Japanese government can no longer afford traditional 100th birthday gift

Japan’s expanding centenarian population has presented the country’s government with a unique problem. Every September 15 the nation celebrates Seniors Day and the prime minister presents all of Japan’s new 100-year-olds with a shallow silver bowl called a sakazuki. This year, the government has admitted that the ceremonial gift has become a financial burden.

In 2014 Japan spent ¥260 million, about $2,883,400 in Canadian dollars, on the gifts. When the country started the gift program fifty years ago only 153 citizens received a bowl. Now that the number of centenarians is predicted to hit 39,000 by 2018, the government is trying to find a less expensive way to celebrate its country’s aging population.

The government is considering simply presenting new members of the program with a certificate of congratulations, similar to traditions in England and the US. Other options are to have the bowls made out of a less expensive material, or to choose a different, and less expensive, gift.

Japan has the highest life expectancy for women in the world, and the third highest life expectancy for men. A UN projection predicts that the number of 100-year-olds in the nation may hit 1 million by 2050. Hopefully the government will have figured out an inexpensive way to celebrate its seniors by then.