Showa Day holiday

For my stateside friends [who read me], today is a national holiday in Japan. April 29 is Showa Day, which is a day to honor the memory and/or times of the previous emperor of Japan. Worldwide he is known as Hirohito, but within Japan a past emperor is known by the era that he reigned in.

When Hirohito was alive, it was the Showa era, and so Emperor Hirohito is known here now as Emperor Showa.

Probably one of the biggest Japanese emperors of history was Meiji (Mutsuhito). He was the one who was in influence when Japan stopped 250 years of isolation and “opened to the West”. The Black Ships were 1853, and Meiji came to the throne in 1868, after the Japanese Civil War (Boshin Year War). In the ward of Tokyo where I live, there is the Meiji Shrine, which is popular and often visited by locals and those who are in town from elsewhere.

At least for us, the Showa Emperor is a bit controversial, because he was also the emperor in the World War Two days. And, depending on the scholar, Showa had some deep role in the prosecution of the war.

Of course, after the war, the emperor became a symbol of peace. So much so that this is what he is known for in Japan. And botany. Showa was a world class botanist and studier of birds. I think there is even one plant or tree that he discovered and bears his name.

Recent tradition had it that only the current emperor’s birthday was a national holiday. (So the current emperors birthday, on December 23, is also a national holiday.) And today was made into Green Day in honor of the former emperor’s interest in botany. But maybe about three years ago, the name was changed to Showa Day. (Everyone knew April 29 was the previous emperor’s birthday anyway, right?)

Two years back in one of my jobs, I would have liked to have had the day off, but I had to go in to work. So I did what I had to do, and took off early. Maybe half the day. I told a friend that Hirohito had been friends with America for half of his life, and so it maybe was fitting that I also take half the day in honor of the former emperor.