In my very first post I wrote about special Japanese birthdays. In the comments a brief discussion about the reason for choosing specific kanji for the birthdays started. One of the characters, 喜, bears little or no resemblance to 七十七 (77), but supposedly (i.e. according to the source I used) it is supposed to resemble the handwritten form. I was therefore requested to upload a picture of the handwritten kanji. I found this in my kuzushiji-dictionary:
The one on the bottom left might pass as 七十七. It is of course also important to realize that the author of the source I used might be way off, and that the reason for calling the 77th birthday 喜寿 might be something completely different. Nevertheless, the picture is uploaded and you can judge for yourselves.


Kodama, Kota. Kuzushiji Yorei Jiten. Tokyo: Kondo shuppansha, 1980.
Today I was reading an interesting book about the old Japanese calendar (旧暦 or 太陰太陽暦) and I came across some interesting information about special birthdays in Japan and I thought I would share it in a post. (Hurray for the first post!)

The first special birthday is kanreki (還暦), which is celebrated when a person is 60 years old. I had heard that the 60th birthday was special in Japanese culture, but I never before knew why. The answer lies in the sexegenary cycle. If you do not know what this is, all you need to know for now is that it is a cycle of 60 years based on yin-yang cosmology. I will explain this cycle in further detail in a future post.
The idea is that when you're 60 years old you have completed a full life cycle and is therefore born anew. This is symbolized by wearing red clothes, the colors of a baby. (As evident in the Japanese word for baby, 赤ちゃん. 赤 means red.) Living beyond one's 60th birthday in this day and age might not be such a big deal, but in premodern times when the average lifespan was much shorter it most likely was.
Some other special birthdays are:
古希: 70 years old.
喜寿: 77 years old.
傘寿: 80 years old.
米寿: 88 years old.
卒寿: 90 years old.
白寿: 99 years old.
上寿: 100 years old.

That's all for my first post. Stay tuned!


Ōtani, Mitsuo. Kyūreki De Yomitoku Nihon No Narawashi. Tokyo: Seishun Shuppan-sha, 2003.