The Emperor's Birthday

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The Emperor's Birthday
Well-wishers waving flags at the Tokyo Imperial Palace on Emperor Akihito's birthday in 2016
Official nameTennō tanjōbi (天皇誕生日)
Also calledTenchōsetsu (天長節) (–1948)
Observed byJapan
TypeNational, Public
SignificanceMarks the birthday of the Emperor of Japan
CelebrationsPublic ceremony at the Tokyo Imperial Palace, imperial greetings
Date23 February
The Imperial family on the birthday of Emperor Akihito, 2005

The Emperor's Birthday (天皇誕生日, Tennō tanjōbi) is an annual national holiday in the Japanese calendar celebrating the birthday of the reigning Emperor, which is currently 23 February as Emperor Naruhito was born on that day in 1960, enforced by a specific law, "The Law for Special Exception of the Imperial House Law concerning Abdication, etc. of Emperor" (天皇の退位等に関する皇室典範特例法) of 2017.


During the reign of Emperor Hirohito (the Shōwa period, 1926–1989), the Emperor's birthday was observed on 29 April. That date remained a public holiday, posthumously renamed Greenery Day in 1989 and Shōwa Day in 2007.

Until 1948, it was called Tenchōsetsu (天長節), "Tenchō Festival". Tenchōsetsu paralleled Chikyūsetsu (地久節), "Chikyū Festival", which referred to the Empress consort's birthday. The two names originate from the idiom in Chinese: 天長地久, borrowed from Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching during the reign of Emperor Kōnin, meaning "The sky and the earth, the universe is eternal," and expressed a hope for the eternal longevity of the reigning Emperor. After the war, the new government renamed it to Tennō tanjōbi, in less formal language with a more literal meaning in 1948, when it was established as a holiday by law. Under the law, the National Diet must convene and change the holiday date before the reigning Emperor's birthday becomes a public holiday. Thus, there exists a small chance that the former Emperor's birthday may come before the change can be made.


On the Emperor's Birthday, a public ceremony takes place at the Tokyo Imperial Palace, where the gates are opened (the palace is usually off-limits to the public). The emperor, accompanied by the empress, and several other members of the imperial family appear on a palace balcony to acknowledge the birthday greetings of well-wishers waving Japanese flags. This event is called Ippan-sanga (一般参賀). Only on this occasion, and during New Year's celebrations on 2 January, are members of the public permitted to enter the inner grounds of the palace. When the emperor completes his greetings, the crowd resumes the waving of flags, and the imperial family waves back.

In 2021, the visit of the general public to the Imperial Palace grounds on the day to celebrate His Majesty the Emperor's Birthday was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Both the Ippan-sanga in the morning and the signing of the visitors' book (記帳 (Kichō)) in the afternoon were canceled. Ahead of his birthday, however, in a video message recorded on 19 February, Naruhito spoke of his desire to reach out to a wide spectrum of people.


  1. "「国民の祝日」について" [About "national holiday"]. Cabinet Office (Japan). Retrieved 23 February 2021.
  2. "Emperor Hirohito". Spartacus Educational. Retrieved 23 December 2009.
  3. "Golden Week". Retrieved 23 December 2009.
  4. "Tenno No Tanjobi celebrates the Emperor's birthday in Japan". TokyoTopia Or Tokyo Made Simple. Retrieved 23 December 2009.
  5. "Visit of the General Public to the Palace for the New Year Greeting". Imperial Household Agency.
  6. "Traditional Annual Events". Japan National Tourism Organization. Retrieved 23 December 2009.
  7. "Visit of the General Public to the Palace for His Majesty's Birthday". Imperial Household Agency, Japan. Retrieved 23 February 2021.
  8. "EDITORIAL: Reiwa Emperor Reaches Out, Empowers the People on his Birthday". Japan Forward. 25 February 2021. Retrieved 28 February 2021.

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