Coming of Age Day (Seijin no Hi, which was celebrated on January 15th up through the year 2000, 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. It is now celebrated on the day closest to the weekend to make a 3-day weekend in keeping with the government's changes to holidays which were implemented in a rather unsucessful effort to boost consumer spending.
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 woman cannot put on a kimono themselves, and go to a kimono kitsuke who dresses them. They also go to a hair stylists 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. A Japanese kimono can cost as much as a new car, so this is quite understandable.
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 in the trains, heading happily home after a day of celebration.
The 1998 celebrations were marred by heavy snowfalls which hit Eastern Japan, paralyzing transportation and causing the cancellation of many ceremonies in the region. New adults in West Japan braved the heavy rains which had set in to attend their ceremonies and made it a year to remember for the twenty-year-olds of 1998. Celebrations in later years were sometimes marred by rowdy young adults who badgered the speakers, caroused on the stage and exhibited other types of antisocial behaviour. The trend escalated until some local governments had some of them arrested by the police as adults. This served to reduce the number of incidents to the point where in 2010, there were relatively few incidents reported.
A trend which began around the year 2010 has the parents of the young adults attending the ceremony with their children. Until then, it was rare, if not unheard of, for parents to tag along to the ceremony.
The ceremonies of 2012 were more somber than in most years, in consideration of the destruction and death caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011.
Copyright 1998, Billy Hammond. Revised 2010, 2012