Historicity: A Day in the Life of a Country
Shifting focus, like a kaleidoscope of time, can show us history in new shapes, shades, and colors.
I thought I’d change things up again today.
Instead of looking at just one event, or a random group of items, I wanted to dig into the ways in which a single date can echo back into the past of a specific country.
It just so happens that Japan is a perfect candidate for today, with lots of historical context strewn across a broad timeline on this date, and a country whose history prior to the Second World War I knew little about, so the research was fresh and interesting1.
So, with that introduction, I give you today’s daily dose of historic curiosity for February 11th, 2022.
11 February: A Date in the Life of Japan
A Sun Rises in the East
Very close to the same time that Romulus and Remus were founding Rome in the West, another mythical child of the gods was making his rise in the East.
Jimmu Tenno, descendant of Amaterasu, the sun goddess, and Susanoo, the storm god, launched his military campaign eastward from Hyuga, Japan. Following Japan's Inland Sea, he subdued and united the tribes along the way until he reached Yamato (in present day Nara Prefecture).
Establishing Yamato as his new seat of power, Jimmu ascended to become the first Japanese Emperor on February 11th, 660 B.C.
The date is still recognized and celebrated today in modern Japan as National Foundation Day, 2682 years later.
A National Evolution
Jumping forward through time we find a nation that would be completely unrecognizable to Jimmu.
A lot has been written in history journals about the shock of Western observers at the pace and scale of Japanese transformation in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Japan went from a xenophobic, feudal state without any significant industrial base, to become a heavily Westernized, industrial nation with a navy as capable as any other in the world in very short order.
There were many cultural and political events that contributed to the nation’s rapid pace of development during this period. One of the most significant of these was the adoption of the Meiji Constitution on February 11th, 1889.
The Meiji Constitution, based on British and German models, allowed the emperor considerable political power in foreign affairs, but left domestic matters in the hands of an elected body called the Imperial Diet. It also established limits of power, and a judiciary.
Don’t be fooled, though, this was no representative, democratic constitution; it was the constitution of Imperial Japan. Only 1.1 percent of the population were eligible to vote.
An Empire Victorious at War
Starting in what is called the Meiji Period in 1868 until right after World War I, Imperial Japan went nearly undefeated in a constant string of expansionist wars that showed exactly how effective Japan's martial transformation had become:
Boshin War (1868-1869)
Japanese invasion of Taiwan (1874)
Battle of Ganghwa (1875)
Southwestern War (1877)
First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895)
Another invasion of Taiwan (1895)
Boxer Rebellion (1899-1901)
Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905)
Battle of Namdaemun (1907)
Beipu Uprising (1907)
Truku War (1914)
Trapani Incident (1915)
World War I (1914-1918)
Siberian Intervention (1918-1922) - the only Japanese loss on this list!
With a military Win-Loss record of 13 and 1 in just over sixty years, why wouldn’t the Imperial Japanese be confident they could carry this success forward into World War II?
On February 11th, 1942, they did exactly that during their assault on British, Indian, and Australian forces during the Japanese invasion of Singapore.
The Japanese 5th Division pushed the Allies back towards the center of the island along Bukit Timah Road, cutting them off from fresh water supplies. They captured the town of Bukit Timah that night.
The next day, on February 11th Japanese Imperial Guards easily defended against an Allied counter-attack by outflanking the British from the north.
The capture of Singapore was complete just four days later.
We all know by now that despite this and numerous other victories in the first half of World War II, Japanese exceptionalism at conquest would end abruptly with their complete and total surrender by the end of the war.
Jimmu's empire was no more, but Japan would go on as a nation.
A Second Evolution
The post war rebuilding of Japan was yet another time of great national and cultural change.
One event in particular demonstrates how Japan used it's technical and industrial prowess to yet again stand tall on the global stage of nations, but this time without the whole genocide and world domination angle.
On February 11th, 1970 the Japanese space agency JAXA launched Ohsumi, the country's first space satellite. Japan became only the fourth nation to put an object into orbit using it’s own booster. Even fifty years later, few nations have managed to place their own satellites into orbit.
And in one final piece of history for the day, we see that another undefeated emperor learned a lesson in humility on this date in Japan.
On February 11th, 1990 at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, another kind of war was fought. Buster Douglas - by far the underdog in the fight with Vegas odds at 42:1 against - knocked out an undisputed and undefeated Mike Tyson in a stunning upset victory to become the world heavyweight boxing champion.
Most people had considered this to be a warm-up fight for Tyson.
It was one of the biggest upset victories in sports history.
That completes our look at one date in the life of a nation.
How stable was the early Japanese empire?
How long did the feudal period in Japan last?
What were “Japanizers"?
How many countries did Imperial Japan invade during World War II?
How did Japan go from a completely defeated and war decimated country in 1946 to having such an advanced space program less than 25 years later?
Jimmu, Japan’s First Emperor on Kansai Odyssey
Heian and Feudal Japan on Students of History
Japan’s Constitution of 1889 ( PDF) from Constitution Project
The constitution of the Empire of Japan (HTML) from the Japanese government
The Battle of Bukit Timah from Military History Wiki
Ohsumi, Japan’s First Satellite from the University of Tokyo
What else makes February 11th special around the world?
Today is one of my personal favorites, Get Out Your Guitar Day. 🎸
I’ve been playing for about 39 years now, and I spend a lot of time on the front porch working out new compositions & arrangements anytime I get the chance. I’m not great, but I don't totally suck either. Here’s a piece I wrote and recorded about six years ago, called “Squatters on Spirit Mountain” 🔊 (Don’t ask me where I come up with the titles for my instrumental pieces, most times I have no idea!).
I hope you enjoy it.
If you are a musician of any kind, please feel free to download the MP3 and record your own additions on top of what's there. I’d love to hear what you come up with! 🎻🎷🥁🎹
As noted in today’s main article, it is National Foundation Day in Japan 🇯🇵. It is also Islamic Revolution Day in Iran, marking the Islamic Revolution in 1979 which brought the ruling council of Islamic clerics into power in one of the world’s only theocratic states 🇮🇷.
Speaking of coincidental theocracies, today is also important for Catholics, marking the date on which the Vatican signed the Lateran Treaty with Italy, achieving the sovereignty of the Holy See in 1929, forming one of the world’s only other independent theocratic states.
The 24th Winter Olympic games continue in Beijing, China today 🇨🇳.
Famous births on February 11th, under the sign of Aquarius
American Friends actress Jennifer Aniston (1969-),
Russian tennis player Daniil Medvedev (1996-),
Queen of England, Elizabeth York (1486-1503),
and inventor of the light bulb and phonograph Thomas Edison (1847-1931).
“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
- Thomas Edison
Today is the 42nd day of the year on the Gregorian calendar. 323 days remaining.
It is 184.108.40.206.19 on the Mayan long count calendar.
It is day 2 - Rain, in the 13 day cycle of the Flint Knife, in the solar year of the Rabbit on the Aztec calendar.
It is 10 Adar I, 5782 on the Jewish calendar.
Disclaimer: I am not a historian. I read an immense amount of history, ask myself relevant questions, and try to find valid historical sources for answers to those questions. Then I summarize all that into some form of word soup that I believe to be accurate, but compiled with a fresh voice. Unless specified otherwise, all errors or inaccuracies are entirely my own. Historicity is not intended to be an education source, as much as it is mind motivator to agitate your own curious nature. Consume accordingly.
Of course I happily welcome having those errors pointed out so I can correct them - they certainly don't need to get repeated or copied by others. Thanks! 👍