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  • Writer's pictureDan Haylett

Kanreki - The Japanese Concept of 'Life Starts Again at 60'



 

Retirement marks a significant milestone in life, an era for relaxation, self-discovery, and exploring new horizons. In the Western world, it often symbolises the end of a long career and the start of a more leisurely phase of life. However, in Japan, there's a unique and inspiring concept known as Kanreki, which offers a refreshing perspective on this stage of life, particularly appealing to retirees.

 

What is Kanreki?

 

Kanreki literally translates to "return to calendar." It is celebrated when a person turns 60 years old, based on the traditional Japanese calendar which follows a 60-year cycle. This age signifies completing a full cycle of the zodiac and returning to the year of one's birth. But Kanreki is more than just a birthday celebration; it's a philosophy that embodies rejuvenation and the beginning of a new life cycle.

 

Kanreki is a deeply rooted Japanese tradition and holds a special place in the cultural and social landscape of Japan. To understand its full depth and significance, it's essential to delve deeper into this fascinating concept.

 

The Cultural and Historical Background

 

The tradition of Kanreki dates back centuries in Japanese history. It is intertwined with the East Asian sexagenary cycle, a system that uses a combination of 12 zodiac animals and five elements, making a 60-year cycle. When a person completes this cycle and turns 60, they are said to have completed a significant life milestone, symbolising a rebirth or a second childhood.

 

Symbolism in Kanreki

 

1. Zodiac Cycle Completion: The completion of the 60-year zodiac cycle is symbolic of experiencing all the astrological signs and elements, signifying a life rich in experiences and wisdom. It's a moment of coming full circle, providing a unique opportunity to reflect on the past and look forward to the future.

 

2. Colour Red: In Kanreki celebrations, the colour red plays a crucial role. The person celebrating Kanreki often wears a red cap and a red vest, symbolising happiness, vitality, and protection. Red, traditionally believed to ward off evil spirits, signifies a rebirth and protection in this new stage of life.

 

3. Rebirth and Renewal: Kanreki is often compared to a second childhood, a time of innocence and purity. It's a period where the pressures of middle age are released, giving way to a more carefree and relaxed phase of life. This rebirth is not just a symbolic fresh start but also a societal acknowledgment of entering a new and respected stage of life.

 

Social and Personal Implications

 

1. Respect and Honour: In Japanese society, age is respected, and Kanreki is a celebration that honours the wisdom, experience, and contributions of the elderly. It is a time for family and friends to show their respect and gratitude.

 

2. Family and Community Celebration: Kanreki is not just a personal milestone; it's a communal event. Families come together to celebrate, often throwing a party in honour of the individual. This gathering reinforces social bonds and shows the importance of the individual in the fabric of family and community.

 

3. Reflection and Forward-Looking: While it marks the completion of a life cycle, Kanreki is also forward-looking. It encourages the individual to think about how they want to spend their coming years, often leading to a renewed sense of purpose and engagement with life.

 

4. Transition in Roles: This period often marks a change in roles within the family and society. From being active breadwinners and caregivers, individuals stepping into Kanreki might take on more advisory, less demanding roles, passing on the baton of responsibility to the younger generation.

 

Modern Interpretations

 

In contemporary Japan, while the traditional elements of Kanreki are still respected, the modern lifestyle has influenced how it's celebrated and perceived. Today, it's seen as an opportunity for personal growth, travel, hobbies, and embracing new technology, reflecting a more active and dynamic view of this stage of life.

 

Kanreki, with its rich symbolism and cultural significance, offers a unique lens through which to view retirement. It's a celebration of life's journey, an acknowledgment of the wisdom gained, and an invitation to embrace the future with enthusiasm and optimism. Understanding Kanreki in its full context enriches our appreciation of this beautiful tradition and provides meaningful insights for anyone approaching or experiencing this wonderful stage of life.

 

Lessons from Kanreki for a Purposeful Retirement

 

1.     A New Beginning, Not an End

 

In the spirit of Kanreki, retirement isn't the end of your active life; it's a new beginning. It's an opportunity to rediscover yourself, pursue passions that you may have put on hold, or even find new hobbies. This mindset shifts from an ending to a beginning can be incredibly liberating and energizing.

 

2.     Reflect and Reset

 

Just as Kanreki marks a return to the beginning of the zodiac, retirement can be a time for reflection. Assess your past experiences, what you’ve learned, and how you’ve grown. Then, reset your goals and aspirations. What do you want your new cycle of life to look like?

 

3.     Embracing Change with Positivity

 

Kanreki is about embracing change positively. As you enter retirement, your lifestyle, routines, and even your social circles might change. Seeing these changes as natural and positive can help you adapt more easily and find joy in new experiences.

 

4.     Focus on Health and Wellbeing

 

Traditionally, Kanreki is associated with red, a colour symbolizing vitality and good health. This is a great reminder to prioritise your health and wellbeing. Whether it's through regular exercise, a balanced diet, or mindfulness practices, taking care of your physical and mental health is crucial.

 

5.     Contributing to Society

 

In Japan, seniors are respected for their wisdom and experience. Retirement doesn't mean withdrawing from society. Instead, it's an opportunity to share your knowledge, whether through volunteering, mentoring, or even part-time work in a field you're passionate about.

 

6.     Continual Learning and Growth

 

The concept of lifelong learning is deeply ingrained in Japanese culture. Retirement is the perfect time to learn new skills, whether it's a language, a musical instrument, or even digital technology. This not only keeps the mind sharp but also adds a sense of fulfilment and purpose.

 

Conclusion

 

Kanreki, with its focus on rejuvenation, positivity, and continuous growth, offers a beautiful and inspiring way to approach retirement. It encourages retirees not just to see this phase as the closing of one chapter, but as the exciting beginning of a new one, filled with potential and possibilities. As you plan your retirement, consider integrating some of these lessons from Kanreki. Embrace this new phase of life with open arms and an open heart, ready to explore, learn, and contribute in new and meaningful ways.

 

Incorporating the philosophy of Kanreki into your retirement planning can transform it from a daunting prospect into an exhilarating journey. Remember, in this new cycle of life, every day is an opportunity to celebrate living and to craft a purposeful and joyful retirement.

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