Next week (September 15) in Japan the nation will celebrate a national holiday. “Keirou no Hi,” or “Respect for The Aged Day” is a day when the elderly are wished a long life and thanked for their past contributions to Japanese society. Cities, towns and villages all over the nation will have celebrations honoring their aged citizens. A government survey says the number of centenarians in Japan is expected to top 36,000 by the end of September, an increase of almost 4,000 from last year.
Meet Isako Hanada, 100, one among those 36,000 Japanese centenarians. Born March 20, 1908, her marriage to her 34 year-old husband at the time was arranged when she was just 14. She had her first child when she was 18. Hanada related that she has 8 or 9 children (she cannot remember), nor could she recall just how many grandchildren, great and great greats she has, however she did say clearly that she has three great, great, great grandchildren.
In an informal setting where she resides at the Tsuyazaki Central Hopsital in Fukuoka Prefecture in southern Japan, Grandma Hanada shared that In her younger years of being a housewife and mother, she worked as a cook in a hospital. Asked about some of her favorites, she said of color, beige; of flowers, dahlias; and of food, Japanese pears. In a rare moment during our visit, she was given a white fan with a red Japanese sun and began singing one of her favorite songs, two or three times! She loves Japanese dance, but cannot anymore because her legs won’t allow it. Asked about how she spends her spare time, she said that she loves talking with anybody. In the days of her youth, while her husband worked as a bronze sculptor, she would take time and go to the movies a lot. When asked if she feels younger than 100 on the inside, Hanada said, “I certainly feel younger, yes.” How old? “I feel seventy,” she said, with a surprised look.
What is her fondest memory? “I never worried about anything,” she said. Grandma Hanada said she feels the main reason for her being able to live so long is that she lived her life without worries or stress. Hanada said she has never been outside Japan ⎯ and that in her 100 years I was the first foreigner she has ever met.
The Proverbs tell us, “Long life is the reward of the righteous; gray hair is a glorious crown ⎯ a mark of distinction ⎯ and it is won by a virtuous life.”
Why not sometime next week, as Japan celebrates “Respect for The Aged Day,” show one of your elders how much you appreciate, honor and cherish them? Write them a postcard, give them a call or take them to lunch. The time you spend with them will benefit you more than you can imagine.