In 1940, amid war in China and growing tensions with the United States, Japan celebrated the 26th centennial of the founding of the Empire of Japan and the “unbroken” imperial line.

This was a carefully choreographed commemoration, one aimed at stoking nationalism, devotion to the emperor and support for imperial expansion. It was an assertion of modern identity couched in crafted traditions and myths, one that evoked a powerful public endorsement evident in various enthusiastic expressions ranging from volunteer work brigades to dutiful pilgrimages to sacred sites.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.