Coming of Age Day in Japan

Customs

As we are approaching the new year, you are probably thinking about your upcoming plans for Christmas, New Year’s or whatever holiday you might be celebrating. However, others might be thinking about another important holiday coming up in January in Japan. In January every year, there is a very important holiday called Coming of Age Day (seijin no hi) throughout Japan. In this article we will explain its importance and everything you need to know about the upcoming holiday. 

What is Coming of Age Day?

Many countries have a special day or a certain age that represents the change from an adolescent to an adult. In a lot of countries this is usually when you turn 18 or 21 years old and are finally able to do things like buy alcohol or vote. In Japan, Coming of Age Day is held on the second Monday in January every year to celebrate and congratulate those who will turn 20 between April 2nd of the previous year and April 1st of the current year. This important day represents the day that they officially become adults within Japanese society. Once they turn 20 they are able to smoke, drink, and gamble legally! Voting rights used to come with turning 20 as well, but the voting age was changed to 18 in 2015. 

The history of Coming of Age Day

It is said that coming of age ceremonies date all the way back to 714 AD, when a young prince wore fancy new robes and a special hairstyle to mark his passage into the adult world. The holiday was only established and made into a national holiday recently in 1948. During this time, it was decided that the national holiday would be held every year on January 15th, but in 2000 was changed to a Monday along with a number of other public holidays as a result of the Happy Monday System

What people wear

Any time of the year you might see a few people dressed up walking around in kimono for various different reasons such as weddings, festivals or funerals, making it a pretty rare occasion. However, one day out of the year you will see cities and towns flooded with young women(and a few young men) wearing kimono. Many women celebrate Coming of Age Day by wearing furisode, a kimono with long dangling sleeves, traditional Japanese thronged sandals, and stylish hair. That being said, kimono are not cheap by any means so it’s common to either use one passed down by a family member or rent one for the occasion. Without years of practice it’s nearly impossible to put on a kimono by yourself, so most people visit a beauty salon beforehand to help them have their kimono put on and their hair done nicely. 

For the men’s attire, it used to be tradition to wear very formal kimono called montsuki haori hakama, which is a combination of a full length garment, a pleated and divided Japanese skirt for men, and a traditional half coat. Although nowadays it’s much more common for men to wear a formal western style suit and tie, there are still some who dress up traditionally. 

How is Coming of Age Day celebrated?

On this holiday, coming of age ceremonies(seijinshiki) are held throughout the country for those who have reached the age of maturity, officially marking the rite of passage from adolescent to adult. There is a ceremony held in every municipality in Japan, so if you are a resident of or are registered at a local city hall, you are welcome to join in on the festivities of that certain area! The ceremonies are typically held late morning at the local city hall, community center or school gym. The city’s mayor or someone of high status from the area often gives a speech to the new adults, reminding them of all of their new responsibilities. 

After the ceremony, people often go to a local shrine along with their families to pray for success and good health in their new adulthood ahead of them. And of course there are loads and loads of pictures taken with both family and friends. Since it’s such a special occasion, families will often hire professionals to take photos at a studio or at a shrine to celebrate and document the unforgettable milestone.  

Many people also attend after parties at restaurants and izakaya where they can finally celebrate and have a legal drink with their friends and family. 

Regional differences

Coming of Age Day is a little bit different depending on where you are in Japan. However, for the most part young adults attend the coming of age ceremony in their hometown.

In Tokyo, some of the biggest ceremonies are held in Shibuya, Shinjuku and even at Meiji Jingu Shrine. In Urayasu city in Chiba prefecture, the ceremony is held at Tokyo Disney Resorts! The lucky people of Urayasu have the opportunity to celebrate with various Disney characters. The people from Narita City use Narita International Airport for their ceremony. 

Down south in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka prefecture, lots of young adults dress up in very flashy and showy outfits to mark their entry into adulthood. A lot of their outfits show elements similar to those of subcultures such as biker gangs or yankee delinquents. People say it’s almost like a sea of halloween costumes. 

Coming of Age Day is celebrated by many young adults and is a very important day throughout the country. Whether you’re actually turning 20, are celebrating someone turning 20, or simply want to see what the holiday is like, this is a great way to see a significant aspect of Japanese culture. 

Coming of Age Day was held on January 10th in 2022 in Japan.

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