In Japan, a person’s 88th birthday is called “beiju” and is a special celebration where yellow- or gold-colored gifts are given. The “bei” of beiju comes from the three kanji characters for eight “八”, ten “十”, and eight “八”, or “hachijuu-hachi” (88), which combined together form the character kome, or rice “米”. You can see one eight flipped upside-down on the top, the other on the bottom, and the ten as the cross in the middle. The “ju” of beiju is the character kotobuki, or celebration “寿”, which is also the su of sushi. Beiju is written out as “米寿”.
Because rice was so important to Japanese, as an integral part of daily life and vital to sustaining life, the 88th birthday is a celebration of importance in Japan. Beiju is also known as “yone no iwai” or Rice Celebration, the yone being another way to say kome or rice. The photo is from great-grandma’s beiju celebration in Sept 2008.