National Foundation Day

National Foundation Day is a holiday observed annually on February 11th, serving a dual purpose. The first purpose of this holiday is to remind Japanese citizens of the establishment of Japan in 660 B.C. by Emperor Jimmu. The second purpose is to help cultivate a sense of national pride and love among the citizens of this country.

It is a holiday that has been observed in many different incarnations over the years in Japan and is currently known as Kenkoku Kinen no Hi. This holiday should not be confused with National Foundation Day as observed in Korea. That holiday is a public holiday known as Gaecheonjeol and is observed in North and South Korea on October 3rd.

The History of National Foundation Day

This day was first established as a holiday in 1872 during the Meiji era. At that time, it was originally called Empire Day and was celebrated on January 29th. However, this caused some confusion among people because it coincided with the Lunar New Year and was therefore ignored.

As a result, the date on which it was celebrated was changed to February 11th in 1873. After World War II, Empire Day was abolished in Japan due to its reinforcement of the idea of Japanese nobility. In 1966, it was reintroduced in Japan as National Foundation Day—a holiday for citizens to express their patriotism publicly.

Fun Facts About Japan

As we began to research National Foundation Day, we came across some fun facts about Japan that we think people reading about this holiday might enjoy. So we’ve listed these facts below. May they be as entertaining to you as they were to us.

KFC Is Eaten as a Traditional Meal for Christmas Eve

One of the most interesting facts we’ve learned about Japan is that KFC is eaten as a holiday feast for Christmas Eve every year by millions of Japanese citizens. This tradition has been in place since the 1980s.

Japan Has a Lot of Mountains & Forests

Another fun fact is that approximately 70% of Japan is composed of mountains and forests. There are also over one hundred active volcanoes.

There’s a Rabbit Island in Japan

What some people may not realize is that Japan consists of approximately 6,852 islands. About 430 of those islands are inhabited. One of those islands, Okunoshima, is inhabited by a large population of feral rabbits. There are so many rabbits on this island, that it has been given the name Usagi Shima—which means Rabbit Island.

Customs, Traditions, and Celebrations of National Foundation Day

In the past, when it was known as Empire Day, this holiday was heavily saturated with Shinto customs and practices. However, this has changed in modern Japan. Now, most of the celebrations of this holiday are very low-key and are not as heavy with pageantry as they once were. Most of these celebrations and observances merely involve the raising of the Japanese flag and speeches that reflect on the meaning and value of Japanese citizenship.

Where is it celebrated?
Japan (National holiday)
When is it?
This year (2024)
Next year (2025)
February 11 Tuesday
Last year (2023)
February 11 Saturday