In Japan, turning 20 years old marks the official age of adulthood, and there is even a national holiday celebrating this big lifetime milestone. Coming of Age Day (成人の日 Seijin no Hi) is held every year on the second Monday of January in Japan. The holiday congratulates those who have recently reached or will soon reach the lawful age of maturity in Japan. Here is everything you need to know about Japan’s Coming of Age Day holiday!
Coming of age ceremonies have been celebrated in Japan since at least 714 AD, when it is said that a young prince wore elaborate new robes to mark his passage into adulthood. When the holiday was first established as a national holiday in 1948, it was to be held every year on January 15. In 2000, the Happy Monday System moved a number of public holidays in Japan to Mondays, in an effort to create more three-day weekends for full-time workers. As a result, Coming of Age Day was changed to the second Monday in January.
Coming of Age Ceremonies
Traditionally, Japanese youths have celebrated the milestone of turning 20 by attending Coming of Age ceremonies called Seijin-shiki (成人式). This ceremony serves as a rite of passage into adulthood, and is generally held in the morning at local city offices all throughout Japan. All young adults who turned or will turn 20 between April 2 of the previous year and April 1 of the current year are invited to attend (but not mandatory). Government officials give speeches, and small gifts are often presented to the newly-recognized adults. Japan’s larger cities will host several of these ceremonies. In Tokyo, the ceremonies at the Shinjuku and Shibuya Ward offices are some of the biggest in the nation, and therefore receive a lot of media coverage. On the morning of the ceremony, newspapers, press, and photographers line up outside of these two ward offices at a chance to photograph or even interview the young attendees.
Many women celebrate their Coming of Age Day by wearing furisode, a type of kimono that has long, hanging sleeves, and zōri sandals. Since most are unable to put on a kimono by themselves, many visit a beauty salon to get dressed and have their hair styled and decorated. A full set of this kind of formal clothing is incredibly expensive, so most young women rent kimonos for the occasion. In fact, the kimono industry relies heavily on Japan’s Coming of Age holiday. It is also not uncommon for young women to have professional photos taken at a studio to commemorate the lifetime milestone.
As for men, the male attendees traditionally wore kimono called montsuki–hakama. These days, some still do wear them, but nowadays it is much more common for men to attend the ceremonies dressed in a formal, Western-styled suit and tie.
After the ceremony, the new adults often go to a local shrine with their families to pray for health and success in their newfound adulthood. And, following the full day of ceremonies, shrine visits, and many, many photos, most of the new adults will attend after parties. The young men and women will go out with their friends for a more casual gathering at an izakaya or restaurant to celebrate all of them reaching the legal drinking age.
Coming of Age Day has traditionally been an important rite of passage for the youth of Japan, and although it will certainly continue to be a significant milestone, it is interesting to see how the holiday will change in years to come.
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