For the past 50 years, grandmas, grandpas and seniors across Japan have had one September day in particular to look forward to: Respect for the Aged Day.

The national holiday, which occurs this year on September 16, represents a great opportunity for young people to travel home and spend some quality time with the extended family — or to simply enjoy a rare late-summer three-day weekend.

To coincide with the launch of a special Respect for the Aged Day range of items to encourage shoppers to express their gratitude to their older family members, Rakuten Ichiba commissioned a report through Rakuten’s consumer research arm Rakuten Insight to reveal Japan’s true feelings about the holiday.

Japan’s Respect for the Aged Day has been held each September for more than 50 years.
Japan’s Respect for the Aged Day has been held each September for more than 50 years.

“More people should celebrate Seniors Day” – Japan’s seniors

Among the over-60s surveyed, the Rakuten Insight report (page in Japanese) revealed that around 70% wanted the holiday to be an occasion. At the same time, just 30% of over-60s responded that the holiday had been recognized at all.

The report also delved into the gift-giving culture associated with Respect for the Aged Day. But it appears material goods are of low priority to seniors — the survey found that the gift they wanted most of all was to be able to spend time with their grandchildren. This was in stark contrast with what young people were in fact giving — primarily flowers, food and alcoholic beverages.

Embracing a youthful mindset

Japan has the longest life expectancy of any country in the world, and it’s not uncommon for “seniors” to still be looking after their own parents into their 70s and even 80s. The Rakuten Insight report revealed that many Japanese over-60s don’t actually think of themselves as seniors — 81% of respondents in their early 60s and 72% in their late 60s didn’t feel the label applied to them. Even for over-70s, one in three responded that they didn’t identify as “senior.”

With such a youthful mindset, Japan is apparently witnessing the rise of what the report called “active seniors” — over-60s whose hobbies include things like travel, sports and gardening. More and more seniors are also enjoying online activity — in line with Rakuten Today’s previous reports on seniors and C2C apps.

‘Active seniors’ are on the rise, according to the Rakuten Insight report.
“Active seniors” are on the rise, according to the Rakuten Insight report.

While most communication is still done in person or over the phone, some 28% of seniors are now also turning to social media and chat apps to open up new avenues of communication with their grandkids.

Respect the aged! (But we’re not old)

Taken as a whole, the report reveals an interesting state of affairs. Japan’s long life expectancy and aging population mean that the majority of people in their 60s and beyond do not consider themselves senior, yet a significant majority of over-60s still want to be celebrated on Respect for the Aged Day.

Japan’s “not-quite-seniors” may just want the best of both worlds — or perhaps they are simply pushing for a respect-filled future for whenever they do finally cross the line into seniority.