What's a Kanreki?

A kanreki is the celebration of  a person's 60th birthday and is traditionally hosted by the honoree's family.  

Q:  What makes the 60th birthday so special?

A:   Basically, the honoree has been around the Chinese zodiac with its 12 animal years 5 times, i.e., 12 x 5 = 60.

Q:  What does that mean?

A:   This comes straight the book: FAMILY TRADITIONS IN HAWAII by Joan Clarke

"In the lunar calendar, the passage of each of the five elements -- wood, fire, earth, metal and water -- with each of twelve animal years makes up a sixty year or sexagenary cycle.  

The sixty-first birthday (sixtieth on a Western calendar) marks the beginning of an individual's second childhood.  

It is an important event for many Chinese, Japanese, Okinawan and Korean families in Hawaii, often commemorated with a large party or family gathering."

Q: What does the word kanreki mean?

A:  Ms. Clarke goes on to tell us the meaning of kan-reki:  

"Kan" means cycle + "Reki" means calendar
[pronounced: kahn reh kee]

Q:  What are the kanreki  traditions?

A:  To celebrate this special occasion, the 60-year-old person wears red clothes. The traditional garb includes a red bouffant hat (e-boshi) and a red sleeveless vest (chanchanko). 

Q: Why red?

A:  Aka-chan means baby or literally, "red one" in Japanese.  Aka means red. The 60-year-old person is once again a baby who is embarking on the next  60-year cycle. It is a rebirth. Donning red then symbolizes that return to babyhood. 

Q:  Is this kanreki celebration gender-specific?

A:  Absolutely not!  It can be for a birthday boy or a birthday girl.  Here's a birthday girl  in Japan celebrating her 60th.  

Q:  Why is it referred to as a year of reflection?

A:  60-year olds are expected to use this year as a year of reflection. They are to look at their lives and achievements and use this time as a good opportunity to plan the direction in which they would like to move as they begin their second sixty year cycle of life. 

Q:  Are there other coming-of-age celebrations?

A: Yes,  the Japanese have many good excuses to party. 

Beyond the Kanreki, they celebrate the Koki (70 years old), Kiju (77 years old), Beiju (88 years old), Sotsuju (90 years old), Kajimaya (97 years old), Hakuju (99 years old), and Hyakusai No Ga (100 years old).  

And of course there's yakudoshi, a kind of exorcism to pass an unlucky year safely. google.com has tons of information on this milestone.

Q: Where can I learn more about this Kanreki celebration?

A:  Here are some sites for those inclined to learn more:



A special thanks goes to Leroy's Kanreki site for providing the above information.