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.

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