Emperor’s Birthday in Japan

When did the Emperor’s Birthday in Japan start?

The first recorded date of Emperor’s Birthday in Japan being celebrated on February 23 was in the year 1949.

About Emperor’s Birthday in Japan Holiday

As the cherry blossom petals gracefully fall from the trees, Japan prepares for one of its most celebrated and cherished holidays: the Emperor's Birthday. This national holiday, held on the 23rd of December, is dedicated to celebrating the birth of the current emperor of Japan and is a time for reflection and appreciation of the country's rich cultural heritage.

The Emperor's Birthday is a beloved event throughout the nation, with festivities taking place in every corner of Japan. From traditional parades and ceremonies at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, to local festivals and performances highlighting the country's unique cultural traditions, there is no shortage of ways to join in on the celebration. Visitors and locals alike are welcomed to participate in the festivities, making this holiday a truly inclusive and communal experience.

But the festivities don't end there. The Emperor's Birthday is also a time for indulging in Japan's delectable cuisine. From savoring a warm bowl of ramen in the bustling streets of Tokyo to trying the famous Kobe beef in the historic city of Kyoto, this holiday offers the perfect opportunity to taste and experience the diverse and delicious flavors of Japan.

For travelers looking to fully immerse themselves in the vibrant culture and traditions of Japan, the Emperor's Birthday is the perfect time to visit. So pack your bags and join in on the jubilant celebrations as Japan pays tribute to its beloved Emperor in a way that only this fascinating country can.

Emperor’s Birthday in Japan: A Celebration of Tradition and Culture

The Emperor’s Birthday is an annual holiday celebrated in Japan, marking the birthday of the reigning Emperor. This holiday is a significant event in Japanese culture, as it not only commemorates the Emperor’s birth but also honors the country’s rich history and traditions. It is a day filled with festivities, symbolism, and a deep sense of national pride. In this article, we will take a closer look at the origins, traditions, and modern-day observations of the Emperor’s Birthday in Japan.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Emperor’s Birthday is a national holiday in Japan, celebrated on the birthday of the reigning Emperor.
  • This holiday holds great cultural significance and is rooted in tradition, with various customs and celebrations associated with it.
  • The Emperor’s Birthday is celebrated on different dates depending on the reigning Emperor, with the current Emperor’s birthday falling on December 23rd.

History and Origin

The origins of the Emperor’s Birthday holiday date back to ancient history. Japan has had emperors for over 2,000 years, and the tradition of celebrating the emperor’s birth has been passed down for generations. However, the holiday as it is celebrated today has its roots in the Meiji period (1868-1912) when the Imperial Household Law was established. This law declared the Emperor’s birthday as a national holiday, emphasizing the Emperor’s divine status in Japanese society.

After World War II, the holiday’s focus shifted to honoring the Emperor as the symbol of the state rather than a divine ruler. The current Emperor, Naruhito, celebrates his birthday on December 23rd, a tradition that began with Emperor Hirohito in 1989.

Significance and Meaning

The Emperor’s Birthday holds significant cultural and historical importance in Japan. It serves as a reminder of Japan’s long history and traditions, as well as the Emperor’s role as the symbol of the country.

This holiday also serves as an occasion for the Japanese people to express their respect and loyalty to the Emperor. Many Japanese citizens see the Emperor as a father figure and hold a deep sense of reverence for him, making this holiday a highly anticipated and meaningful event.

Symbols and Decorations

Like many Japanese holidays, the Emperor’s Birthday is rich in symbolism. The National Flag and the Imperial Standard are raised on government buildings and other designated locations, showcasing the colors of the Japanese flag – white and scarlet. These colors represent purity and the sun, respectively, and hold significant cultural significance in Japan.

In addition to the National Flag and the Imperial Standard, chrysanthemum flowers, also known as “kiku” in Japanese, are often used as decorations for the Emperor’s Birthday. The chrysanthemum is Japan’s national flower and is also the symbol of the Imperial Family.

Traditions and Celebrations

On the day of the Emperor’s Birthday, a public ceremony known as “Taisei Houkan” takes place at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. The Emperor delivers a speech, and the Imperial Family makes appearances on the balcony to greet the thousands of well-wishers gathered outside. This is a rare opportunity for the people of Japan to see the Emperor and the imperial family up close.

In addition to the public ceremony, other traditional customs and practices are observed on this day. These may vary by region but often include performances of traditional music and dance, parades, and displays of skill and athleticism, such as martial arts and archery, held in honor of the Emperor.

Food and Cuisine

No Japanese holiday is complete without delicious food, and the Emperor’s Birthday is no exception. Traditional dishes, such as sake and mochi, are often enjoyed during the celebrations. Sake, a rice wine, is typically served to honor the Emperor, while mochi, a sticky rice cake, is popular for its symbolic act of bringing good luck and prosperity. One popular dish served during the Emperor’s Birthday is sekihan, a festive dish of sticky rice and red beans.

Recipe for Sekihan:


  • 2 cups of short-grain glutinous rice
  • 1/2 cup of azuki (red) beans
  • 2 1/2 cups of water
  • 2 teaspoons of salt


  1. Soak the rice and azuki beans in separate bowls of water for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.
  2. Drain the rice and place it in a pot with 2 1/2 cups of water.
  3. Cook the rice over medium heat until it starts to bubble, then reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the azuki beans, stir, and let it cook for another 10 minutes.
  5. Add the salt and stir, then cover the pot and continue cooking for another 10-15 minutes, until the water is absorbed and the mixture is sticky.
  6. Serve the sekihan with your favorite toppings, such as pickled plums or roasted sesame seeds.

Attire and Costumes

On the Emperor’s Birthday, the imperial family and government officials wear traditional Japanese attire, known as “kimonos” or “hakamas.” These are elegant and intricately designed garments, with each color, pattern, and accessory having symbolic meanings.

In recent years, there have been some changes in the attire worn by the imperial family for the celebrations. In 2020, for example, Empress Masako wore a Western-style suit as opposed to traditional Japanese attire, signaling a shift towards more modern adaptations in the way the holiday is celebrated.

Music and Songs

Music and songs play an essential role in Japanese culture and are an integral part of the Emperor’s Birthday celebrations. Traditional Japanese songs, such as “Kanpai” (cheers) and “Sakura Sakura” (cherry blossoms), are often heard during the festivities, adding to the festive atmosphere.

Geographical Spread

The Emperor’s Birthday is a national holiday celebrated throughout Japan, but the celebrations may vary in different regions. In Tokyo, where the Imperial Palace is located, the celebrations are typically grand and attract thousands of people. However, in other regions, the holiday may not be as widely observed, with smaller local celebrations.

Modern-Day Observations

As with all holidays, the Emperor’s Birthday has evolved over time. In recent years, there have been changes in the way this holiday is celebrated, signaling a shift towards a more modern approach. For example, in 2019, Empress Masako read her first birthday message in the courtyard of the palace, a break from tradition where the Emperor delivered the speech.

This holiday has also become more inclusive, with the Japanese government allowing foreigners to attend the Emperor’s Birthday celebrations and participate in the festive activities. In 2020, a parade was held to celebrate the Emperor’s enthronement, which was open to all Japanese citizens and foreign nationals alike.

Interesting Facts or Trivia

  • The current Emperor of Japan, Naruhito, is the first to be born after World War II and the first emperor to be married to an empress who was born overseas.
  • The Imperial Palace in Tokyo is the primary residence of the Emperor and is used for official ceremonies, including the Emperor’s Birthday celebrations.
  • The Emperor’s Birthday was first celebrated on December 23rd in 1989, when Emperor Akihito ascended the throne.
  • The Emperor’s Birthday was celebrated as a national holiday on December 23rd every year until 2019 when the holiday was moved to February 23rd, in celebration of Emperor Akihito’s abdication.
  • The Emperor’s Birthday holiday was officially reinstated to December 23rd in 2020, after Emperor Naruhito ascended the throne on May 1st, 2019.

Legends and Myths

Throughout Japanese history, various legends and myths have been associated with the Emperor’s Birthday. One popular myth is that the Emperor has a direct bloodline to Amaterasu, the sun goddess, and therefore holds divine status.

Another legend surrounding the Emperor’s power is the belief that if the Emperor becomes seriously ill or dies, the heavens will turn black, and the country will face natural disasters and other calamities. This belief has led people to pray for the Emperor’s health and longevity during the celebrations.

Social and Economic Impact

The Emperor’s Birthday holiday has a significant impact on Japanese society and economy. Businesses, schools, and government offices are closed for the day, allowing people to celebrate and participate in the festivities. This also leads to a rise in tourism, with many people traveling to Tokyo to witness the public ceremony.

The holiday also has a positive effect on the economy, as people spend money on food, decorations, and other festive items. In recent years, the government has also used the holiday to promote Japanese culture and traditions, leading to an increase in interest and revenue from tourism.

Holiday Wishes

  1. May the Emperor’s Birthday bring happiness and prosperity to all.
  2. Wishing the Emperor a healthy and long life.
  3. May the traditions and culture of Japan continue to thrive on this auspicious day.
  4. Here’s to a day of celebrating our country’s rich history and traditions.
  5. Long live the Emperor!

Holiday Messages

  1. Dear Emperor, thank you for your leadership and commitment to our country. We celebrate you on this special day.
  2. Wishing everyone a joyous and memorable Emperor’s Birthday celebration.
  3. May this holiday bring peace, unity, and prosperity to all.
  4. Congratulations to our Emperor on another year of guiding and inspiring our nation.
  5. On this day, let us reaffirm our loyalty and gratitude to the Emperor and the Imperial Family.

Holiday Quotes

  1. “Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.” – Gustav Mahler
  2. “Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirit.” – Jawaharlal Nehru
  3. “History is for human self-knowledge… the only clue to what man can do is what man has done. The value of history, then, is that it teaches us what man has done and thus what man is.” – R. G. Collingwood
  4. “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy
  5. “The longer one is alone, the easier it is to hear the song of the Earth.” – Robert Anton Wilson

Other Popular Holiday Info

The Emperor’s Birthday is a day of national pride and celebration, with a deep sense of reverence and gratitude towards the Emperor and the Imperial Family. This holiday is also a reminder of Japan’s rich history, culture, and traditions, and the importance of preserving them for future generations.

While the Emperor’s Birthday is primarily a Japanese holiday, people around the world can appreciate the significance of this day and the importance of honoring and celebrating one’s heritage and culture.

Just like the cherry blossoms that are synonymous with Japan, the Emperor’s Birthday is a beautiful and symbolic occasion that represents the country’s everlasting strength and resilience.


Q: Is the Emperor’s Birthday a public holiday in Japan?

A: Yes, the Emperor’s Birthday is a national holiday, and banks, businesses, and government offices are closed for the day.

Q: What is the significance of the white and red colors used in the Imperial Standard of Japan?

A: White symbolizes purity, while red represents the sun, both of which hold deep cultural and historical significance in Japan.

Q: Is there only one Emperor’s Birthday celebration in Japan?

A: No, there may be multiple celebrations depending on the region and individual customs, but the public ceremony at the Imperial Palace is held only once.


The Emperor’s Birthday in Japan is a celebration of tradition, culture, and national pride. It is a day to honor the Emperor and the Imperial Family and to reflect on Japan’s long history and rich heritage. With its symbolism, customs, and festive atmosphere, this holiday is an integral part of Japanese society and serves as a reminder of the country’s strength and resilience. As we celebrate the Emperor’s Birthday, let us also appreciate and preserve the traditions and values that make Japan unique and revered around the world.

How to Say "Emperor’s Birthday in Japan" In Different Languages?

عيد ميلاد الإمبراطور (ar-AR)
Chinese (Mandarin)
天皇生日 (zh-CN)
Verjaardag van de Keizer (nl-NL)
Anniversaire de l'empereur (fr-FR)
Kaisers Geburtstag (de-DE)
Η γιορτή του Αυτοκράτορα (el-GR)
Compleanno dell'Imperatore (it-IT)
황제의 생일 (ko-KR)
Urodziny cesarza (pl-PL)
Aniversário do Imperador (pt-BR)
День рождения императора (ru-RU)
Cumpleaños del Emperador (es-ES)
Kejsarens födelsedag (sv-SE)
วันเกิดของจักรพรรดิซึ่ง (th-TH)
İmparatorun Doğum Günü (tr-TR)
Ngày sinh nhật hoàng đế (vi-VN)
Emperor’s Birthday in Japan Also Called
Japanese Emperor's Birthday
Countries where "Emperor’s Birthday in Japan" is celebrated:

In year 1949, Emperor’s Birthday in Japan is celebrated on February 23 for the first time.

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