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Celebration of Longevity : Choujyu Iwai:長寿祝い

How Japanese people value and celebrate longevity? Here is the list of 15 celebrations.

The Senior Citizen's Day

Third Monday of September is a national holiday of Japan called the Senior Citizen’s Day:Keirou no Hi: 敬老の日. It is to appreciate the senior citizens for their contributions and to celebrate their longevity. On this day, the people who reach 100 years old during the year will receive a certificate and a gift from the prime minister of Japan.

The average life span of Japanese female was 87.7 years old, and male was 81.64 years old in 2020. 86510 senior citizens celebrated 100th in 2021. The oldest female is 118 years old from Fukuoka city, and oldest male is 111 years old from Nara city as of 15th September, 2021.

History of the Celebration of Longevity

During Nara Period (710-784), people celebrated every 10 year for example at 40, 50 and so on. They wrote poems to celebrate the longevity. After Kamakura Period (1185-1333), the same years as current custom were began to be celebrated. In the Edo Period (1603-1867), rice cakes with the Kanji character Kotobuki (寿:ことぶき), meaning celebration, were given to neighbours by the person who was celebrating his/ her own longevity.

List of Longevity Celebrations

Japanese people celebrate longevity at different timing of the life. Here is the list of those celebrations. There are two age counting system. The first one consider that you are already 1 year old when you are born, and the second one start counting from zero when you are born. Those ages are sown in the bracket.

Kanreki (61/ 60): 還暦(かんれき)

Celebration colour: Red (meaning celebration, protection from evil spirit)

You might have hear of oriental zodiac with 12 animals. In the sexagenary cycle of time, each person has Eto (干支:えと). There are 60 combinations with 10 heavenly stem (wood, fire, earth, metal , water divided into older and younger brothers) and 12 earthy branches of animals (rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, pig). Therefore, on 61st year, it comes back to the same signs of the particular year, and it is considered as the year of reborn.

Traditionally, red cloth is used for newborn baby to protect from evil spirits. Therefore, clothes called Chanchanko which is a red sleeveless kimono jacket and red cap are given as a gift to the person celebrating their 61st birthday (60th in western system).

Now a days, some people give more practical gifts in this celebration colour, such us T-shrit, underwear, sweater, bag etc. I gave my mother red bag and red wallet when she turned 60.

Koki (70/69):古希(こき) Celebration colour: Purple (meaning superior, respect)

「人生(じんせい)七十(しちじゅう)古来(こらい)稀(まれ)なり」It is from an old Chinese poem meaning, 'It is rare to have the life 70 years long.’ Kanji letter 稀 contains 希 it means rare. That is how the celebration is named. Family members gather and enjoy meals together.

Kijyu (77/76):喜寿(きじゅ) Celebration colour: purple or navy blue

In one of the three calligraphy style called Sosyo (草書:そうしょ)、letter 喜 (happy/delight) looks like 77 in Kanji (七七)

Sanjyu (80/79):傘寿(さんじゅ) Celebration Colour: Yellow, gold, blown

Kanji letter 傘 looks like combination of 八(8)and 十(10)、it is called celebration of 傘. 八(8)is considered as good luck number as the letter is spreading out. 傘(かさ)means umbrella and its shapes is spreading out; therefor, it is considered lucky item for this celebration. Celebrating and wishing for longer lives.

Beijyu (88/87):米寿(べいじゅ) Celebration colour: Yellow, gold, blown

As 88(八八) includes two lucky numbers and it is nearly average life expectancy for female, when people reach this age, it is a huge celebration as well.

Sotsujyu (90/89):卒寿(そつじゅ) Celebration colour: White

Letter 卒 looks 九(きゅう)and 十(じゅう)in Sousyo style calligraphy, so this celebration is named.

Hakujyu (99/98):白寿(はくじゅ)

Celebration colour: White

百(ひゃく)means one hundred, and when you remove 一(one: いち)from 百、it becomes 白(white)、therefore it is called celebration of 白.

Hyakujyu (100/101) (百寿:ひゃくじゅ) or (百賀:ひゃくが)(100/99) Celebration Colour: white, pink

All the people who are celebrating 100th birthday on the year, receives a certificate.

There are also celebration for Hyakuichiga(百一賀:)(101/100)、Chajyu (茶寿:ちゃじゅ)(108/107)、Chinjyu(珍寿:ちんじゅ)(110/109)、Kojyu(皇寿:こうじゅ)(111, 110)、Daikanreki(大還暦:だいかんれき)(120/119) and Tenjyu(天寿:てんじゅ)(250/249)is the oldest one.

These days, many people still look forward to celebrate each mile stone; however, seniors are younger and healthier in general compared to before, so the people usually ask the person if they wish to be celebrated at certain point of life.

Thank you for all the people who contributed to build the current world that we live in now.

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