20. This is a most important number in Japan. This is the age at which you transition from childhood to adulthood, the age at which you leave behind childish things and begin to take control of your own destiny. But how do you do that? Well, put on your fanciest outfit and join us for a trip through Seijin no Hi, or Coming of Age Day!
What makes you an adult? Well, if you turn 20 between April 2nd of the last year and April 2nd of the current year, then congratulations! You qualify! While the legal age of adulthood will be 18 in the year 2022, smoking and drinking will still be 20. I’m not sure how this will shake out with Seijin no Hi, so stay tuned for more details!
The Tradition of Coming of Age Day
Adulthood ceremonies can be traced in Japan back to 700 CE but what Japan knows today as Seijin no Hi started in 1946 in the aftermath of World War II. In Warabi City in Saitama prefecture, local government officials held a ceremony for their new young adults in the hopes that they could motivate them and give some glimmers of hope in the post-war ruins. Other cities picked up on the good idea and the national government heard about this, liked it, and instituted it as a nation-wide national holiday two years later, in 1948.
What do you do for coming of age day? Well, usually, you will go to a municipal building or some other such venue to receive wisdom from you elders about what it means to be an adult: speeches, inspirational talks, the works. You will also receive a nice little goody bag from the local government. After that, you can pretty much do as you please. Most people will visit shrines, spots where you can take great photos, or to restaurants or bars to eat and drink with friends or family. But are all Coming of Age Day ceremonies the same? Heavens, no! Each city and area puts their own spin on it, creating a unique tapestry of adulthood that drapes the nation every January.
Four Examples of Coming of Age Day
Example 1: Kawagoe
If you’re a newly-20 adult, you can head down to Westa Kawagoe, a large concert venue on the West side of the city, where you can have your adult ceremony and take pictures with your classmates, friends, and family in the spacious Westa Kawagoe courtyard. I managed to get a few birds-eye-view pictures here, since it’s not too far from where we live. It’s really something to see all the women with their elaborate hair decorations and kimonos (with notable fur neck wraps) and the men in their sharp suits milling about excitedly as their proud parents watch on.
Example 2: Kitakyushu
Kitakyushu is know for its wild fashion on display for its Coming of Age Day ceremony. Men and women dress up in vibrant colors, stylized kimono, and dyed hair to give a fresh pop of expression as they enter adulthood.
Example 3: Urayasu
With nostalgia gripping more and more adults, it only makes sense that Tokyo Disney Resort would be popular with young adults in Urayasu, Chiba, where Tokyo Disney Land calls itself home. Up to 2000 local adults come to participate in a special Disney ceremony, complete with all of their favorite characters.
Example 4: Yokohama
It can’t all be good, right? These youngins becoming adults, getting rowdy, buying alcohol, partying with their friends? While most of Japan has it pretty relaxed, Yokohama has gained a rather unsavory reputation for its Coming of Age Day. Young adults (mostly men, I can only assume) have been known to get rowdy, start fights, scale walls and fences, and conduct themselves generally in some of the most obnoxious drunken escapades. Yokohama convenience stores and super markets even take to banning the sale of alcohol during the Coming of Age Day ceremony, so as to discourage such undesirable behaviors. Not sure what’s stopping most of them from buying their booze the day before (much like how I imagine it went down during dry days in Mongolia), but who knows?
Of course, there are so many more that it’s hard to recap all of them, but that’s just a sampling of what is available. Which Seijin no Hi ceremony would you want to see first-hand? Let us know with a comment below!