- . . . An annual government survey released Monday in conjunction with Respect for the Aged Day, a national holiday, showed a record 24.3 million Japanese — almost one in five — have reached their 65th birthday. . .
I highlighted this paragraph to point out something that I think is really cool… Japan has a holiday to encourage “respect for the aged.”
Why don’t we have a holiday like that in America? We certainly do need one. Senior citizens are not valued like they should be for their experience and wisdom but instead are shoved off to the nursing home to be a burden until they die.
This isn’t right. I think we can learn something from the Japanese on this.
- . . . If there is a secret to Mrs Hongo’s life, it may be the caring environment in which she has always found herself.
“She doesn’t speak much about her memories now, but she has talked about when she was little,” says her daughter. “She must have been raised in a very warm family. When she looks back at those old days, she talks about her parents and her brothers and sisters and friends. Since she was raised this way, her character is also very warm.”
This loving environment continues to this day. Mrs Kurauchi has refused to place her mother in a nursing home. “I prefer having her at home,” she says.
On this afternoon, home is a warm, crowded place full of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. “We are going now, great-grandma!” chorus 8-year-old Kengo Tamura and his 10-year-old sister Sachiko, as they hold her hand.
Not long after, 17-year-old great-granddaughter Tomoko Kurauchi arrives, as she does every day after school. Mrs Hongo has a strong bond with Tomoko. The pink nail polish her great-grandmother wears is Tomoko’s work.
Tomoko gives her green tea and feeds her sugar candy. “Kamato-san! Is it delicious?” she sings in her young voice. “Delicious!” replies her great-grandmother.
As Tomoko speaks to her and rubs her face and hands, Mrs Hongo is aware that we are here. “Give our guests some tea!” she commands.
As we drink our tea, Mrs Hongo breaks into a wide, toothless smile as Tomoko talks to her and begins singing an old local folk song, Ohara Sakurajima.
Suddenly, Mrs Hongo breaks into song:
Flowers are in Kirishima
Tobacco is in Kokubu
A burning volcano is Ohara Sakurajima
It is touching to watch this connection between two people with almost 100 years between them. But for Tomoko, entries in the Guinness Book of Records mean little. “I don’t think too deeply about her being the oldest or something,” she says. “I like her just as my great-grandmother.”