Respect for the Aged Day
Respect for the Aged Day (Keiro no Hi in Japanese) is an official holiday celebrated in Japan every year, on the third Monday of September. Nationwide, citizens run and participate in many volunteer activities directed towards Japanese’s elder population (typically recognized as 60 or 65 years and older, depending on the region). Participation in this holiday is wide-reaching, with activities spanning free-lunch deliveries, school performances for the local elderly, large-scale events and ceremonies in Japan’s largest cities, and general media coverage and programs including and paying tribute to Japan’s elders.
Think of this as a Japanese version of the US’s unofficial, but widely celebrated National Grandparents Day. However, unlike the US unofficial holiday, Japan’s is nationally recognized, and while it typically encourages events featuring children honoring their elder relatives, Respect for the Aged Day stretches further to honor Japan’s elderly population at large.
Origin of Respect for the Aged Day
Respect for the Aged Day, or Keiro no Hi, became an official Japanese national holiday in 1966. However, the holiday itself has a rich history that predates its official inauguration into Japan’s extensive holiday calendar.
The inception of the holiday itself began miraculously as a day unofficially celebrated in 1947, in a small town in Japan’s Hyogo prefecture, then called Nomatanimura (today known as Yachiyocho). At this time, the holiday was celebrated as Otoshiyori no Hi (translates to English as “Day of the Elderly”). The holiday began to spread organically throughout Japan over the coming years, and finally established as a federal holiday under its current name, Keiro no Hi, in 1966. This literally was a holiday created by popular demand.
Respect for the Aged Day Similarities to other Holidays
Respect for the Aged Day shares similarities to two other major Japanese holidays: Coming of Age Day, celebrated every year on the second Monday of January, and Children’s Day, which is celebrated on May 5th. In terms of the scope of its overall focus, Respect for the Aged Day fits somewhere between both holidays.
On the one hand, its focused demographic is large and sprawling similar to Children’s Day, with an overall population that can be easily recognized and agreed upon, while Coming of Age Day is specifically reserved for, literally, recognizing and celebrating Japanese citizens each year who turn 20, the “legal” age in Japan. However, there is a mostly agreed-upon age, usually 65 years of age or older (though this can fluctuate regionally)--this threshold is important, to keep things organized with Respect for the Aged Day’s public ceremonies, and the more widespread, locally-based volunteer activities and performances.
How is Respect for the Aged Day celebrated?
Small towns and villages typically offer several different types of volunteer events, from organizing free lunch deliveries to the elderly (specifically Japanese Bento boxes, a common, single-person packaged lunch box with foods such as meats or fish, noodles or rice, and assorted vegetables). Another frequent volunteer event, more akin to US Grandparents’ Day events, are keirokai ceremonies--these are performances by young children held at local schools, performed as entertainment for the day for their elders.