Keiro No Hi: Celebrating The Health & Wisdom Of An Aging Society

Respect for the Aged Day

Did you know that Japan and Palau are the only two countries in the world that have an official public holiday dedicated to their elderly citizens? Learn why, when and how this day is celebrated in Japan.

It’s no secret the Japanese have one of the longest life expectancies in the world—with an average lifespan of 85.77 years, Japan ranks second in the world. And that’s all thanks to the elderly population which is generally held in high regard by society. Just as Japan has national holidays to honor children, there is one day each year dedicated solely to the oldest members of the community, making it only the second country in the world to have an official public holiday for its senior population (Palau is the other). This year falling on Monday, September 19, the Japanese celebrate Keiro no Hi, or Respect for the Aged Day, throughout the country.

How did Respect for the Aged Day begin?

How did Respect For the Aged Day Begin - Keiro No Hi: Celebrating The Health & Wisdom Of An Aging Society

The tradition dates back to 1947, when the village of Nomadani Mura in Hyogo Prefecture (now known as the town of Taka-cho) organized an “old folks gathering” under the guidance of the then-mayor Masao Kadowaki. He suggested that the young have much to learn from their seniors if they want to build a stronger village and invited them to sit down and listen. This launched a tradition in the village and the same gathering was organized again the following year.

This launched a tradition in the village and the same gathering was organized again the following year.

The day’s popularity spread by word-of-mouth and following a series of negotiations with local governments, this “Old Folks Day” was designated a national holiday in 1966 as Respect for the Aged Day. The date was changed to the third Monday of the month in 2003.

What is celebrated?

What do we celebrate - Keiro No Hi: Celebrating The Health & Wisdom Of An Aging Society

Everything about the elderly population in society, but more specifically their wisdom and accomplishments, is celebrated on this day. Celebrating longevity is the other reason behind Respect for the Aged Day. Living a long and healthy life is highly respected in Japan and the day serves as a reminder not only to care for the elderly in your family, but also to take care of oneself. It’s a day to reflect on where we’ve been and see how the lessons of those who came before us can help us live better lives.

Japan has the highest number of centenarians in the entire world, recently topping an impressive record of 70,000, the majority being women.

Japan has been setting—and shattering—life expectancy records for years, a feat most often attributed to a healthy diet rich in fish and vegetables. According to the latest data by the Japanese government, more than 28.1 percent of the population is aged 65 and older, with this number expected to reach 40 percent by the year 2060. In fact, Japan has the highest number of centenarians in the entire world, recently topping an impressive record of 70,000, the majority being women.

When is it celebrated?

When do we celebrate - Keiro No Hi: Celebrating The Health & Wisdom Of An Aging Society

The holiday takes place each year on the third Monday of September. This year, that will be September 16. Every six years, Respect for the Aged Day occurs during what’s become known as Silver Week, a week with three consecutive holidays on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. It was dubbed “Silver” for being the second-longest break after the famous Golden Week in late April and early May.

“Silver” is also a common term for referring to the elderly population in Japan, derived from—you get it—the graying of hair. The other two holidays celebrated during Silver Week are Shubun no Hi (Autumnal Equinox Day) and Kokumin no Kyujitsu, or Citizen’s Holiday.

How should you celebrate Respect for the Aged Day?

How should you celebrate respect for the aged day - Keiro No Hi: Celebrating The Health & Wisdom Of An Aging Society

Local communities hold special events to mark the occasion that all are invited to join in on. If your elderly relatives are close by, spending time with them is the best way to show them how much you appreciate them. You can also check in on other elderly members of your community. Set aside the time to listen to their stories and take their guidance to heart.

It’s a day to reflect on where we’ve been and see how the lessons of those who came before us can help us live better lives.

And if you’re thinking of a gift, a fruit basket, a delicious cake, or a good cup of Japanese sake are simple and enjoyable ways to show your love and gratitude.