Rougai: Old People Can’t Live in Japan?

In your country, do the elderly lead an enjoyable and secure life? Japan is also a country where the elderly can live relatively comfortably, but recently one term has been frequently used to describe older people. It’s “Rougai (老害)”.

What Is Rougai?

The word “Rougai (老害)” is slang for old people who cause trouble for others. The term is a combination of the letters “老 (old)” and “害 (harmful)”. Of course, you should not say it to anyone or even in public as it’s quite offensive word. Having said that, the term recently became a topic of conversation when the news of a fatal road accident caused by the elderly came out. Furthermore, we often see that young people use this word with a complaint on the anonymous internet. And I can understand some of the feelings of those who are angry at being treated unreasonably.

Characteristics of Rougai

The typical characteristics of “Rougai” are like below.

Never change their opinions

No one likes people who reject them out of hand, no matter how logically they explain it. I’ve met people like that in the previous workplace, and I didn’t really want to communicate with them as they never listen to others. 

Boasting about the past all the time

When someone started saying, “I don’t think you can understand at your generation but…”, it’s a signal of bragging rights. It is exciting to listen to our predecessors’ stories, but young people want to distance themselves from those who always think back fondly on the past. People actually want to say, “So what?”.

“Young people these days” is a common phrase.

As we get older, it is often harder to accept new things and think flexibly. Some people blame the younger generations for their inability to understand something although they also used to be just like those young people.


Some people who pride themselves on their long life experience are overly blunt to others, believing that they are superior to younger people. People don’t want to around them.

There are always people like these, but why is “Rougai” has become a particular problem recently?

Why Rougai Became Such A Big Problem?

Some young people are working hard to change the stagnant Japanese economy in order to rebuild it. But the older generation who are not willing to change is an obstacle for them. The best example of this is “Nenko System”. And while the economy is still in recession, Japan’s high proportion of older people in the population. This means that social welfare costs are rising, placing an ever-greater burden on the younger generation.

Frustration with this disparity is also expressed in the word “Jokyu Kokumin (= Upper-class Citizen)”. It seems to me that the prevalence of the word “Rougai” is the result of an explosion of outrage among the young against those who think they managed to enjoy their lives before Japan sank.


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