Japanese Language Blog

Japanese Culture: Tennoo Tanjoobi (天皇誕生日) Posted by on Dec 19, 2008 in Uncategorized

What is Tennoo Tanjoobi (天皇誕生日)?  Tennoo Tanjoobi (天皇誕生日) is a national holiday in Japan.  Translated in English, it’s the Emperor’s Birthday.  Which emperor are we talking about here?  It’s the current and living Emperor Akihito (明仁).  Emperor Akihito (明仁) was born on the 23rd of December.  As a result, every year on the 23rd of December, businesses and shops close to commemorate the Emperor’s birthday.

Every year starting from around 9 am in the morning, crowds of Japanese people line up to see the imperial family on the 23rd of December.  The imperial palace is in Tokyo.  Despite the cold and the fact that it’s early in the morning, many people, especially the elderly, show up to wave their hinomaru (日の丸), or Japanese flag.  Each group is allowed to cheer and show their Japanese pride for about three minutes.  After the three minutes are over the next group is shuffled in to start the cheering and waving all over again.  Personally it’s not my thing but lots of people seem to enjoy it.

Usually on this day the Emperor gives a speech about his reflections on the end of the year and what the new year will bring.  You’ll also find a lot of uyoku dantai (右翼団体) members patrolling the area as well.  The ukoku dantai (右翼団体) is a nationalist right wing party that holds a nostalgic fondness for the past, especially the era between WWl and WWll when Japan used to have colonies in East and Southeast Asia.  They ride about in black vans called gaisensha (街宣車).  The gaisensha (街宣車) is decorated with the Japanese flag and equipped with loud speakers.  The gaisensha (街宣車) will drive around the block blasting nationalist rhetoric and will feature the Japanese anthem the kimigayo (君が代) as it’s musical soundtrack.

Interestingly enough, you may see members of the yakuza (やくざ) at the Emperor’s birthday as well.  For those of you who don’t know what a yakuza (やくざ) is, it’s the Japanese mafia.  The yakuza (やくざ) has always supported the imperial family.  Well, at least they support the symbolic idea behind the imperial family, an idea that is linked to tradition and Japanese pride.  Since the uyoku dantai (右翼団体) and the yakuza (やくざ) both dress in black suits, sometimes I really don’t know who I’m standing next to.  I mean, what’s worse, standing next to a racist nationalist or a gang member?

Well, the good thing about this event is that admission is free.  Also, the police frisk you for weapons so I doubt there’ll be a gang war or an assination attempt of the emperor.  It’s pretty safe.  If you’re going to be in Japan this December, it might be a worthwhile visit.

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