Emperor’s Birthday in Japan Date in the current year: February 23, 2024

Emperor’s Birthday in Japan The Emperor’s Birthday is one of the most important public holidays in Japan. It coincides with the actual birthday of the reigning emperor. Since Naruhito’s ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne in 2019, it has been celebrated on February 23.

The tradition to celebrate the Emperor’s Birthday as a public holiday dates back to the Meiji Restoration. During the reign of Emperor Meiji, it was celebrated on November 3. When Emperor Taishō ascended the throne, the celebration was moved to August 31.

Following the ascension of Emperor Hirohito, the holiday was observed on April 29. After his death, April 29 remained a public holiday, renamed Greenery Day in 1989 and Shōwa Day in 2007 (Shōwa is Hirohito’s posthumous name as well as the name of the era in Japanese history corresponding to his reign).

Between 1989 and 2019, the Emperor’s Birthday was celebrated on December 23, because it was on this day in 1933 that Emperor Akihito was born. On April 30, 2019, Akihito abdicated and was succeeded by his son, Crown Prince Naruhito. As a result, the Emperor’s Birthday wasn’t celebrated in 2019, since Akihito abdicated before his birthday but after Naruhito’s (February 23). The first official celebration of Emperor Naruhito’s birthday fell on February 23, 2020.

Naruhito was born on February 23, 1960. He graduated from Gakushin University in Tokyo in March 1982 and then spent several years in the United Kingdom, studying at Merton College in Oxford University. After that, Naruhito returned to his alma mater to get a master’s degree in history.

Naruhito’s grandfather, Emperor Shōwa, died in 1989. Two years later, on his 31st birthday, Naruhito was formally invested as the Crown Prince. He temporarily took charge of the Emperor’s duties for two weeks in 2012, while his father underwent heart bypass surgery and recovered from it.

In 2016, it was reported that Emperor Akihito had an intention to abdicate within a few years, citing his declining health and age. As the 1947 Imperial Household Law had no provisions for abdication, it had to be amended accordingly. In December 2017, the Japanese government officially announced Akihito’s impending abdication in favor of Crown Prince Naruhito, making him the first Japanese emperor to abdicate since Emperor Kōkaku in 1817.

Naruhito became the Emperor of Japan on May 1, 2019. The era of his reign was named Reiwa. The name was taken from the Man'yōshū, the oldest extant collection of Japanese traditional poetry, and can be loosely translated into English as “beautiful harmony”.

The Emperor’s Birthday is marked with a public ceremony held at the Imperial Palace. This is one of the only two days when the gates of the palace are opened to the public (the second one being the New Year celebration on January 2). Hundreds of people gather in front of the palace, waving tiny Japanese flags and wishing the Emperor all the best. The Emperor, accompanied by his spouse and other members of the imperial family, acknowledges the congratulations from the palace balcony.

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Emperor’s Birthday in Japan, holidays in Japan, public holidays, Emperor Naruhito, Emperor of Japan