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KOKI IWAI , the celebration of longevity

A comment made by a friend piqued my interest and I soon did some research and found what I was looking for.

The prestigious Harvard University, in the USA, has been studying a fascinating topic for more than seven decades: What makes people happy in life? What makes a good life to live?

Refraining from commenting on details of the work, merely for reasons of space in this column, but trusting in the seriousness of the renowned institution, I learned that the study reached the conclusion that, in order to remain happy and healthy throughout life, it depends on the quality of our relationships. That, regardless of wealth, social and professional level, people who are more satisfied in their relationships, who interact well with others, who make good friends, their body and brain remain healthy for longer and provide more energy and more vitality. Where a quality relationship is a relationship in which you feel safe, at ease, in which you can be yourself and do the things that have meaning for you.

At the same time, the renowned school has also been developing a course on the “science of happiness”, where Israeli professor Tal Bem-Shahar teaches the most popular classes at the University, teaching “the secrets to being happier”. For him, there is no need being rich, having fame and power and not even being perfect to lead a richer and happier life. What really matters is the time we spend with people who are important to us, like friends and family.

And, in light of such a burning topic, which has always interested me, I remembered that recently my dear friend Carlos Ianaze (Dinho), always sensitive and human, had suggested that I comment in an article on the episode recently experienced by a colleague of ours, who celebrated his birthday with a party in the best Japanese tradition, as I always wanted. I imagine it must have been something special. Let's get to it:


Descendant of a traditional family from Bastos, a city in the interior of São Paulo known for the prominent and participatory Japanese community that has lived there since its foundation, my friend Patrício Moniwa, a 1st grade Nisei. generation, has always admired Japanese culture and traditions, strongly rooted in the region. One of the customs that caught his attention were the celebrations that took place on certain Christmas dates which, as they were considered auspicious and special, needed to be remembered in an ostentatious and solemn way. The celebrations would bring health, luck and happiness to the person.

Seijinshiki, yakudoshi, toshi iwai were some expressions that have remained engraved in his memory since then.

A fortuitous but regrettable and stressful episode that occurred with Moniwa a few months ago and which, luckily, did not lead to great material loss, sounded like a signal for Patrício to value his family and spiritual side more. And, an idea emerged as a way to compensate for this spiritual imbalance. To put into practice a desire that he has always had since he reached adulthood: to celebrate his 70th birthday in a dignified manner, as per the customs and customs of traditional Japan. It would be your Koki Iwai which, more than just celebrating your seventieth birthday, has the meaning of a true rite of passage into a new, lasting phase of life, in which you seek a better quality of life and the appreciation of personal bonds.

Encouraged in this way, last March, Patrício finally made his wish come true, offering a great celebration party for the celebration of his birthday, his Koki Iwai. He took great care in the organization and even sent a formal invitation. In a pleasant place, he managed to bring together his dearest people, his family, relatives and various friends, some from childhood, others from college, the club and work. People who somehow had and still have a lot of importance in your life. An event that had approximately 200 participants, a real wedding party, as one of those present highlighted.

Family photo in 1952. From right to left: Shigueo, Patrício and Carlos (bottom); maternal grandfather and paternal grandfather (top).

Amid the joys of the event, in which there was no shortage of speeches, karaoke and traditional kampais , one of the highlights was the display on the screen of photos that recorded scenes from the honoree's life, from childhood to the present day. Amidst much emotion, unusual snapshots passed under the attentive and admiring eyes of those present. Flashes remembering his grandparents, his parents, his high school graduation, the family photo that can never be missed and, to his pleasant surprise, a photo he no longer remembered, with his cousins ​​Edison Shigueo Aoyagi and Carlos Hatada, all aged 3 years. A thought occurred at that moment, when he imagined that, 67 years after that photo, the same cousins ​​were by his side at the party, bringing the affection of an indissoluble friendship. To record it for posterity, he insisted on a new photo, now all of them in their seventies looking beautiful.

From left to right: Edison Shigueo Aoyagi, Carlos Hatada and Patrício Moniwa

The presence of several other friends and relatives moved him greatly, as much as the hug he received from college classmates, which made him remember, with nostalgia, his beloved UNICAMP and the struggle and sacrifice to graduate from the engineering course.

But, it was all worth it. For the profession and the friends you made! And, more than anything, the joy of having this big family together, wife, children, grandchildren, brothers. This entire scenario, full of affection, joy and emotion, only increased the conviction of how important it is to maintain family ties, have good friends and cultivate friendships. An unbeatable recipe to face the new journey that begins. After all, he just turned 70...Patricio, omedetou !

Edison and Carlos, crouched and in the background, Patrício and Jorge Usami.

Perhaps without realizing it, Patrício had always been imbued with the essence of Koki Iwai ! I had no idea how much he was loved and how much friendship he sowed!

The poem below, I believe by an American poet, with the title “Your name is written... at the top of my list” serves as a final corollary:

Some friends know everything about us,
And they like us the same way.
They accept us as we are,
Without asking for changes.

They never criticize us,
While listening to our points of view.
They stay when others leave,
And they speak when some refuse to speak.

There aren't many friends like that.
And I say there are precious few.
But at the top of my list
With pride, I put your name.

© 2019 Katsuo Higuchi

Bastos birthdays Brazil celebrations customs (social) koki iwai traditions
About the Author

A Nisei native of Tupã, São Paulo State, he holds a Law degree, specializing in Labor Relations. Over the course of 50 years, he worked as an executive and entrepreneur​​ in the Human Resources field. A Business Consultant, he’s also a columnist for the newspaper Nippo Brasil.

Updated June 2017

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