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Things Japanese - "Seijin no hi"

Seijin-no-hi About this banner

On Sunday 14th of January, Japan celebrated a public holiday called "Seiji-no-hi" (Coming of Age Day). Although young adults reach the legal age on their 20th birthday and from there on are entitled to vote, allowed to smoke tobacco, purchase alcohol etc, and have all of the rights and responsibilities of adulthood, local governments hold special ceremonies on "Seijin-no-hi" to mark the rite of passage.

The age of 20 is a big turning point for Japanese people. The ceremonies are supposed to encourage those who have newly entered adulthood to become self-reliant members of society. (The holiday used to be on January 15, but in 2000 it was moved to the second Monday of the month.)

Furisode (57KB)
Most 20 year olds attend the ceremonies, which usually include speeches etc, however in recent years the generation gap has been creating some disturbances. These have ranged from talking on cellphones to letting off fireworks during the speeches, and heckling the mayor or guest speaker. Some local governments have responded by shortening the speeches and making the ceremony more fun (in some cases including entertainment and even bingo games and karaoke). A city in Chiba prefecture moved the ceremony to Disneyland. In fact the evening news coverage of the holiday during the past few years has tended to concentrate more and more upon the disturbances.

The only other thing consistently highlighted in the news each year is the steadily falling number of participants each year. Japan's birthrate is continuing to fall and the population is expected to peak during the next 3-5 years before beginning its decline.

Sonja with two non-suits
Sonja with two "non-suits" (26KB)
Coming of Age ceremonies have been held in Japan for centuries. During the Edo period (1603-1868) boys became adults at around the age of 15 (and had their forelocks cropped off), girls became adults when they turned 13 or so (and had their teeth dyed black). It wasn't until 1876 that the government of Japan decided to set the legal age of adulthood to 20 years.

Students and new
Students and new "seijin" at Okazaki Chuo Sogo Koen (28KB)
Seijin-no-hi is a good photo opportunity. The young men generally wear suits (some exceptions of course), but the majority of young women choose to wear traditional furisode. The furisode is a special type of kimono with extended sleeves and elaborate designs. For unmarried women, this is probably the most formal attire they can wear before marriage. and so many of them wear it to the event to mark the start of their adult life.

In Okazaki, the ceremony is usually held at the Chuo Sogo Koen.

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