My 60th birthday is looming. On Christmas day I achieve kanreki or “return to the calendar”. This effectively means that the clock goes back to zero and you become a baby again. Should you speak to my long-suffering wife, she would tell you “what’s new”.
Traditionally in Japan, 60th birthday celebrants receive a red top or hood to identify with the red clothes of newborn “akachan” babies. Apparently my celebrations are going to be slightly different.
Since I first spent time in Japan I have enjoyed or been the butt of jokes about fundoshi , (traditional Japanese loincloths). One of my seniors in Osaka Shudokan, presented me with a few of these at the start of my time in Osaka ,and whilst I found them comfortable to wear under my hakama, most of my Japanese dojo mates thought it hilarious that a gaijin should wear traditional Japanese underwear.
I was later taken to rural Kagoshima by a teacher friend and without my own swimming trunks, wore fundoshi to swim and fish for ayu in the local mountain streams. Later, the same teacher became a lecturer at a prestigious Japanese religious university and was referred to as becoming an “akafun” or red fundoshi.
So to return to the plot.- I received a phone call from a friend in Nara, saying that she had today sent me a parcel containing 7 red fundoshi.- one for keiko every day of the week. So British kendoka, be warned. If you notice anything weird in the changing room, it is just me, dressing my age.