The Emperor's Birthday


The Emperor's Birthday

 -Melissa Villeneuve

There are 16 national holidays in Japan, and one of these special occasions includes the Emperor of Japan’s birthday. The date of the Emperor’s Birthday, or “Tenno Tanjobi,” changes when a new emperor is crowned. It is currently celebrated every February 23rd, the date of reigning Emperor Naruhito’s birthday, who was born on February 23, 1960. On this public holiday, it is one of only two moments when members of the public are permitted entrance to the inner grounds of the Imperial Palace located in Chiyoda, Tokyo. The other moment is during New Year’s Day celebrations, considered to be the most important holiday in Japan.

Throughout Japan’s history, the emperor has been revered as a respected ruler and a symbol of the state and unity. The Emperor’s Birthday was established by law as a national holiday in 1948. However, the Emperor’s Birthday has always been a day for celebration. According to legend, Japan’s first emperor was Jimmu, a descendant of the Sun Goddess Amaterasu who ascended the throne in 660 BC. It is commonly accepted that emperors, who are perceived as celestial beings, have reigned over Japan for more than 1,500 years. Reportedly, they are all linked to the same Imperial Family, regarded as the oldest continuous hereditary monarchy in the world. Reigning Emperor Naruhito is Japan’s 126th emperor.

The tradition every Emperor’s Birthday is to have a public ceremony at the Imperial Palace, where the gates are opened to everyone. It has been said that around 30,000 people will flock to the palace to greet the emperor. However, in 2019, it was reported there were 82,000 people who showed up for Emperor Emeritus Akihito’s final birthday address before he abdicated the throne. During the ceremony, it is customary for visitors to bring a small Japan flag and wave it while cheering “banzai,” a traditional Japanese exclamation wishing long life to the emperor. The emperor, empress, and other Imperial Family members will appear on the palace balcony to receive the birthday greetings. The emperor will then greet the well-wishers and, once he is finished, the crowd will cheer and wave the flags once again before being brought inside the building for a tour.

Unfortunately, due to the ongoing pandemic, and to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, this ceremony has been cancelled since 2020. Although the public will not have the chance to greet their emperor in person, the Emperor’s Birthday continues to be celebrated as a public holiday by the people of Japan.

Posted on:
Wednesday, February 23, 2022