National Foundation Day at Meiji Jingu

We thought we were on our way to wander around beautiful Yoyogi park. We were surprised when we could hear intense drumming echoing through the halls of the subway station.

It was hard not to follow the crowd toward to the festivities which we learned later were for “Kigen-sai,” the National Foundation Festival.

A very informative sign informed us that:

February 11 is a day of special significance namely, it is the date that Emperor Jinmu, the legendary first emperor of Japan, acceded to the throne at Kashihara’no’miya in Yamato (the current Nara Prefecture). Before World War II, this day was named National Foundation Day, and was considered one of the four major celebrative days in Japan, along with New Year’s Day, the birthday of the reigning Emperor, and Emperor Meiji’s birthday. Today, it is called the Day Commemorating the National Foundation. A Shinto ritual ceremony is held at shrines all over Japan in reverence of the commencement of the imperial reign by Emperor Jinmu. On this 2,677th year of the imperial reign, let us proceed with courage to create a better society and nation, while appreciating the effort of our forefathers who have established prosperity in Japan.

Neighbourhoods gathered together to carry and dance shrines to the temple in a long joyous procession.

There was a solemn moment as the shrines passed through the giant wooden torii that marks the entry into the shrine area.

Below the noise of the crowd, the singing, and the drumming, you could feel a deep thundering bass through the entire area. The source was a giant drum. The video below captures the ceremony as men took turns striking it, but doesn’t capture the thundering that you could feel in your chest.

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