There’s no doubt that violence and war have taken away too much, and this is why we take a moment to ponder life during Japan’s Constitution Memorial Day on May 3. Sociopolitical rifts cause too much loss, no matter what side of the conflict you’re on. Japan’s case is no different. Not only did the country inflict violence on other nations, but it also suffered gravely in return. Japan woke up one day to the loss of its cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki — with many families torn apart, children orphaned, family members missing or (assumed) dead. The U.S. attacked the two cities with atomic bombs successively. Around 226,000 were killed, most of whom were mere civilians. After facing unprecedented losses, Japan surrendered in 1945, building a new constitution that would focus on civilian’s welfare and peace.
History of Constitution Memorial Day
Japan’s Constitution Memorial Day is held every year on May 3. It is a national holiday and it is the second day in the Golden Week of Japan. Memorial Day is special because it celebrates the new constitution that was drafted and brought into legislation after Japan’s emperor, Emperor Showa, surrendered to the Allied Forces, namely the U.S., in 1945. It took a period of two years for the new constitution to be finalized and ratified. Finally, on May 3, 1945, the new constitution replaced the older one, which was known as the Meiji Constitution.
The Meiji Constitution put much emphasis on conquering other nations through violence and war. It did not have much regard for its civilians and their well-being. On the other hand, the newer constitution focused on upholding the sovereignty of its people, protecting them, and resolving any international conflicts without the use of weapons. The people of Japan also favored democracy as it would allow them to not only choose their own leaders but also choose those sets of principles that served them and their future generations well.
Originally, Constitution Memorial Day was meant to be commemorated on November 3 as that was the day when the new constitution was finalized. Many people lobbied for November 3 but it was not chosen because this was also the day when the war crime trials of imperial officers began. Thus, May 3 was finally chosen as it also happened to be the day on which the new constitution replaced the older one. As May 3 is a public holiday, many people also visit the constitution building to take pictures and experience the history. This is the only day when the building and the constitution documents are open to the public.
Constitution Memorial Day timeline
The biggest and bloodiest war in human history starts in 1939, with Japan being part of the Axis Forces.
The U.S. drops atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing around 226,000 people and permanently maiming many others and future generations.
Japan surrenders to the U.S. and the rest of the Allies in an effort to stop WWII from further escalating.
The new constitution comes into full force on May 3, instantly replacing the Meiji Constitution.
Constitution Memorial Day FAQs
Is May 1st a holiday in Japan?
In 2021, Showa Day is on Thursday, April 29. April 30 and May 1 are not public holidays, but many people will likely take the day off to get an eight-day Golden Week vacation.
What is Japan's biggest holiday?
New Year (‘shogatsu’): This is the most important holiday in Japan. While only January 1 is designated as a national holiday, many businesses remain closed through January 3.
Do the Japanese celebrate Easter?
While Japan doesn’t have any particular customs or traditions around Easter itself, you will be able to celebrate the holiday just as you do at home with bunnies, egg hunts, chocolate eggs, lambs, and enjoying food and drink with family and friends.
How To Observe Constitution Memorial Day
Visit the Japanese constitution building
Many people make a day out of the public holiday by visiting the constitution building. You can take pictures, read up on the original constitution document, and just immerse yourself in the historical moment. This is the only day the building and the document are open to the public, so make sure you soak it in.
Read up on WWII history
A lot changed when WWII started and ended. Many were lost, others were found, but in the end, the damage, in most cases, was irreparable. Children, either orphaned or lost/abandoned due to the war, met ugly ends in the form of starvation and other hideous crimes. Look back on those times to put today into perspective.
Vow against violence and war
Constitution Memorial Day rallies against war as it brings forth the ugliest sides of humanity. Those who are for war are often not aware of the short-term and long-term implications the violence can inflict on humanity. Therefore, peace and prosperity are the only paths to welfare and happiness.
5 Facts About Golden Week That Will Blow Your Mind
Emperor Showa Day
Since 2006, April 29 is celebrated as Emperor Showa Day, honoring the emperor and his efforts during WWII.
Constitution Memorial Day
The former prime minister, Shigeru Yoshida, wanted this day to be celebrated on November 3, but it was moved as Emperor Meiji’s birthday also falls on that day.
This day was originally reserved for Emperor Showa’s birthday, however, with the assignment of a separate day for Emperor Showa, Greenery Day became separate and is now celebrated on May 4.
Only celebrated in 2019, May 1 was celebrated as a national holiday as it marked the day when Crown Prince Naruhito took the throne.
Being the last holiday of the Golden Week, this holiday takes place on May 5 and is meant to celebrate children and their individual personalities.
Why We Love Constitution Memorial Day
It’s a celebration of peace
Peace is an absolutely necessary tenet of life. If destroyed and/or taken away, things go topsy-turvy, resulting in negative things taking up space in our lives. Living harmoniously with our brothers and sisters is the only way to lead a happy and peaceful life all around.
It’s a celebration of democracy
Democracy is one of the most successful political systems in the world today. Because of the power it lends to the common public, people become in charge of their lives and get to decide what they want to do and where they want to go.
It’s a reminder of worse times
By remembering history and the bad times of the past, we can appreciate the good times more. Additionally, we can also be better prepared for dealing with our present and future.
Constitution Memorial Day dates