Family and friends gathered at Wesley Homes Des Moines to celebrate Anna Hasegawa’s Beiju on August 1st. In Japanese culture, the 88th birthday, or “Beiju” (米寿), is known as the long life celebration. Beiju is a play on the kanji characters for rice and 88. “Bei” (rice米) is important in Japanese society because it sustains life and represents purity and wholesomeness. “Ju” (寿) means blessing to one’s longevity or just congratulations for a long life well lived! The character for rice can be broken down to its basic components and rearranged as 八十八、or 88.
In traditional style, the birthday person wears a zukin (cap) and a chanchanko (vest) and sits on a zabuton (cushion), all the color of gold. Anna’s chanchanko was made by fellow Wesley Homes Des Moines resident Betty Hall.
Anna’s Beiju celebration was beautifully arranged with a central theme of sharing stories and getting to know new people. Guests were encouraged to introduce themselves to people they’d never met before and share their own stories as well as stories about Anna. After getting to know one another and eating some delicious traditional Japanese food, including sushi and mochi, The Jump Ensemble kicked the party off in style. The Jump Ensemble is a jazz band with Anna’s son, Marty Hasegawa, on electric bass. Also in attendance were Anna’s daughters: Betsy, Ellen, Carol and Sheri.
After the music, people gathered for cake and to share stories about Anna. The party ended with Ubon dancing, which is a traditional Japanese dance performed to honor the spirit of our ancestors.
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