Know Your Holiday: Showa Day

If you’re like me, you’ve picked up one of those treasured red-numbered days on your radar and are ready for a day off next week.  That means it’s time for another installment of Know Your Holiday!  This time, we’ll talk about Tuesday, April 29th 2014 – Showa Day.

hirohito

Emperor Showa (Hirohito), the namesake of Showa Day.

Historically, April 29th was celebrated as the birthday of Emperor Hirohito, the previous emperor and father of today’s Emperor Akihito.  Emperor Hirohito reigned from 1926 to his death in 1989.  After his death, the day was renamed Greenery Day, a nod to Hirohito’s love for plants and nature.

A parliamentary vote in 2007 renamed it from Greenery Day to Showa Day — he was posthumously renamed “Showa,” which translates to “enlightened peace” — and moved Greenery Day to May 4th.  This change-up raised some eyebrows and indignation among Japan’s neighbors, including the Koreas and China, since Hirohito was the emperor during Japan’s brutal militaristic years.  However, some point out that he was also the emperor during Japan’s unprecedented post-war economic growth, and that he made a lasting effort to promote peace in the wake of World War II.

These days, Showa Day is a time of national reflection on both the tumultuous reign of Emperor Showa, as well as contemplation on the future of the country.  Though some places hold parades or street dances, the most popular activity is to visit a shrine to pray.

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