We observed this year’s National Foundation Day on February 11. How did it become a national foundation day? Why on that date? Frankly speaking, I only had a vague idea regarding this particular national holiday: wasn’t it based upon mythology that gave the divine right for the establishment of Japanese emperors? So, I checked the Internet to find out more, relying heavily on Wikipedia as usual.
It all stems from the first official written history of Japan called “Nihon Shoki” that was compiled in 720 by order of the emperor. According to this book of myths and legends, the first emperor was born on February 11, 660 B.C. (asserted by some pundits, but not a historical fact): based on this the national foundation day was established in 1873, soon after the Meiji Restoration when the control of Japan was regained by the emperor from the Tokugawa Shogunate. (Incidentally, The National Foundation Day was abolished after the end of World War II but reinstated in 1966.)
There is another old history book, also covering myths and legends, called “Kojiki” that was compiled slightly before Nihon Shoki. From here, I would like to focus on the works of Norinaga Motoori (1730-1801), who was a medical doctor but better known as a scholar of ancient Japanese thoughts and culture. Motoori embarked on the first so-called scientific study of Kojiki (until then nobody could read it) and exerted himself for as much as 35 years to publish his book in 44 volumes on Kojiki.
Motoori mentioned in his book that myths and legends in Kojiki showed the ancient people’s way of life, thoughts and spiritual backbone, such as to live harmoniously with nature. Thanks to Motoori’s accomplishment, the study of ancient Japanese philosophy and culture made a remarkable leap.
A manuscript copy of Kojiki, a National treasure (the original manuscript doesn’t exist)
Norinaga Motoori (1730-1801), a medical doctor and a scholar
Motoori’s book (44 volumes) on Kojiki, an ancient history book
(courtesy of Yanajin33)