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What is Japan's Coming of Age Ceremony?

Coming-of-age ceremony image

In Japan, Coming of Age Day is an esteemed and cherished custom that marks the day when an individual reaches the legal age of maturity.

This is an occasion of contemplation, cheerfulness, and honoring the movement from being a kid to becoming an adult.

On the occasion of the festival, people usually put on their finest clothes - often a kimono for women and a suit for men - and go to their local civic offices.

This piece will delve into the past, customs, and festivities of Japanese Coming of Age Day (Seijin no Hi) in Japan!

What is Japanese Coming of Age Day?

In Japan, there is a national holiday known as Coming of Age Day.

According to the "Happy Monday" system, the second Monday of each January is celebrated.

*The "Happy Monday" system is a legal alteration that shifted some of the national holidays from specific dates to the Monday of the related week.

Prior to 1999, the fifteenth day of January was the cut-off date.

January 15 was selected as the day for the event because it is historically known as Small New Year's Day, and the traditional ceremony for coming of age used to take place on this day.

*A traditional rite of passage to celebrate the transition into adulthood has been practiced by young males since the Nara period (710-794).

In 2000, the date for Happy Monday was modified to the second Monday of January, shifting from the 8th to the 14th of the month.

An increasing number of educational institutions are lengthening their winter break.

In non-urban locations, a number of local governments hold their rite-of-passage celebrations on the Sunday before the public holiday for Coming-of-Age Day, to make it more feasible for recent graduates coming back to their hometowns to take part.

In areas where it snows a lot, like the Tohoku region, many towns and cities still hold celebrations for Obon in the summer months.

What is a Coming-of-Age Ceremony?

Local authorities in Japan organize a Coming-of-Age Ceremony to commemorate those who are about to reach the age of majority by the end of the fiscal year, which is the legal age when compulsory schooling must be completed.

The occasion is celebrated the second Monday of each January.

Speeches are delivered and keepsakes are given out.

As of April 1, 2022, the legal age of majority has been reduced from 20 to 18.

The age for the rite of passage into adulthood can be classified into several groups.

It is believed that the roots of the Coming-of-Age Ceremony can be traced back to the "Youth Festival" that occurred in Saitama Prefecture in 1946, shortly after the conclusion of World War II.

The goal of the festival was to bring optimism and motivation to the young people of Japan, who had become despondent following their nation's loss in the war.

When they were drafting the agenda for the festival, they made sure to include a rite of passage ritual.

This rite of passage became widespread throughout the land and is now recognized as the modern-day coming-of-age ceremony.

The Japanese government implemented a national holiday law two years after being impacted by a youth festival in 1948.

Pay homage to youngsters who recognize that they have grown up and are making an effort to make it on their own.

Subsequent to that, the 15th of January in 1949 was established as Coming of Age Day.

The location and the time of the event

Rituals to celebrate the transition from childhood to adulthood are usually observed on Coming-of-Age Day or the day prior to it (always a Sunday).

In certain regions, this is not always the reality.

Celebrations occur at times other than Coming of Age Day, such as

On these festivities, a great number of cities, towns, and villages celebrate with their own particular rituals.

A lot of times, a hall or gym that can fit a large amount of people is used for events.

Certain municipal authorities organize occasions at nearby amusement parks as a regular practice.

Reports and criticism surrounded the coming-of-age ceremony held at the Tokyo Disney Resort in Urayasu City, Chiba Prefecture.

Certain towns demand that people register in advance in order to take part in the coming-of-age celebration.

Certain locations require individuals to pay to become members in order to access the resources.

Companies that specialize coming-of-age events

The Coming-of-Age Ceremony serves as a great revenue source for the kimono industry, as many fresh adults invest in costly kimonos, particularly furisode for women.

Because fewer and fewer stores that sell kimonos are still in operation due to the decreasing population of people who don traditional kimonos, it is an infrequent chance to sway the younger generation to appreciate the beauty of kimonos.

Recently, males have been observed donning traditional Japanese kimonos such as crested hakama.

Kimonos are costly, therefore, a lot of people prefer to rent them or obtain them as hand-me-downs from their mothers.

Aside from purchasing traditional Japanese garments, the coming-of-age ceremony also serves as an opportunity to acquire funds for the cosmetics industry.

The dress code for those who take part in the "Youth Festival," from which the Coming-of-Age Ceremony originated, is as follows:

  • Men: national dress
  • Women: monpe

The kimono industry's emphasis on the coming-of-age ceremony during the late 1950s and early 1960s was the impetus for the transition to kimono.

The kimono industry experienced extreme losses during World War II due to the prohibition of luxury items.

Therefore, as a way to bounce back after the conflict,

Kimono Woman's Image

Let's suggest unmarried women wear furisode, the traditional outfit for coming-of-age ceremonies, for their special day!

During that period, the department stores were the pioneers in this mission.

Coming of Age Ceremony problems

There are four issues associated with the Coming of Age Ritual.

  1. The purpose is outdated
  2. Attendance is declining
  3. City and Rural Districts
  4. Decline in morale

The purpose is outdated

The poll revealed that

A gathering of old acquaintances reuniting after a long time apart.

Approximately a quarter to a third of individuals in the twenties age-bracket or below indicated that a rite of passage is similar to a get-together of acquaintances.

A gathering of young adults wearing formal attire and celebratory outfits

This was the most common reason for not attending the coming-of-age ceremony.

The evidence suggests that the original intentions behind the coming-of-age ceremony have been lost to the current generation of young people.

Attendance is declining

During the 1970s, the amount of students who were not accepted into a university grew exponentially due to the heightened competition of entrance exams.

Moreover, a lot of new people were unable to be present at the occasion due to the fact that it was on the same day and time as the National University Entrance Exam.

Results from polls revealed that

Due to my job and educational commitments, I didn't have the opportunity to spare.

Lack of resources was the major cause why individuals were not able to take part in the traditional rite of passage.

Recently, municipal authorities have been taking steps to enhance the rate of participation.

City and Rural Districts

As cities become increasingly populated, there is a growing trend of young adults participating in rites of passage in urban settings.

After the completion of high school, numerous adolescents move to cities for either college or work and travelling back only for the coming-of-age ceremony on 15th January was hard for them.

An increasing number of local governments in rural districts conducted the coming-of-age ceremony during the summer Obon season.

Since the year 2000, when the Coming of Age Day was changed to the second Monday of the month, a lot of towns have celebrated the event which takes place the day before.

Decline in morale

In the late 1990s, as public works spending rose, there were more locations in metropolitan regions that were suitable for hosting ceremonies to mark the transition to adulthood.

Nevertheless, from the early 1990s onwards, the amount of adolescents maturing went down gradually because of the falling birth rate.

It was very noticeable how many seats were left vacant at ceremony venues in cities.

The rise in the amount of vacant seats enabled individuals who usually wouldn't have had the opportunity to get inside the building to gain access.

It was evident that certain issues were occurring outside of the venue which had not been an issue prior.

In some densely populated urban areas, the level of chaos has become so extreme that the police have detained people for hampering the course of official tasks.

The rite of passage that is meant to signify the transition to adulthood has become an illustration of the erosion of ethical values in the youth.