Happy Autumnal Equinox!
Japan is celebrating “Silver Week” this week, a five-day holiday consisting of a weekend, two actual holidays, and a “bridge” day to enable a five-day vacation. The way the dates work out, the Japanese only get a “Silver Week” every five years.
The first of the two holidays translates into “Respect for the Aged Day”, and indeed, there are many, many “aged” in Japan to celebrate and pay respects to: 25% of the country, or almost 32 million people, is composed of the elderly, aged 65 and over. By 2060, they estimate that the elderly will make up 40% of the population, partly due to the fact that Japanese people live to a relative old age, and the birthrate has been steadily declining. Another interesting fact – for every 100,000 people in Japan, nearly 43 people are over 100 years old! Currently, there is a custom of giving centenarians an expensive bottle of sake on their birthday, but they’re considering stopping this tradition, due to the sheer number of people “accomplishing” this old age!
The second holiday, which falls today this year, is “Ohigan”, which translates directly as “the other or that shore of the Sanzu River”, which in Buddhism, is a poetic way of referring to reaching enlightenment. On the other side of ignorance and suffering, the peace that comes with “Satori”, empty mind, bliss. There is also a reference to the Heart Sutra here, where on passage translates as:
Gone, gone, gone beyond, everyone gone beyond [to the Other Shore].
“Ohigan”, then, has traditionally been a day to take the time to reflect on past action and renew one’s aspirations to practice the Buddhist Six Perfections and reach enlightenment.
The Six Perfections (or Paramitas) are:
Dana Paramita – Perfection of Generosity
Sila Paramita – Perfection of Morality
Ksanti Paramita – Perfection of Patience
Dhyana Paramita – Perfection of Meditation
Prajna Paramita – Perfection of Wisdom
Today’s photo is my modest tribute to the beautiful history of this country that I definitely do not know that much about yet, but that also sings to me through the living present. I’ve rendered this photo “historical”, partly to obscure the face of the bike rider, to respect his privacy, and also to pay homage to history living through the now. I’m always amazed to see the elderly handling their bikes like (sometimes fairly slow) pros!