Published: Jan 19, 2020

Kajimaya is the name for a very important custom in Okinawan culture - a celebration of an elderly person who reaches the young age of 97. District precincts normally hold a big celebration party for those who turn 97 on September 7th of the Lunar Calendar; September 7th having the numerical representation of 9-7.

It has become a modern custom to dress the “birthday girl/boy” in a special ceremonial attire. Usually, the women are donned in red and men in black and gold. And health permitting, they are paraded around the community, congratulated by people of all ages (sometimes this is done in a decorated convertible if available). The concept of the windmill is a metaphor for the wheel of life; we start out as children and as we reach 97, we return as children.

The Okinawa Association of America's Kajimaya Club page.

Kajimaya: Okinawan Traditional Celebration of Longevity from indieVISUAL on Vimeo.

It is wise to remember that aging should not be feared but embraced. In Okinawa, aging is seen as a progressive gain in wisdom and an achievement to be celebrated. The biggest celebration takes place at age 97 and is called kajimaya.

In former times people who had reached the age of 97 used to walk around their villages receiving congratulations. Now, they dress up themselves and drive around their towns in colorfully decorated open cars. There are a lot of them because Okinawa has the longest life span in Japan. In deference to the Okinawan belief that as people get older they start to have the hearts of children, they hold pinwheels in their hands.

A friend emailed a photo of a fabric item that he picked up at an antique shop back in the 1980s. He asked if I can help him to understand what the printing is all about. With some help from the ClickOkinawa.com Facebook Group I was able to explain at least part of what it represents.

Aka kajimaya - 97th birthday. "May everyone altogether at celebration of kajimaya, raise their voices - Kampai to the Heavens !"

So Kame Shomisato (may be Kame Moromisato) celebrated her 97th birthday in 1980. The date given is19 October, Her birth year is noted as 1884.

The elder participating in this celebration wears red, which symbolizes a return to youth. People try and touch or shake hands with the long-lived celebrant in order to share in their health and longevity, a process called ayakaru. If one can ayakaru the elder during the kajimaya celebration, it is believed that one will be able to share in the elder's good fortune and live a long and healthy life as well.

The Legend of Kajimaya

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