Today is a special day for Reiko's grandmother, though she probably doesn't realise it. One century ago today, in a very different sort of Japan, Reiko's grandmother was born at a Shinto temple in Kyoto. The world was a very different place in 1920. Japan was a very different place. Few people had electricity or telephones. Fewer still had ever left their hometowns. The Japanese empire was expanding across the Pacific islands and into China and its emperor was squirrelled away from the public to hide his various neurological issues.
A great deal of change occurred in the 100 years that followed. The nation burned and then calmed down. Abject poverty, once the norm, was almost completely eradicated by the 1960s. Education was granted to anyone and everyone who wanted it, to whatever level of knowledge they sought, regardless of their family connections. Medical knowledge jumped ahead by centuries in the span of decades with the imported knowledge from specialists and universities around the world. The nation rebuilt itself almost completely from the ground up over a quarter century after World War II, channelling traditional Japanese determination and imagination to create something that many tourists today still consider to be a nation living in the future.
And Reiko's grandmother had the opportunity to see all of this happen. She had the opportunity to participate in making it happen. Her children grew up and contributed to the development of the country and have lived just and meaningful lives. Her grandchildren grew up and have done just the same, typically entering into careers centred on nursing or education. Her great-grandchildren will hopefully carry the torch further still, accomplishing worthwhile goals while raising their own families and bringing humanity forward one person at a time.
When I think about how much has changed not only in Japan but around the world over the last 100 years, I can't help but think about what the world might look like in another six decades if I hit triple digits. Will the problems of today be remembered as a turning point to something greater or a temporary blip? Will humanity really peak at about 9-billion before worldwide poverty is eliminated enough to offer every person the opportunity to seek out an education, medical attention, and a fulfilling mission in life1? Will commercial interplanetary travel go from being science fiction to something resembling today's ocean-hopping flights? There are a thousand questions or more that I have about what the near future has in store for us and, if I treat my body just right, there might be a thousand answers revealed.
Reiko's grandmother has had the opportunity to see 36,525 days. Her memory is not what it used to be, and she often believes she's still living at the temple where she was born2, but she's still going strong. Hopefully she can enjoy many more sunrises, creative afternoons3, and moments with family.
Careers may not be in many people's future by the 2070s if current trends continue.
This would be impossible, as it burned down in a fire almost 85 years ago.
She's quite good at making traditional masks. It takes time, but they're exquisite.