SEIJIN-NO-HI, COMING-OF-AGE DAY IN JAPAN
Coming of Age Day is a Japanese holiday that is celebrated on the second Monday of January each year. Known in Japan by its Japanese name of Seijin no hi, Coming of Age Day is a celebration of independence and self-reliance for Japan’s newest adult members of society. The holiday includes people whose 20th birthday falls between April 2nd of the previous year and April 1st of the current year. While the age of adulthood has changed over the years, the current holiday recognizes adults to be individuals that have been alive for 20 years or longer. This is because the current Japanese government system recognizes 20 as the minimum age of a legal adult. Upon turning 20, Japanese citizens are granted the legal right to vote in elections, drink alcohol, and smoke tobacco products.
Coming of Age Day in Japan can be dated back to the early 700s CE. In Japan, there was a prince who, on his transition to manhood, wore a new robe and haircut. To honor the prince and his new practice, this wearing of new clothes when coming of age became common in the surrounding areas. Eventually, the practice spread to different areas across Japan. While the practice became commonplace in Japanese society, the coming of age rituals were not associated with a holiday until the Edo period in the early 1600s CE. During the Edo Period, Coming of Age Day became a nationally recognized holiday. Unlike the current holiday, the Coming of Age Day recognized adulthood at different ages. Males of 15 years and females were recognized as adults during the Edo Coming of Age holiday. Eventually, the holiday was formalized and celebrated on the 15th of January each year. This tradition remained in Japan until 2000. After the beginning of the new millennium, the date of Coming of Age Day was changed to the second Monday of January.
Coming of Age Day is full of festivities for young adults. The holiday is oriented around a special ceremony at the city hall or other government establishment of each town or city. This ceremony often begins before noon and kicks off the other events of the day. The ceremony starts at this time because the new adults in attendance spend the hours before on preparing their appearance. It is a common practice for government officials to give speeches about adult responsibilities and other related topics. Gifts are also given to new adults during or immediately after the ceremony. Before or after the ceremony, the new adults are expected to visit the local shrine. It is believed that this will bring good luck, but it also pays respect to ancestors. As with many Japanese holidays, costumes and clothing play a large role.
Traditionally, men wore a special pair of celebratory pants called hakama. Women wore an expensive kimono called a furisode, and a pair of slippers called zori. While most Japanese men have replaced the hakama with stylish Western suits, women still wear their traditional garb. After the traditional ceremonies and shrine visits are finished, many of the new adult men and women go to local pubs, or izakaya, to celebrate their new right to drink alcohol. Celebrations are also held at concert halls and other popular venues. In large cities like Shibuya, new adults are invited in to major music venues to enjoy food, alcohol, and live music at no cost. While the Coming of Age Day celebrations focus on young people, many people from every demographic in Japan come out to enjoy the holiday.
Size of Events
Coming of Age Day is comparable to many of the large Western holidays like Thanksgiving and Easter. Before the ceremony and throughout the day, city centers are flooded with photographers and various other media personnel. These people take the photos of new adults and ask them for their opinions about the holiday and trending news topics. While the Coming of Age holiday is celebrated quite widely, its depth has decreased significantly in past years. This is largely due to the fact that there are fewer young people in Japan. Many experts have debated about the cause for this, but many people agree that it is because Japanese citizens are choosing careers over large families. Some reports indicate that this has caused the Coming of Age holiday to decrease in size by nearly 70 percent in some cities.
The largest and most vibrant Coming of Age Day celebrations take place in areas where there is a high population of young people and families. Some of the largest celebration take place in: Shibuya, Isumi and Harajuku. Coming of Age Day in Japan is a holiday that is characterized as time of happiness and growth.