Sunday, September 16, 2012

On Respect for the Aged Day

The sky is spacious at the ruins of ancient capital, Fujiwara-kyo (694-710).

The third Monday of September is 敬老の日, Respect for the Aged Day, in Japan.  It is the day to respect the elderly and celebrate long life.  It was originally September 15 called as 老人の日, Old Folks’ Day, and it was changed to the third Monday of September according to the Happy Monday System in which some national holidays were moved to Mondays to create a three-day weekend.

water hyacinth in the fallow field nearby

To some people, Respect for the Aged Day would be just another ordinary holiday.  Some people would think they don’t need such a special setting because of their constant respect and care to the elderly around them.  What is special about this day is that many events are held by local governments to entertain the aged or distribute presents.  Some children visit parents or grandparents on that day if they are not living together. Elderly people deserve respect from family and the community for what they have contributed.   Sadly this ideal is not always fulfilled (though mostly so) and I sometimes hear terrible story of dying alone unnoticed.

lotuses in the corner of the site of Fujiwara-kyo ruins late in August

Japan is an aged society and will become super aged with one third of Japanese population as 65-year-old or more by 2035 if the current low birthrate continues.

(Click on the photo to enlarge.)
An insect is embraced by the lotus flower where Buddha is  to be seated.

When I say “elderly people”, I don’t mean particular age group, though over 80 must be the elderly indeed.  I think people in their sixties would be one of the most vibrant generations in my country.  In spite of having been corporate worriers with less vacation, they really know how to live positively, and enjoy free time after retirement without carrying the main responsibility.  Many of them are very actively involved in various activities including their hobbies, volunteer works utilizing their knowledge and expertise, or totally new things.  Women are much more so.

How old is not measured by the age number or appearance but perception and attitude toward ageing.  In fact, diet habit and attitude make a big difference in aging process.

When I saw lotus flowers at the site of Fujiwara-kyo ruins toward the end of August, many of the lotus flowers are gone with  lotus seed heads left.  They reminded me of the life which was handed on from generation to generation.   Some seeds leave offspring, while some are used for food or for medicinal purposes.  

photo taken at a large colony of lots at Lake Biwa

I like Lotus flower like many other Japanese people for its spiritual overtone needless to say for its loveliness.  A lotus grows in muddy water, rises above the surface to bloom beautifully and radiantly unsullied.  

We all have a seed in our mind.   To live is to make it flower gracefully and courageously and transfer its seed, which contains not only life but also spiritual patrimony of traditions, concepts, and wisdom, to the next generation.

Turtles hold the symbolic meaning for steadfastness and  longevity.
- Visit Our World Tuesday to see more about our world.-


  1. Dear Yoko - beautiful words and, I know, a heartfelt piece of writing. We have mentioned to each other the problems of old age, it is important to keep active in both body and mind and take an active interest in everything around you.
    Your photos are special. The lotus flowers and their exquisite seed heads, I like the analogy you have used - life that is handed from generation to generation.
    A thoughtful and lovely post.

  2. Why, thats a wonderful concept of celebrating what our elders do for us selflessly. I think this is the least that we do to show our reverence and gratitude for all their love and all that they sacrifice in their entire lives - make them feel extra special. I love lotus too and have heard of its spiritual undertones. It was lovely to know of how the flower blooms to give way to seeds and how the cycle repeats.. The very same cycle that completes the circle of life. Wonderful heartwarming post, Yoko! Wish you a beautiful day ahead!

  3. I've read that some districts have so many elderly residents that the presents have become a very big expense indeed, but ... I really hope they continue this custom, even when one third of Japan (including me!) is ancient! ^^

    The lotus flowers are stunning, but today I vote for the water hyacinths as the most gorgeous of them all. That colour is beyond beautiful.

  4. Hola yoko,
    Vuestras fiestas tradicionales son envidiables!
    Aquí en España, por desgracia, también andamos con la natalidad en déficit...
    También es importante dejar una "buena huella" en nuestro paso por la vida, aunque no sea posible dejar descendencia...
    pd/ los lotos y las tortugas... me encantan

  5. Hello Yoko:
    A seed really is a miracle. All that energy and life encased in such a tiny capsule. Just reflecting on that is an inspiration we think of the cycle of life and how to everything there is a season.

    It is a sadness when the elderly are regarded as having little by way of valuable contribution to make when, in reality, they have so much richness to offer. As you say, those who actively embrace retirement and contribute their time to a wide range of activities really are valuable and essential contributors to society.

  6. 泥水のような池、湖からもこの様な美しい可憐な花が咲きます。でもそれは悲しいほどに短い命ですよね。誰も避けることは出来ませんが、なんとか美しく枯れる方法はないものでしょうか。やっぱりない様に思います。





  7. i believe your culture respects and cares for elderly much better than the US does. we will soon be an aged society as well.

  8. I like the idea of having a day to show respect for the aged. The tradition of family looking after parents too old and ill to care for themselves has largely been lost in Western societies for several reasons. Consequently, more and more people are aging in hospitals and facilities that can sometimes be overcrowded and understaffed. To be healthy and aged is a blessing but not always the case for people eighty and beyond. What my mother used to say is right: good health is the key to contentment. I think the aged nowadays understand this perfectly and try to keep fit so as remain independent longer. I also like your analogy about the seeds, stardust. We can learn so much from the natural world all around us!

  9. Lovely post Yoko! The lotus flowers are beautiful,but these seed heads are amazing.They look like mini microphones,sending messages to the future.
    Perhaps in the West we need to be looking at the Japanese diet!


  10. Well, I didn't know it was Respect The Aged Day but I took my elderly mother out to lunch and then for a stroll this sunny afternoon. She uses a wheelchair these days and I'm constantly pleased to see how helpful and respectful everyone is to her. I may well show her some of your beautiful photographs when I see her later in the week; I know she'll love them.

  11. おはようございます。We have a seed in our mind. 名言ですね。敬老の日前後は60歳以上の人は、動物園や、都立庭園に無料で入れます。70歳以上の東京在住の人は1年中、都営地下鉄が無料です。

  12. What a thought-provoking post Yoko. Your fine images compliment your words. Of all the beauty you show, the reflected lotus and insect is so meaningful to me. I think often of my ancestors who planted seeds which I am still nurturing and passing on as I can.

  13. Dear Yoko,
    what a wonderful composition of words and photographs!
    The lotus is one of my favourite flowers, but with your interpretation it got an additional meaning for me!
    Have a great and inspiring week. Here in Germany you already find the first stirrings of rising autumn - although we had a warm and pleasant weekend in our corner of planet Earth!

  14. 私たちの自治会でも敬老の日にお年寄りを囲む会がありました。70歳以上の方が対象でした。平素は民生委員の方が一人住まいのお年寄りのかたがたに、なにかと気を配られているようです。よくやってくださってるなと思います。

  15. Love your photos, especially the lotus flowers, but most I appreciate the sentiments you expressed. I'm getting elderly and I don't like it at all but I don't see any other better options! :-) We live in a + 55 community which we like less and less. Too many old people! So, we may move back into a regular community in the near future.

    Generally, I think that the elderly are given a certain amount of respect in our city. Sometimes not, and sometimes they are so nasty and cranky they don't really deserve respect. But we have a large population of retired people so businesses know if they want our patronage they better be nice to us!

    However, I play golf with men younger than I by 5-10-20 years. I often beat them. But I tease them constantly that they disrespect me when the hit the ball further than I do! I tell them they must learn to respect the OCBM (old, crippled, blind man) - that's me! We do have fun!

  16. Dear Yoko! There's something so close in your reflections, intimate as they may sound. Having seen many cities in completely different cultures, I dare say, the problem is global. It has nothing to do with nationality or educational programs, it is either there, inside you, or not - the awareness that everyone approaches the age when you become naive and helpless like a child.Thank you!
    I've published a post in English, you might find it worthwhile. Irina

  17. It is wonderful that your culture respects its elders, it is not so in all cultures. Thank you for sharing this story, may it be a lexxon to us all.

  18. It's nice that your society values the elderly. I can't imagine not having their wisdom, sarcasm, wit, and experience to guide we younger ones:) Very special people.

  19. What beautiful photos and thoughts - the lotus flower is a symbol of hope for us all. And how lovely that the elderly are still honoured in Japan.

  20. i enjoyed reading this post, and your photos are delightful as always. the lotus and water hyacinth are perfect examples of how life should be--even when we're half-drowned in mud, we still bloom beautifully.:p

    our (Filipino) culture also values the elderly but it's a sad truth that many elderly people are being neglected by their families and by the government. in my family, we take care of our elderly---two of my grandmothers died of old age, one was about 105 years old and the other was 96. and they were treated like princesses.:p

  21. 娘たちが、私の父や義母を連れ出して食事に誘ってくれる気遣いを、私はとてもうれしく思っています。老いてくると、家族や人との触れ合いが一番の喜びとなるし、一世代おくと一段と無邪気にその好意を感じるみたいですね。娘たちにとっても、お世話になった祖父や祖母が喜んでくれる事で気分もいいようですし。老いるという事は確かに色んな面でマイナス思考になってしまいがちですが、自身のためにも周りの人のためにも健康で明るくいきたいと切に思います。

  22. I like this concept. But I also feel they should be treated well through out the year. Love those lotus captures. I manage to get some lilies blooming in my pool. :) Have a great day ahead!

  23. This is a great tribute to the elderly. I love your photos too.

  24. What a wonderful post. I really like the idea of having a day set aside to make the elderly feel special especially those who live alone. Excellent pictures to accompany the post.

  25. Beautifully written and beautifully photographer!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  26. "Respect for the Aged Day"! How wonderful! Even so elderly people are often dearly loved, it still does not mean they also get respect. This is sad and should be thought about and corrected. Often in our world of running and quick decisions and solutions, there is no or not enough patience for older people, and no time to respect them, to listen to them, to valuate their opinion and wisdom - yes yes, even so we love them, as I said. It is interesting that this day is not called "Love for the Aged Day". Let us think about it: not only to love them, but also to "respect" them!

    Thank you Yoko to make me think too! :-)

    In addition I enjoyed your wonderful photographs and every word you wrote!

  27. I like the fact that you have a special day set aside to honour the elderly in your population. Of course, the elderly should be respected all the time, but a special day is a wonderful idea. I suppose I am to be count4ed among the elderly.... I will be 67 next birthday! Where did the time go?
    And I love your photographs of your neighbourhood..... Japan is so beautiful!

  28. Hello Yoko!
    So wonderful pictures and what wise words.
    Lotus flower is so beautiful.
    Wish you a nice day.

  29. A lovely post it is indeed very important that we all learn to respect the elderly.

  30. Wonderful post, Yoko!
    The second picture explores such a wonderful flower, I had never seen it before! It is amazing!!!
    My grandfather is turning 92 in two days and looking at my old man makes me realize that time does not stop ticking. But time should be used wisely, we have to spread our good seeds in the gardens of the Universe!
    As for my post from Rio de Janeiro, its Spring here but to be honest, Yoko, Rio has an endless summer. People wear light outfits through the whole year. Just the south of Brazil has a strong winter.
    Cheers my dear!

  31. What a beautiful post. Here there is less reverence for aging. I am happy to say we will be celebrating my father-in-law's 90th birthday shortly. Your photographs are exquisite. I like your analogy of the lotus and us - that we have to reach for beauty and pass on our customs and knowledge to the next generation. I just hope they are listening.

  32. Wonderful pictures and information. Have a great day!

  33. What a lovely post! I so enjoyed reading it. I think the idea of honouring the elderly is brilliant. It is right we should do so. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

  34. dear Yoko, what a great post! I love the pic with the lotus seeds well as your comparisopn of seeds/ideas in the human head; btw the 15th of September in Bulgaria(where I come from) is the first school day;

    happy weekend from tulipland!

  35. Takie święto to duży szacunek dla starszych ludzi i to jest wspaniałe.Kwiat lotosu jest śliczny jak i jego zdjęcia. Pozdrawiam.
    This festival is a lot of respect for older people and it is great. The lotus flower is beautiful and the pictures. Yours.

  36. ✿彡
    As fotos são lindas, mas amei o texto que você escreveu sobre os idosos.
    Eles são uma benção em nossas vidas.
    Boa semana, amiga!

  37. Hello Yoko is a bit of time that I was not spending to see your beautiful post.
    When I look at the pictures of your wonderful country I would want to come and live.
    Or maybe you manage to catch the best sides!
    Good days.


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