You probably know that 20 is the legal age of adulthood in Japan, in which young people are allowed to smoke and drink. Young Japanese also used to have voting rights only when they reached 20, until a recent law that lowered the voting age to 18 was effected in July 2016. Indeed, 20 embodies a lot of significance for young Japanese on the cusp of adulthood. Do you know that there is a ceremony, Seijin no Hi (Coming of Age Day) that helps young people usher in this monumental stage of their lives? Here are ten funky facts about Coming of Age Day.
It is a time-cherished tradition.
This ceremony originated in A.D 714 when a young prince wore new robes and sported a striking haircut to mark his transition into adulthood.
The age of adulthood hasn't always been 20.
During the Edo era (1603 to 1868), boys and girls were regarded as 15 and (a tender) 13 years of old respectively. Then, they underwent a physical change to indicate themselves as newly minted adults. The boys had their forelocks cut while the girls would have their teeth dyed black. Subsequently in 1876, it was decided that the legal age of adulthood be raised higher to 20.
Coupled with historical significance, it served to rally the nation together.
Concerned about the low morale pervading Japan after World War II, a dynamic youth leader named Shoujirou Takahashi organized a youth festival day to try to boost the spirits of young Japanese. His wonderful idea spread like wildfire until this youth festival day was officially recognized as a national holiday in 1948.
It hints at the benevolence of the Japanese government.
Initially held on January 15th every day, Coming of Age Day was switched to the second Monday in January under the Happy Monday System initiated by the government. This means that 20-year-old youths have the weekend to prepare themselves while their families get to have an extended weekend to share in their euphoria!
Young Japanese take their Coming of Age Day seriously.
Very seriously. It is not uncommon for ladies to book an appointment at a fashion salon up to a year in advance so that they can entrust their hair and makeup to professional artisans.
It is akin to a fashion parade.
If you happen to be in Japan around this time, do consider visiting the local city offices where you will be dazzled by the sight of pretty ladies decked out in exquisite and colourful furisode kimonos – a kind of kimono with floor length sleeves – and traditional zori slippers. The guys are not to be outdone either; some gentlemen choose to don their dashing black business suits while others wear hakama in classy muted colors. You may even want to ask some youths to take selfies together so that you can have mementoes of this visual feast!
It helps young adults reflect upon their past and embrace their future.
First, the speeches given by prominent local members of the community set the tone for nostalgia as they exhort the 20-year-olds to remember how they have been raised by their community and to do their best in future so as to repay this debt of gratitude. Then, many youths will meet their elementary or junior high school classmates, some of whom they have not kept in touch with since their enrolment into different high schools. The camera whore in many an adult will be unleashed! And obviously, many of them will make plans with their friends to go drinking at night and engage in bar-hopping!
Some shrines conduct unique festivities.
If you visit the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, you will be able to observe a unique momote-shiki (traditional Japanese archery ritual) that is held at the homotsuden (treasure house). A priest will shoot a turnip-shaped red arrow that emits a whistling sound, which will drive away evil in all four directions. Ten archers – dressed in traditional samurai attire – will then shoot two arrows each. Truly a spectacular sight to behold!
Some youths celebrate this occasion in distinguished company.
— ラプンツェル♥可愛い～❤ (@ForYou_Rapunzel) 2016年10月16日
Case in point: Tokyo Disneyland. Japanese youths lucky enough to live in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture will have their Coming of Age Day ceremony there, where they can score the honour of taking photographs with Mickey and Minnie Mouse! Others won’t have such a kidult-ish experience. Young men who join the Japan Self-Defense Forces after high school will celebrate this occasion via a solemn military ceremony. These young men will also have to prove their strength and teamwork skills in a tug-of-war match with an FH70 (a kind of howitzer artillery)!
Other youths take it upon themselves to have riotous fun.
Many young men in Okinawa rev up the streets on bikes and souped-up rental cars, driving recklessly, shouting into microphones and generally making a public nuisance of themselves. Public arrests have been made, of course but surprisingly, most Okinawans are rather tolerant of these men’s disregard for public decorum since it happens once in a year. This means that you can get to watch this unabashed display of youth energy if you visit Okinawa City on Coming of Age Day. Just be sure to cross the roads safely!
The Coming of Age Day is a wonderful way to initiate young people into the real world of adult responsibilities. For readers below the age of 20, you probably won’t have such an opportunity to welcome adulthood in your home country, but why not take a leaf out of the Japanese’s book? Dress fashionably, pray sincerely at your local religious building and celebrate voraciously with friends at a pub and then some!