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Our elders are our link to the past and what better way is there to honor them than on Respect for the Aged Day on September 20? It is a Japanese festival celebrated on the third Monday of September of each year. It is a national holiday in Japan on which people celebrate by spending time with their elderly relatives and friends.
History of Respect for the Aged Day
This holiday’s story begins right after World War II, when a small town called Nomatanimura (now renamed Yachiyocho), in the Hyōgo Prefecture in Japan, ordained that September 15 be known as ‘Old Folks’ Day’ or Toshiyori no Hi. The mayor of that town, Masao Kadowaki, believed that people should look up to their elders (those 55 and over) for guidance after the chaos and hardship of the war.
The reasons for choosing this particular date vary; some legends say that the Yoro Falls in Japan miraculously cured a young man’s father around this exact period, while others say this date was selected because a legendary regent named Prince Shotoku established a home for the aged, which was, in turn, named after a god who was born on this date.
Over the years, this local celebration gained popularity around Japan, being renamed to Keiro no Hi, and reached its peak status over two decades later, when it was designated as a national holiday. The actual date to honor the aged changed when Japan introduced a system known as the Happy Monday System, however. This was a bid to provide more three-day weekends to regular 9-5, Monday-Friday workers by moving public holidays to Mondays. Presently, this holiday is celebrated on the third Monday of each September.
Respect for the Aged Day timeline
A small town in Japan declares this day to be a local holiday, to honor the elderly.
Respect for the Aged Day gains popularity, becoming a national holiday celebrated on September 15 each year.
Japan introduces a system moving public holidays to Mondays to give people more three-day weekends.
Starting this year, Respect for the Aged Day is moved to the third Monday of September.
Respect for the Aged Day FAQs
How do the Japanese respect their elders?
Apart from being respectful of elders as a cultural norm, Japanese nationals observe a special day, known as Respect for the Aged Day, to honor their elders.
How did Keiro no Hi start?
Keiro No Hi originated in a small village called Nomadani-mura (known as Taka-cho today) in the Hyogo Prefecture.
Why are there so many elderly in Japan?
Japan’s high proportion of elderly citizens has been attributed to its long period of low fertility and a very high life expectancy.
How To Celebrate Respect for the Aged Day
Use their experience wisely
Treasure the experience and guidance the older population can bring to your life. Our elders possess a wealth of knowledge and they are very willing to share it. Use that experience as a measuring tool for your actions; understand their traditions, learn from their mistakes, and let them be your bridge to the past.
Be extra nice to the elderly on this day
We always recommend a good deed or two, especially when it comes to the older people in our society, but be especially aware of this segment of the population on this day. Lend a helping hand whenever you can, even if it could inconvenience you.
Connect with special events
This holiday is the perfect time to get together with relatives and elderly friends. Organize fun competitions and virtual events, send them treats, and host Japanese-themed theatre specials online.
Facts About Respect For The Aged Day
Special gifts for centenarians
Japanese citizens turning 100 years old in the 12 months before this day receive a special silver sake dish on this holiday.
The number of centenarians in Japan is high
Since 1950, Japan's elderly population has been on the rise and is expected to rise to 35.3% by 2040, as per a Japan Today report in 2020.
From silver to silver-plated
The rising population made the silver sake dish too expensive a gift to give, forcing the Japanese government to switch to silver-plated sake dishes.
The current numbers
As of now, there are 80,450 centenarians in Japan.
Their diets have a lot to do with it
A balanced diet is one reason for Japan's high population of centenarians.
The Importance Of Respect for the Aged Day
We get to benefit from their knowledge
It is from the older generations that we learn and understand ourselves. Their actions have paved the way for us. Even simple conversations with someone from the past generation gives us incredible insights into our heritage, complete with first-hand accounts. Traditions such as these allow us to use the older generation's actions, their mistakes, and their experience to make a better future.
It makes them feel important
Most of us have moved away from our homes, and, as a result, see less and less of our elders. This day serves as a very welcome reminder to connect with the older generation by any means possible, letting them know they are valued and seen.
We develop a sense of identity through our past
Our history is preserved in the minds of our elders. As a generation, we still have a lot to learn from them. We can use such opportunities to understand how our pasts affect our future and allow this to teach us responsibility for future generations.
Respect for the Aged Day dates