In 1947, a small town in Hyōgo Prefecture now known as Taka proclaimed September 15th to be Old Folks’ Day (Toshiyori no Hi). Over the years, the holiday’s popularity spread to every corner of the country. By 1966 it was proclaimed a national public holiday, and was still celebrated on September 15th. Beginning in 1998, Japan began introducing the Happy Monday System. This system attempted to move public holidays to Mondays so that people with the usual 9-to-5, Monday-to-Friday job could have more three-day weekends. Respect for the Aged Day was moved to the third Monday of September beginning in 2003.
On Respect for the Aged Day, organizations and companies will have special events to help the elderly living in their community. Who qualifies as ‘elderly’ can vary depending on location, but generally it is for those aged 65 and up. Volunteers organize free bento lunch deliveries, or distribute special hampers that contain basic necessities like soap and toothpaste. If you don’t have an opportunity to volunteer, be sure to be extra kind towards any elderly citizens you come across on Keiro-no-Hi.
Besides volunteering, other special events concerning the elderly will be held to honor the occasion. Schools will organize performances especially for the elderly and perform them at retirement or nursing homes. Many communities will have keirokai ceremonies and invite the seniors of the community to come and enjoy. Larger cities will host competitions or fitness displays featuring elderly folk. These will usually be held publicly outdoors for anyone to enjoy. There is a great focus on admiring and acknowledging those senior members of the community who continue to live healthy, active lives.
Television stations will take the opportunity to air special programming related to aging and the elderly community. Japan has a very high population of centenarians – people who are over one hundred years old. Many of them will be featured on shows and in the news to talk about their experiences and their opinions on aging. What better way to get healthy living tips than to learn from someone who has been practicing them for over a century, with great results?
If you have grandparents or elderly parents, make the day extra special for them by taking them out for a meal or simply by spending time together. Even if you can’t be together in person, you can still give them a call and let them know how much you care. Respect for the Aged Day is all about respecting and appreciating your elders, and that’s really the best way to celebrate.