Constitution Memorial Day (憲法記念日): A Day to Dedicated to Peace

Forming part of Japan’s much-anticipated Golden Week, Constitution Memorial Day (憲法記念日, Kenpō Kinenbi) is an annual holiday held on 3rd May which commemorates the declaration of Japan’s post-war constitution. It is the second public holiday of Golden Week, with the first being Showa Day. These holidays together serve as active reminders of Japan’s history, not only for the hardship endured through Imperial Japan, but also for their remarkable progression to a democratic nation.

What Did the Post-war Constitution Mean to Japan?

Japan’s monarchy is the longest continuous hereditary lineage in the world, yet despite their standing, the exact involvement of the Emperor Showa during the Second Sino-Japanese War and WWII is still ambiguous. Japanese endeavours to grow the empire led to increased militarisation – which resulted in a weakened Diet, civil government and Imperial Family. Japanese citizens not only lost basic liberties such as freedom of speech, but millions of people in Japan, and around the world, lost their lives.
After the 1945 bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on 6th August and 9th August respectively, the Showa Emperor broke the Imperial silence and announced unconditional surrender to the allied forces. Over the next two years, U.S. General Douglas MacArthur worked with the Japanese to draft their new constitution. Signed on 3rd May 1947, the Constitution of Japan is now also known as the Peace Constitution. It introduced workers’ and human rights and reversed the progression towards totalitarianism by declaring the country as a pacifist nation:
“We, the Japanese people, … resolved that never again shall we be visited with the horrors of war through the action of government…”
“We … desire peace for all time … and we have determined to preserve our security and existence, trusting in the justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world.”
– Article 9 – Post War Constitution

What Happened After the Post War-Constitution Was Signed?

During WWII, most major cities – with the exception of Kyoto – were devastated, so the country had to rebuild itself from the ground up. Japan lost most of the overseas territory that it had acquired since 1984, and only regained its sovereignty in 1952.
The economic intervention and international support gave rise to Japan’s “economic miracle” which saw Japan become one of the world’s economic power houses.

How is Constitution Memorial Day Celebrated?

Similarly, to Showa Day, Constitution Memorial Day is not a “party” holiday. Rather, it’s a time to reflect upon the events of Japan’s recent and definitive history. To help expand public knowledge, Diet buildings are open to the public – allowing us to look around and ask questions to local officials. Public lectures about WWII and Japan’s history are also held around metropolitan areas.
As Constitution Memorial Day is part of Golden Week, many people use this opportunity to take a vacation and reunite with their families outside of the cities.

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