Keiro no Hi, or “Respect for the Aged Day,”  is a Japanese holiday that honors and celebrates older adults. On September 17, 2022, Keiro held its 5th annual Keiro no Hi Festival in person for the first time in two years. This year’s festival was hosted at four local community organizations in Pasadena, Gardena, Cerritos, and Venice. Community members reunited and rejoiced as they engaged in conversations that were not as easy to come by during periods of isolation. We asked several attendees of the festival what being able to come together again means for them and what kinds of conversations they had throughout the festival.

Faith and Cris — Venice

Faith and Cris met for the first time at this year’s Keiro no Hi Festival at Venice Japanese Community Center (VJCC). Faith was crowned a princess of the 2022 Nisei Week court. Cris is a member at VJCC. The two were especially looking forward to being able to reconnect with people they had not been able to meet for a while. Faith and Cris also talked about some meaningful conversations that they had during their time at the festival.

Faith: During the festival, we talked a lot about the impact of the pandemic. You told me that story about your grandson. It touched me a lot. 

Cris: We used to go to [my daughter’s] place every Sunday. With the pandemic, they had to come to our place because we have a yard, and my grandson could play there. The thing that really hurt was when the car would stop and the door opened, the kid would jump out running towards us and he would suddenly stop two to three feet away from us. He remembered not to hug the older grands because we are the vulnerable age group. He would stop and say, “Oh my god, this is difficult.” That’s the pandemic for you. I hope it never happens again.

Faith: Family is so valuable, and having to restrain your love physically is really tough. I was mentioning that my last living grandma — my lola — it’s hard because during the pandemic, I’d only see her from the window. I could never actually touch her or speak with her. 

The two continued to discuss how grateful they are to be closer to their community again.

Cris: Events like [Keiro no Hi Festival] bring the community back. That’s very valuable. I don’t know if there’s any price for that.

Faith: I think there’s this added dimension of being able to sit next to someone and talk to them in a way that a virtual environment can’t really provide. I personally don’t think we would’ve emotionally connected in the same way if we were speaking virtually. It goes to show how important being in person really is and how much we should value it.

Cris: The face-to-face energy is not there on a Zoom thing. It’s very impersonal, even though you’re talking to each other and everything, you know you’re talking to a screen. It brought some joy, but not like this — person to person. So, I hope we continue this. 

Faith: Absolutely.

Merry and Richard — Cerritos

Merry and Richard are husband and wife who attended the festival at Cerritos Baptist Church together. They were both glad to be able to attend the festival in person this year since they took part in the drive thru Keiro no Hi Festival in 2021 at Orange County Buddhist Church. 

Richard: What did you think of the festival today?

Merry: This was really nice! I didn’t really know what to expect considering we did ours last year at OCBC and all we did was pass out bentos through the car windows. So, to come in, sit down, be with people and get totally entertained, that was really nice. The entertainment was top notch, the Hawaiian dancing, the singer, and the piano player. I recognized some of the Japanese songs, and those reminded me of my childhood memories.

Richard: It was also really nice to see friendly faces too and meeting new people.

The couple also discussed the importance of this event.

Merry: These events are important to bring back the Japanese heritage and it makes you realize people are grateful for what we’ve done for our kids and how we’ve raised everybody. Now we’re being paid back for all that we’ve done for our community. It’s nice to be catered to for a change because all these years doing church activities or whatever, we’re always doing things for everybody else. Finally, now we can sit down and enjoy. So, thank you!

Richard: The expectation of possibly seeing someone I knew from the past was also nice. I’ve lived in this area for over 50 years. There’s a lot of Japanese families that I know here in the area. So, I was hoping that the word got out and they would come. 

Merry and Richard enjoyed the event so much that they already have plans to attend next year’s Keiro no Hi Festival.

Merry: Would you come back next year?

Richard: Yes, it was definitely a nice intimate setting.

Merry: Good, I would too. Maybe next year, we’ll be braver and talk to people at other tables!

Irene and Mitzi — Pasadena

Irene and Mitzi were attendees of the Keiro no Hi Festival at the Pasadena Buddhist Temple. Irene is a retired elementary school teacher who keeps busy with grandkids and being a member of Pasadena Nikkei Seniors. Mitzi is a retired beautician who owned her own shop in South Pasadena for many years. The two are longtime friends who got to know each other through their husbands over 50 years ago. Irene and Mitzi both enjoyed the activities and the food that was provided at the event.

Irene: Today, I thought it was very nice that they had something like ikebana. All in all, it was nice. I’m glad we were able to come. And the bento was good.

Mitzi: I remember the first bento we had! Salmon and rice…

Irene: I think all the volunteers today for Keiro today were very helpful.

The friends also spoke about being able to return to in-person programs and even expressed appreciation for the necessary COVID precautions taken during the event.

Irene: We were discussing between the two of us that we like going in person. Today was nice after [not being able to gather for] two years. It really was. 

Mitzi: To be able to get together with people was really nice.

Irene: Especially getting to see some friends. Wasn’t that great? I do like going in person to Little Tokyo.

Mitzi: The only thing is sometimes a lot of the older people have problems transportation wise. 

Irene: What I also liked was the idea that they had us show our vaccines, took our temperature. I think everyone’s trying to be very careful because we are older.

In-person gatherings are imperative to keeping the community alive and helping people connect and converse on a deeper level. After a successful return to in-person Keiro no Hi celebrations, Keiro is looking forward to hosting more in-person events in the community in the future.

Keiro no Hi Festival Highlights

Check out the photos from our four sites!