Kanreki is 60th birthday in Japanese and why?

October 26, 2015 Juju Kurihara Culture, History, Lifestyle, Vocabulary Tags: , , , 0 Comments

A little while ago, my mum had her 60th birthday. It was such a shame that I could´t be there to celebrate. 60th birthday is one of the biggest birthdays in Japan and is called Kanreki (還暦) in Japanese. This kanji, 還 (kan) means circulate and 暦 (reki) is a calendar and we can understand it as years. So kanreki literary means, your years completed a circle, in other word, you come back to the same year as when you were born.
 
 
 
Still puzzled? This comes from the way ancient Japanese people counted the years. They didn´t use the Gregorian calendar but the lunar calendar and each year was counted with 12 different animals, which is called Junishi (十二支) ; Ne (子/ mouse), Ushi (牛/ cow), Tora (寅/ tiger), U (卯/ rabbit), Tatsu (辰/ dragon), Mi (巳/ snake), Uma (馬/ horse), Hitsuji (未/ sheep), Saru (申/ monkey), Tori (酉/ chicken), Inu (戌/ dog), I (亥/ hog). This is still kept in the modern Japanese life. By the way, this year, 2015 is a year of sheep and the next year 2016 is a year of monkey.
 
Wait, if there are 12 animals, when it circulate completely, it only takes 12 years and you should be 12 but not 60. Mathematically incorrect. Each year is combined with one of Jikkan (十干), which indicate time and space and there are, Kinoe (甲), Kinoto (乙), Hinoe (丙), Hinoto (丁), Tuchinoe (戊), Tsuchinoto (己), Kanoe (庚), Kanoto (辛), Mizunoe (壬), Mizunoto (癸). For example, this year is a year of sheep and with jikkan, it´s Kinoto Hitsuji (乙未).
 
The combinations are 60 in total and that is why “kanreki” makes sense as one circle. As the person completes whole 60 combinations, the 60th birthday is also a celebration of re-born. The person will start a new circle of life. 
 
This custom was introduced to Japan in Nara period (奈良時代, 710-794) from China and it was a celebration for the 40th or the 50th birthday among noble people. Back then, 50 years old was very old. Before the WWII, the average life span for Japanese people was 50. The myth Japanese people live long is a quite recent thing and in the ancient time, someone who became 60 years old was a quite special. Perhaps reaching 100 years old nowadays.  
 
60 years old in the present time is nothing. They are still young and many haven´t retired yet. My mum for instance, she is a sporty person and runs 5-10km a few times a week. When she has something to deliver to a friend´s house, she prefers to go running than by bike. 
 
I was planning to buy her a red vest and a hat as a tradition. But she said it would be too old-fashion and didn´t want them. 
Why they wear red things to celebrate kanreki
The colour red is believed to have an effect of protection in Japan and people would put red clothes to new born babies.This vest is called chan-chanko (ちゃんちゃんこ) and is a sleeveless kimono jacket for children. Since Kanreki has a meaning of re-born, people started to give the 60-year-old person a red vest and a hat.
 
Nowadays, kanreki has become a celebration of showing a gratitude or an appreciation for their work until now instead of celebrating for a long life. Also people tend to give more fun things such as a red tie, a shirt or a scarf.
 
 
Named original T-shirt.
 
 
Or a red underwear like Spanish people in the New Year´s Eve.
 
 
If you don´t know your junishi or jikkan, you can check it from here. Sorry it´s in Japanese though. 
 

生まれ年 干支 生まれ年 干支
1924 1984 甲子 きのえね 1954 甲午 きのえうま
1925 1985 乙丑 きのとうし 1955 乙未 きのとひつじ
1926 1986 丙寅 ひのえとら 1896 1956 丙申 ひのえさる
1927 1987 丁卯 ひのとう 1897 1957 丁酉 ひのととり
1928 1988 戊辰 つちのえたつ 1898 1958 戊戌 つちのえいぬ
1929 1989 己巳 つちのとみ 1899 1959 己亥 つちのとい
1930 1990 庚午 かのえうま 1900 1960 庚子 かのえね
1931 1991 辛未 かのとひつじ 1901 1961 辛丑 かのとうし
1932 1992 壬申 みずのえさる 1902 1962 壬寅 みずのえとら
1933 1993 癸酉 みずのととり 1903 1963 癸卯 みずのとう
1934 1994 甲戌 きのえいぬ 1904 1964 甲辰 きのえたつ
1935 1995 乙亥 きのとい 1905 1965 乙巳 きのとみ
1936 1996 丙子 ひのえね 1906 1966 丙午 ひのえうま
1937 丁丑 ひのとうし 1907 1967 丁未 ひのとひつじ
1938 戊寅 つちのえとら 1908 1968 戊申 つちのえさる
1939 己卯 つちのとう 1909 1969 己酉 つちのととり
1940 庚辰 かのえたつ 1910 1970 庚戌 かのえいぬ
1941 辛巳 かのとみ 1911 1971 辛亥 かのとい
1942 壬午 みずのえうま 1912 1972 壬子 みずのえね
1943 癸未 みずのとひつじ 1913 1973 癸丑 みずのとうし
1944 甲申 きのえさる 1914 1974 甲寅 きのえとら
1945 乙酉 きのととり 1915 1975 乙卯 きのとう
1946 丙戌 ひのえいぬ 1916 1976 丙辰 ひのえたつ
1947 丁亥 ひのとい 1917 1977 丁巳 ひのとみ
1948 戊子 つちのえね 1918 1978 戊午 つちのえうま
1949 己丑 つちのとうし 1919 1979 己未 つちのとひつじ
1950 庚寅 かのえとら 1920 1980 庚申 かのえさる
1951 辛卯 かのとう 1921 1981 辛酉 かのととり
1952 壬辰 みずのえたつ 1922 1982 壬戌 みずのえいぬ
1953 癸巳 みずのとみ 1923 1983 癸亥 みずのとい 

Oops, I have to send my mum the card!

 

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