Emperor's Birthday

Japan National Holiday in Japan

Flag of the Japanese Emperor

When is it?

Known as 'Tennou Tanjyobi', this holiday is always celebrated on 23 December. The birthday of the current emperor is always a national holiday. Thus, if the emperor changes, the national holiday will change to the birthday of the new emperor.

History of the holiday

According to myth, Japan's first Emperor Jimmu, a descendant of the Sun Goddess Amaterasu, was enthroned in the year 660 BC.

While the historical dates may not be entirely accurate, it is a commonly accepted fact that emperors have reigned over Japan for more than 1500 years, and that they have all descended from the same imperial family.

Despite the fact that the effective power of the emperors was limited or purely symbolic throughout most of Japan's history, all actual rulers, from the Fujiwara and Hojo regents to the Minamoto, Ashikaga and Tokugawa shoguns respected the emperor and were keen in having the imperial legitimization for their position as rulers of Japan.

With the Meiji Restoration of 1868, the Tokugawa shogunate was overthrown, and Emperor Meiji became the head of state. Under the new Meiji constitution, the Emperor held sovereign power, and his political and military power was theoretically close to absolute. In praxis, however, the real power first laid with the oligarchic genro and later with the generals and admirals.

The postwar constitution of 1946 states that the emperor has only a symbolic function. He now mainly participates at ceremonies and diplomatic meetings, but has no effective political power.

In 1989, Emperor Akihito became Japan's 125th emperor. He is married to Empress Michiko, the first empress who did not come from the nobility. Their eldest son is Crown Prince Naruhito. The imperial family resides in the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

Translate this page