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Keirou no Hi or Respect for the Aged Day

Date Published: Last Update:2015/05/13 Traditional Culture , ,

Today is a special day for the elderly in Japan. Special in the sense that the government really made a holiday to celebrate and pay homage to them. People across the country travel to their hometown to visit their parents and relatives. But what exactly is “Respect for the Aged Day”?

Keirō no Hi – Japan’s Grandparents’ Day

Keirō no Hi (敬老の日) or Respect for the Aged Day is a national holiday in Japan that is celebrated every third Monday of September. “It is a thoughtful and reasonable celebration, considering the longevity of the Japanese as well as the low birth rate in the country” (Motion Elements). It is like the “Grandparents’ Day” that is celebrated in other parts of the globe but far more serious and does not only limited to those who have grandchildren.

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Unlike the Grandparents’ Day, the Respect for the Aged Day is not only limited to those who have grandchildren. (Image from AC-Illust)

Holiday History

The holiday is first celebrated in a village called Nomatanimura (present-day Yachiyocho) in Hyogo Prefecture in September 15, 1947. The town mayor, Masao Kadowaki, gathered all senior citizens and declared that day as Toshiyori no Hi (年寄の日) or Old Folk’s Day with the greeting: “An elderly person is a treasure for every household and also for our village. Please share with me, a young village head, some of your wisdom.” From that year onwards, Nomatanimura hold events to pay respect for the elderly in the village. The gesture became popular and spread across the whole country. It was in 1966 that the government recognized it as a national holiday and gave it its present name. In 2003, due to the Happy Monday System, where many holidays were moved to Mondays to create a three-day weekend for people who work five days a week, the holiday was moved from September 15 to 3rd Monday of September every year.

Red Days are Happy Days

In Japan, holidays are called red days due to the fact that they are printed in red in calendars. Thus, Respect for the Aged Day is a red day. But more than that reason, the Japanese believed that when they turn 60, as they already complete their journey through the five cycles of the Sino-Japanese Zodiac, they are to be born again as a baby (aka-chan or literally translated as the “red one”). Traditionally, those who turn 60 will wear red and is presented with a red chanchanko (a padded sleeveless kimono jacket), a zukin (a Japanese cap), red fan, and is seated in a zabuton (flat floor cushion used when sitting or kneeling). These all represent returning to childhood. In modern days, people give anything red, which is usually a red tie or a red sweater, as gifts to the elderly.

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In Japanese, babies are called aka-chan or akanbou. Aka is red and some say it is because babies have red cheeks that is why. (Image from AC-Illust)

The Holiday in Modern Times

As Japanese people really give importance to the elderly, the essence of the celebration nowadays is not lost. The younger generation visit their elderly relatives and give them gifts that express their love and appreciation. Some also organize activities like going out or having picnic with them. Due to many people going back to their hometowns, the traffic is heavier than usual and the trains are crowded. Also during this day, the Japanese government and media highlight achievements and noteworthy acts of senior citizens in different fields.

In your country, how do you give importance to the elderly? Give us comments below.

References:

1. Respect for the Aged Day: Paying Homage to the Wise. Motion Elements.

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