Respect For The Age Day, 敬老の日, Keirō no Hi, is a national public holiday in Japan that is meant to honor and respect the nation’s older citizens. The holiday originated in 1947 in a small town in Hyōgo Prefecture now known as Taka. The original holiday was called “Old Folks Day” (Toshiyori no Hi) and was celebrated on September 15th every year. The holiday quickly became beloved and soon began to be adopted in other parts of the country. By 1966 it was declared a national public holiday.
In 1988 Japan began the “Happy Monday System” that attempted to give more public holidays to those who work the traditional 9-5 schedule. This system moved many public holidays to Mondays in order to give more three day weekends throughout the year. Thus, Keirō no Hi was moved to the third Monday of September.
For many in the western world this holiday may seem a bit odd. Aging is not a celebrated process in many countries, particularly the United States, where there is an entire industry dedicated to anti-aging and staying eternally young. In Japan, however, it is completely different. Japan has great respect for its elder citizens, and actually has one of the highest populations of centenarians (people over the age of 100). Furthermore Japan has one of the highest life expectancies in the world with the average life span approximately 85.77 years old.
Keirō no Hi is celebrated in many ways. Many will travel home to spend the three day weekend with family and friends. Additionally, organizations will often hold events to honor the elderly or assist them in some way. Many will organize free bento box lunch deliveries to the elderly or put together gift boxes filled with certain essential items. In larger cities there are sometimes athletic competitions featuring elder members of society in order to show vitality and athleticism. Local television stations will frequently have older members of society on to talk about their lives and experiences with aging. Most importantly, though, one is supposed to be extra kind to the elderly on this day.