Coming of Age Day is gateway to adulthood in Japan
By Bill Charles
Seijin no Hi is coming up Monday, and it’s a big day for thousands of young people in Japan who turned 20 during 2013 or will through Mar. 31, 2014.
Coming of Age Day is Monday, and is a national holiday honoring youth who’ve reached the age of adulthood, where they can now legally drink, vote, be legally responsible for business decisions and even get married without parental consent. It’s a day to dress up in traditional kimonos, participate in ceremonies, and take memorable photographs.
With many Okinawans already gathered in family homes for the Christmas and New Year holidays, ceremonies have already begun in advance since the start of January. High School graduates turning 20 this year have held their own special ceremonies, decked out in kimonos and with fancy hair decorations and coming together from all over Okinawa for the first time since their graduations two years ago. At one high school, more than 100 turned out at the school, including parents, teachers and friends. Konan High School received high marks from participants for organizing the festive ceremonies, with students praising organizers who knew where the graduates had gone, and how to get them back.
The Seijin no Hi holiday has been celebrated the second Monday in January since 2000, marking transition to adulthood. Centuries before, boys were viewed as coming of age at 15, while girls celebrated coming of age at the tender age of 13. In 1876, the government decreed 20 to be the legal age of adulthood.
On Okinawa, ceremonies take place with a variety of styles, some with puffy sleeves, elaborate designs and bright colors. Furisode, the most formal kimono worn by unmarried women, signifies the transition of young ladies to adulthood. Boys mostly wear suits and ties or traditional hakama to the ceremonies.