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Contemporary Japan

Journal of the German Institute for Japanese Studies Tokyo

Editor-in-Chief: Waldenberger, Franz

Managing Editor: Backhaus, Peter

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Hope in an ageing Japan: transience and transcendence

Jason Danely
Published Online: 2016-03-02 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cj-2016-0002


In Japan, today, longevity has not meant a reduction in years of dependence. As a result, anticipation of a long life also brings the troubling anticipation of problems like chronic illness and loneliness. How do older adults facing such a future create hope? The purpose of this paper is threefold: (i) to propose a conceptualization of hope as “lunar aesthetics,” that is, not as anticipation of achievement but as a process of loss and renewal; (ii) to link this process to aesthetic forms and ritual practices from my fieldwork with older adults in Kyoto; and (iii) to critically evaluate the ways current formal long-term care diverges from “lunar” hope. Drawing on Japanese associations between the moon, hope, and rituals memorializing the spirits of the dead, this paper argues that older adults engage with an alternative interpretation of hope based on transience and transcendence. Both of these offer hope to older adults by reorienting the temporal boundaries of personhood, to experience change (including decline and death) as an inherent aspect of becoming part of a larger narrative of linked generations or the natural state of life.

Keywords: ageing; death; hope; aesthetics; mourning

About the article

Published Online: 2016-03-02

Published in Print: 2016-03-01

Citation Information: Contemporary Japan, Volume 28, Issue 1, Pages 13–31, ISSN (Online) 1869-2737, ISSN (Print) 1869-2729, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cj-2016-0002.

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©2016 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin Boston. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License. BY-NC-ND 3.0

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