Torii Station helps celebrate Respect-for-Senior-Citizens Day at Sobe ward

Torii Station helps celebrate Respect-for-Senior-Citizens Day at Sobe ward

by Rick Rzepka
USAG Okinawa

SOBE WARD, Okinawa – Officials from U.S. Army Garrison – Okinawa attended a celebration for the 2014 Respect-for-Senior-Citizens Day at the Sobe Community Center Sunday afternoon, as hundreds of Japanese gathered to celebrate one of Japan’s largest demographics.

Held on the third Monday of every September, the holiday, also known as Respect for the Aged Day, honors Japan’s elderly with traditional food and dance and highlights the growing elderly population.  

According to Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, there are 58,820 Japanese citizens that are 100-years-old or more with women making up about 87 percent of the nation’s centenarians. Twenty one of those centenarians are from Sobe in Okinawa.

Misao Okawa, a 116-year-old woman from Osaka, Japan, is currently the world’s oldest human being and while the reasons for Japanese longevity are varied, Sobe residents believe that sticking to the basics is the key to a long life.

Riki Uechi, president of the Sobe Senior Citizens Association, said that the famous twin sisters Kin-san and Gin-san offer five long-life secrets that many residents here subscribe to.

“Take care of yourself, do everything on your own,” said Uechi as he explained the secrets to the assembled crowd in Sobe. “Go out – don’t stay home all the time,” he said. “Laughter brings you luck … good fortune and happiness will come to the home of those who smile. Be always grateful and eat fish,” he said as the crowd laughed and applauded.

According to the Sobe Ward Chief, Norihiko Ikehara, there are 18 Sobe citizens who have lived to see the revered age of 88 called “Tookachi.” Another important milestone is age 97, called “Kajimayaa,” he said.

“Thanks to their efforts, Sobe is in the current wonderful status,” said Ikehara.  I hope the senior members will continue to live longer [to] 100, 120 or so, and share their experiences and wisdom with younger ones,” he said.

U.S. Army Garrison – Okinawa Deputy Garrison Commander, Carlos Perez, who spoke to the crowd in the Okinawan dialect of Uchinaa Guchi, said that being able to celebrate the occasion with neighbors of Torri Station was a great way to strengthen the bonds between the local community and the home of the U.S. Army on Okinawa, Japan.

“We, at Torii Station pride ourselves in our great relationship with Sobe Ward and we love being your neighbors in the most beautiful village in Japan – Yomitan,” said Perez.

“I was pleased to learn that your culture venerates the elderly … it speaks highly of the culture. I am encouraged to see that you are all full of joy, laughter and love for life. I hope that in the years to come I will also experience those feelings.  Aging is part of life, and we must all accept it gracefully, nothing changes except a number -- the passion for life and service should continue,” he said.

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