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Coming of Age Day brings 20-year-olds to adulthood

Date Posted: 2012-01-05

Itís more than a big day Monday for 20-year-old Japanese and Okinawans, as they officially become adults.

Coming of Age Day, officially Seijin no Hi, is both a national holiday and a day of reckoning for 20-year-olds who cross the threshold from being kids to being adults. Celebrated the second Monday of each January, Seijin no Hi is the day when young people transition to being part of modern society.

Itís also a day when they suddenly have the right to vote, are permitted to smoke and drink, and assume the mantels of adult responsibility. The holidayís been in effect on its current date since 2000, and is a day when celebrations and ceremonies are conducted nationwide to draw attention to the nattily dressed young men and to the women in colorful kimonos. The speeches will come from government officials at ceremonies in front of government buildings across Okinawa.

The ceremonial transition to adulthood began centuries ago, when boys were viewed as coming of age at 15, and girls at a mere 13 years. In the 1603-1868 Edo Era, ceremonial pageantry included boys cropping their hair while girls died their teeth black. The government decreed in 1876 that the legal age of adulthood would be 20.

Okinawaís festivities include a variety of colorful kimonos of elaborate designs and bright colors. Furisode, the most formal of kimonos worn by unmarried women, signifies the transition of young ladies into the adult realm. Those kimonos donít come cheap, either. With the more elegant kimonos ranging upward of a staggering •1 million and the beauty shop treatments needed to accompany the event adding another •50,000~100,000, most families will turn to borrowing or renting a kimono for the special event.

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