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HOME  > Past issues  > 2023 February 8 - 14  > Japan’s ‘National Foundation Day’ based on unscientific origin played an important part in promoting wars of aggression during prewar and wartime
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2023 February 8 - 14 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Japan’s ‘National Foundation Day’ based on unscientific origin played an important part in promoting wars of aggression during prewar and wartime

February 11, 2023

Akahata editorial (excerpts)

February 11 marks the “National Foundation Day” of Japan which is closely related to the prewar “Empire Day (Kigensetsu)”. The imperial Meiji government in 1873, with the aim of legitimating the emperor’s position as ruler, fabricated the day as the date that the first Emperor Jimmu, a fictitious character in the mythology regarding the foundation of Japan written in the Chronicles of Japan "Nihonshoki", ascended the throne. The mythology has neither scientific nor historical grounds.

The prewar imperial government at every opportunity used the “Kigensetsu” as a tool to instill nationalism and militarism in the general public. The government on February 11, 1889 promulgated the Constitution of the Empire of Japan (the Meiji constitution) which formed a legal background to the despotic rule of the absolute Tennno (Emperor) system.

After that, with tensions between Japan and Qing China escalating over the control over the Korean Peninsula, the imperial government increased its military spending. In 1893, facing grilling from the Lower House of the Imperial Diet, the government excluded the cost for constructing warships from its budget draft. Emperor Meiji, however, issued an imperial rescript on February 10 calling on the parliament to cooperate with the government.

The imperial rescript was reported by media outlets on “Kigentsetsu (February 11),” and the Imperial Diet reached a compromise with the government and approved the budget for a military buildup. In the Sino-Japanese war which broke out in 1894, the government on February 11, 1895 announced Japan’s victory in the battle at the base port of the Chinese fleet Weihaiwei, which was splashed across newspapers’ front pages.

After the Russo-Japanese war opened in 1904, the imperial government made the best use of “Kigensetsu”. The war started with Japan’s attack on the Russian naval base of Port Arthur in northern China. Japan’s declaration of war was made on February 10 after the sudden attack. All dailies in Japan on their front pages carried a headline banner praising the Japanese military’s victory and the beginning of the war.

In addition, in the Asia-Pacific War which began 1941, the imperial government launched the battle against the British Navy in Singapore on Kigensetsu in 1942 in order to use the day to increase public support for the war.

As “Kigensetsu” was deeply connected with the imperial government’s policy to promote Japan’s wars, it was abolished in 1948 under the postwar Japanese Constitution which upholds people’s sovereignty, freedom of thought and religion, academic freedom, and peace. However, the government of former Prime Minister Sato Eisaku in 1966 adversely revised the law on national holidays and effectively reinstated “Kigensetsu” as the “National Foundation Day”.

On February 11, the need is to face up to the catastrophe inflicted on Japanese citizens as well as on other Asian countries by Japan’s past wars of aggression and increase public opinion and movements that will foil the Kishida government’s attempt to turn Japan yet again into a war-fighting nation.
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