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Coming of Age Day Honors 20 Year Olds

Date Posted: 2001-01-07

January 8 is a Japanese national holiday which honors young people who have reached, or who will reach, the age of 20 during the current year. Twenty is the age of majority in Japan, and people who have reached this age are subject to adult laws and gain the right to vote in elections as well as to drink.

Local governments usually have a ceremony known as a seijin shiki (adult ceremony) to honor the "new adults". The ceremony is generally held in the morning and all of the young adults maintaining residency in the area are invited to attend. Government officials give speeches, and small presents are handed out to the new adults.

Women celebrate the day by donning furisode kimono, which are kimono in which the portions which hang from the sleeves are long as compared to the kimono with shorter sleeve portions worn by mature, married women. Some women will add hakama (baggy pantaloons) to the ensemble. Most young women cannot put on a kimono themselves, and go to a kimono kitsuke who dresses them. They also go to a hair stylist to have their hair set the day before or early in the morning. Many women rent their kimonos because of the cost of buying one. As a Japanese kimono can cost as much as a new car, it is a sensible option.

The majority of young men don business suits, although once in a while men wearing dark-colored kimonos can be seen. Needless to say, the expense is far less for the young men than the women.

After the ceremony, the young adults often gather in groups and go to parties or go out drinking. Young women not used to wearing the slippers known as zori can often be seen limping as the afternoon wears on and evening approaches. Later in the evening, it is not unusual to see wobbly young adults staggering happily home after a day of celebration.

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