Keiro No Hi, translated in English as “Respect for the Aged Day,” is a Japanese public holiday celebrated every third Monday in September. It is a day to honor older adults, to express appreciation and gratitude for their contribution to society, and to celebrate their longevity and vitality

All across Japan, many events are held in honor of older adults, and many give gifts or show their gratitude to the elderly in the family.

Surprisingly, there are no universal customs or traditions. Each person freely expresses his/her appreciationto the older adults. This is because Keiro No Hi is a relatively new holiday added to the Japanese calendar in the 1960’s.

Keiro No Hi originated in a small village called Nomadani-mura (known as Taka-cho today) in the Hyogo Prefecture. The village hosted an “old folks gathering” on September 15, 1947. It is said that the date was selected in September because the weather was fairly moderate and farmers were less busy. Masao Kadowaki, the 35 year-old village mayor at the time, invited all villagers, age 55 and older, to enjoy food and entertainment in the village auditorium. It was his wish to express respect and appreciation for the elder members of the village and to create a place where they could pass down their wisdom and share their experiences with the next generation. Masao felt that the wisdom these elders had would be the key to rebuilding and revitalizing the village.

Adult woman performing

The latter half of the 1940’s was a time of both turmoil and rebuilding for Japan, as World War II left many scars throughout the nation. Economically and culturally impoverished, Japan went through a series of governmental reforms. One of these reforms was a change in the family system. Patriarchy and the passage of responsibility to the eldest member of the family were prevalent cultural traditions in Japan before the war; these traditions were replaced by a narrower focus on individual rights encouraged under the new constitution. In the process, society began to look upon older adults with a sense of contempt.

Older woman and younger man tend to a rose plant

In response, Masao wanted to bring change to such attitudes, as well as provide something that would bring joy to the older generation that was scarred after sending their children to fight in the war.

Masao hosted the event again the following year on the same day and suggested making it a holiday. The movement eventually spread across Japan, and in 1966, the government officially announced the “Respect for the Aged Day” as a national holiday.

Although Keiro No Hi is a new holiday, the tradition of respecting older adults has always been a core part of Japanese culture. As Japan established a national holiday intended to bring reverence and respect to older adults, eight community leaders in Los Angeles were busy creating an organization dedicated to Japanese American and Japanese speaking older adults. Today, Keiro recognizes Keiro No Hi as a day to respect elders in our community and every year, renews its mission to truly provide a higher quality of living to all Japanese American and Japanese older adults in our community.