Respect for the Aged Day in Japan

When is Respect-for-the-Aged Day?

Respect-for-the-Aged Day is on September 20, 2021.
It falls on Monday.

How many days until Respect-for-the-Aged Day?

There are 240 Days left until Respect-for-the-Aged Day in Japan.

What is Respect-for-the-Aged Day?

Respect for the Aged Day (known as Keiro no Hi in the Japanese language) is a national holiday observed in Japan every 3rd Monday of September every year. This holiday is celebrated primarily to honor, respect, and appreciate all the elderly citizens in the country. Being respectful toward their elders has always been a part of Japanese culture, however, the senior citizens are given extra-special attention on this day.

Origin of Respect for the Aged Day in Japan

Japan, being the second country around the world with the highest life expectancy (Hong Kong being the first), 85.03 at present, designated a day showing full appreciation to the country’s elderly community and their contribution to Japan’s society. Thus, during the celebration, many elderly-related events are organized, usually by the schools and the local communities. Since the day is also a public holiday, government institutions and all schools across Japan are suspended on this day. Majority of the businesses would also close down and employees (esp. those who are day job workers) are given a day off from work. Hence, many of the Japanese take the time to take a trip back to their hometowns to visit their families. The day is ultimately spent together with the people’s grandparents or other old family members, relatives, and friends.

The roots of celebration for the holiday ‘Respect for the Aged Day’ can be traced back in September 15, 1947, when a small town in Hyogo Prefecture called Nomadani-mura (known as Taka-cho at present), has arranged for a gathering intended for the town’s elderly residents. Masao Kadowaki, the young Mayor at that time, had decided to organize such gathering for the people to honor and respect the town’s older population. This gathering/celebration was called Old Folks’ Day. It’s an event wherein the old people are treated with food and drinks, performances, and are given the time to share their knowledge and experiences to the public. The gathering was a success and for the following years, the town has always celebrated the event every 15th of that month (September). Later on, this celebration had gained popularity to its neighboring towns, until such time that it was widely known all over Japan. By 1966, the Japanese government had acknowledged this celebration. As a result, the day was established to officially become a national holiday. From its original name, Old Folks’ Day, it was renamed by the government to ‘Respect for the Aged Day’ instead. The new title had been observed since then up until the present times.

Although the name of the celebration has been altered, its purpose and significance remain the same. The country has been celebrating the holiday on the same date since it was established, on the 15th of September until 2003. By 2003, since Japan has a ‘Happy Monday System’ (a system wherein several of Japan’s public holidays are moved to Mondays, creating longer weekends for the people), the holiday’s fixed date of celebration was switched to occur every 3rd Monday of September instead. The new date of celebration has been followed since then. Currently (2020), the holiday falls on the 21st of September.

Respect for the Aged Day Traditions in Japan

Since the holiday’s establishment, its ways of celebration have never changed. While Japan has a special day to honor the children called ‘Children’s Day’, another special holiday is also designated in honor of the elderly citizens in the country. In the past, reaching the age of 60 made one to qualify in becoming a senior citizen in Japan, however, since there has been a gradual increase in the number of the elderly people, its qualifying age has also increased. One needs to reach the age of 65 to become part of the country’s old population. For these graying people who reached the age of 65 and above, a special day is bestowed to them to be celebrated by all Japanese across the country. It’s called ‘Respect for the Aged Day’.

Several activities are done during the celebration of Respect for the Aged Day. One of the most common activities include the giving away of free bento boxes (boxed lunches in English) to the old people in the neighborhood. Normally, many people would volunteer to help in the making of these free bento boxes. These bento boxes include dishes that are not just good in quality but easy to eat and full of nutrients as well. Matsutake-gohan (rice which is cooked with mushroom, the kind which only comes out during Autumn season), Tofu-based foods (e.g. Teriyaki Tofu, Macrobiotic Mabo Tofu, and Teriyaki Glazed Tofu Steaks), Hida Beef Steak, Grilled fish, Fried prawns, Vegetables, and even O-suimono (clear soup), are some of the typical dishes found inside these bento boxes. Adding a cup of sake on top of these dishes is also done to complete the meal to be presented for the elderly community.

Respect for the Aged Day is actually one of the most special holidays in Japan. Gifts, presents, or souvenirs are also prepared to be given to the elderly people. Presents usually prepared include flowers, fruit baskets, home-cooked meals, cakes, Japanese sweets, handmade crafts, letters, magnifying glasses, and even photos of the elderly’s grandchildren. In terms of clothes, the elderly population would typically wear red type of clothes during the celebration.

Several events are solely prepared for the entertainment of the old people during this holiday. In fact, many schools and local organizations from across the country end up preparing some spectacular performances for the elderly people to enjoy. Keirokai is an example to this. Keirokai are the performances prepared by teenagers and young children of Japan for the elderly community. These performances include dancing and singing (individual or through choir). The Keirokai performances are usually presented either at the retirement/nursing homes or at the local community centers where the elderly gathers for the celebration. During the event, the elderly people are also treated with delicious meals, tea, and others.

Japan’s TV channels would also decide to show some special programs that are elderly-related. Considering the fact that Japan is also the second country worldwide (U.S being the first) when it comes to having the most centenarians, the country’s TV Shows arranged during the holiday, would especially invite those elderly Japanese who have reached the age of 100 and above. They are featured on the show so they can share their knowledge, wisdom, and experiences on how to live a long and healthy life, for the young generation to emulate.

Dates of Observance for Respect-for-the-Aged Day
Year Date Day Holiday
2021 September 20 Monday Respect-for-the-Aged Day
2022 September 19 Monday Respect-for-the-Aged Day
2023 September 18 Monday Respect-for-the-Aged Day
2024 September 16 Monday Respect-for-the-Aged Day
2025 September 15 Monday Respect-for-the-Aged Day
2026 September 21 Monday Respect-for-the-Aged Day
Upcoming Japan Holidays
Holiday Date
Foundation Day February 11, 2021
Emperor's Birthday February 23, 2021
Spring Equinox Day March 20, 2021