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Arrests mar Coming of Age Day celebrations

Date Posted: 2009-01-15

More than 17,000 young people officially entered adulthood during Coming of Age Day ceremonies Sunday and Monday on Okinawa, a festive series of events disrupted by rowdy behavior on downtown Naha City’s Kokusai Street.
Okinawa Prefecture officials say 17,608 young men and women celebrated their 20th birthday this year during the events, which officially heralds their attainment of adult status that permits them to vote, legally drink, get married and enter into business agreements without parental consent. The prefecture’s 41 municipalities held Seijin no Hi ceremonies to recognize the change in status. Of those, 19 cities, towns and villages held festive events on Sunday, while the rest used the official holiday Monday to celebrate.
Everyone dressed in colorful kimonos and hakama, the men’s kimono for the ceremonies. Officials say this year’s ceremonies recognized 763 fewer young adults than a year ago.
While most ceremonies were jubilant and without incident, groups of new adults rallied on Kokusai Street in downtown Naha City to celebrate, turning boisterous celebration into unruly conduct in front of the Okinawa Prefecture Headquarters. First changing hair color to bronze, then using oils to restyle their hair, they began taunting police, demanding they “go away. Go away from here.”
Police had anticipated the misconduct, and had more than 300 riot police in the area. When the groups switched from funny antics to bringing an American car into the plaza and began dancing around it, police moved in. A half-dozen police tried to move the demonstrators away, only to find themselves being beaten. One adult was arrested.
Another group of new adults were drinking and tossing garbage on the street on Kokusai, while in Tomigusuku City, three new adults were arrested after riding in an open car, driving in the opposite traffic lanes and striking another car.

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