Finally being considered an adult is something that every teenager looks forward to. Whether it comes with achieving a certain feat or turning a certain age, every country has its own unique way to mark the entering of adulthood. If you’re familiar with American culture, you’re seen as an adult when you turn 18. That’s also the legal voting age.
In South Korea, it’s 19. In Japan, before April 2022, the legal age was 20. If you’re from a country that has 18 as the legal age of adulthood or if you’re freshly 18 and enjoying being seen as an adult, I’m sure you must be losing your mind at the thought of being considered a “child” at that age. Let’s take a deeper look at Japan’s Coming of Age Day, which celebrates everyone who has become an adult in the eyes of society.
While coming-of-age ceremonies have always been a part of Japanese culture, Japan’s current traditions started in 1946 as a festival to help lift the spirits of young people after the end of WWII. Its popularity in various prefectures resulted in it becoming an official holiday in 1948 with a set date of January 15th. Present day, Coming of Age Day, seijin no hi, is held on the second Monday of every January. This day celebrates and congratulates everyone who turns 20 within a certain time frame.
While the U.S. school year starts in August, Japan’s starts in April. The Coming of Age Day coincides with that. This year’s Coming of Age Day is for everyone who turned or turns 20 between April 2, 2023 and April 1, 2024. After the completion of this ceremony, you are officially seen as an adult in the eyes of Japanese society. You are able to smoke, drink, and gamble. As of 2022, the age of adulthood was lowered to 18, but many prefectures are choosing to continue the ceremonies for 20-year-olds.
According to Tokyoesque, one of the main reasons young people look forward to Coming of Age Day is to wear beautiful and culturally significant clothing. Women usually wear furisode, a type of kimono with long sleeves. Furisode are known as ‘kimonos for unmarried women’, however, it is perfectly fine for a married woman to wear a furisode at the coming-of-age ceremony as it signifies moving into adulthood. Men typically wear a suit or a haorihakama, a traditional Japanese jacket worn with wide-legged pants and cleft-toed sandals.
At these ceremonies, speeches are given by government officials. These speeches are often filled with congratulations as well as reminders of their new responsibilities as adults. After the ceremony and countless photos are taken, the 20-year-olds go to the shrine to pray for good health and fortune in their adulthood.