Coming of age day
If you’re from a Western country, you might not have particularly special memories of the day you became an adult. In Europe you’re mostly considered an adult at 18, so perhaps you just celebrated your birthday and had a few drinks after class. In the US, it’s not even that clear when you’re considered a full adult, as there are different ages for driving, drinking, voting, and so on.
In Japan, however, becoming an adult is a big deal. This happens at the age of 20 – a bit later than in most countries – and this is the age when you can drink, smoke, drive, gamble, and so on. That’s not the biggest difference, though. The surprising thing is perhaps that your birthday is not the big day to celebrate adulthood in Japan. Everyone who turned 20 between April 2nd of the previous year and April 1st of the current year celebrates together the same day: the second Monday of January, or January the 14th this year. Some people are not even 20 yet when this happens. Coming-of-age day is even a national holiday, and families have the day off to celebrate it together with their loved ones.
During the coming of age day, or seijin-shiki in Japanese, those women who have become adults wear furisode, or long-sleeved kimonos, and men also often wear kimonos, or formal Western attire, such as suits. Women also go to beauty salons and have their hair set. The dressed can be really expensive, up to one million yen, so the wear is often borrowed or rented. Preparing for this ceremony can take hours, so these young adults wake up really early in the morning to be ready by the time the ceremony starts.
Once in the proper wear, people go to a local government building, such as a city hall of a school’s gym, and listen to a speech given by a local government official. Small presents are handed out, and there are often photographers and TV crews reporting on the event.
After this is over, groups of friends often go to parties or drink together to celebrate – as long as their birthday is before the second Monday of January, of course.
Hi, I’m Sergio.
I’m from Spain, lived in the UK for seven years and came to Japan in 2012.
I majored in journalism in London and have been teaching English in Tokyo.
I like traveling, cycling, photography, movies, and spending time with friends.
I wrote articles about life in Japan as a foreigner and anything that I might find interesting.
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