Kanreki Obasaan

The 12-animal Chinese Zodiac, each person is born under one of 5 elemental signs (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water). These two cycles reset every 60 years so a person is said to be starting their 2nd cycle (childhood). In Japan, men (and these days women) wear a red hat and red vest as part of the kanreki celebration. Red is a color most often associated with children. In ancient times, when life expectancies were much shorter, living to 60 was no small feat and those in their 60's often required some sort of geriatric care and were indeed like children in that they needed to be cared for. Unfortunately, in spite of the literal meaning of Kanreki, it is a term that's often always associated with senectitude and senility.

Fast forward to the 21st Century and the "Kanreki" tradition still continues on unabated, thanks in part to modern medicine, which has contributed to longer life spans and the preservation of beauty and health. I'm sure we can all appreciate the repetition and continuity provided by tradition, I do, and that's one of the reasons why I love Japan so much. Is there really a rebirth, or a second beginning? A return to childhood? I would like to believe so, after all, I am the quintessential Japanese momma's boy geek. Two weeks ago I met two grandmothers around my area, both are widowed. One is 62, and the other is 58. The first lady is a janitor, and the other one is a beautician. The beautician I met at Doutors was genteel and well spoken whereas the the janitor was more urbane and prim.

My usual flirtatious glance can be unnerving sometimes, especially at a bus stop around noon. One of my favorite bus stop grannies(janitor) was waiting on bus #156, and I was waiting on bus #113. I was surprised to see her there. I haven't seen her in ages. Upon my initial inspection she's quite reserved, hoity-toity, and soft spoken, other times she's brief, but I always manage to force a smile on her stoic face. The most we've ever talk about was the weather, nothing more. This time around, her bus arrived first so I boarded her bus this time. She sat in the back and I sat in the front behind the bus driver. I would steal glances back at her from time to time thinking she must feel really weird having some big black jumbo baby looking back at her. I was attracted at how well she was preserved for her age. Her skin still glowed, she was still shapely and relatively attractive. No noticeable crows feet or saggy chin.

We got off at the same stop and as I was exiting the bus from behind her she opened up a large sun umbrella, can't exactly remember the patterns on the umbrella. Your typical elegant butterfly print, or some plain color, I think. Thinking that this was her way of brushing me off, she shares the umbrella with me by placing it squarely over my head and talking directly to me. My olfaction's were heighten by her perfume and that sense of numbness to time and your surroundings when placed in a situation you are clearly not prepared for.

As we walked together to the escalator I stammered over what language to speak in, English or Japanese? So I spoke both out of nervous desperation to find the right words to say. She smiled and spoke to me in very easy to understand Japanese. Through the agedness of her voice I could get a sense of her soul and the essence of her purity mixed in together with her naughtiness. Once we got on the escalator going up, I stood behind her so that she could have the high position and me the low one. I shot straight to the point! "I like you and I think you are cute, and I want to be friends with you," were the first words out of my mouth. I thought what I said came out quite stupidly and prematurely. She retorted," friends only?" "Do you know how old I am? I'm a kanreki obasaan. I'm in my sixties," she said. The highest I have ever gone up in age with a woman was about 55 years old, but 62!?

Exiting the escalator she offered to be my mother! Her words were clear. " Only friends? I can be your mother and more," is exactly what she said. I took that as a green light to make immediate plans to meet her again, but I bungled it because I gave her the wrong time for our first date, so now I am left with leaving my house extra early to the bus stop to try to catch her, so far no success.

Could Kanreki Obasaan big the next big sex boom in Japan? I think so...The future of Japan is clearly in the hands of the aged, not the young. As more baby boomers retire, or die from overwork, more and more aged women are taking control of their lives and finding newer forms of expressing themselves. When you walk into an adult video store, it's evident that trends are changing. Older actresses are growing in demand and more younger Japanese men are aiming towards older and more mature women as sex partners. The christmas cake face Japanese girl types are fading out slowly, which is good.

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