prefecture Citizens to Celebrate National Foundation Day in Chuo-ku, Chiba City on February 11, 2023. (© Sankei)

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?

National Foundation Day
A performance of a Noh play titled "Jinmu" performed at Kashihara Shrine, which is dedicated to Emperor Jinmu, in Nara Prefecture on February 4, 2023. (© Sankei by Kotaro Hikono).

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. 

national foundation day
Woodblock print depicting legendary first Emperor Jimmu by Ginko Adachi in 1891 (public domain via Wikimedia Commons).

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.

Miko (shrine maidens) dedicate the Kagura dance at the Kigensai Festival held at Kashihara Shrine on February 11, 2023, on National Foundation Day, in Kashihara City, Nara Prefecture. (© Sankei by Toshihiro Araki)

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.


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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