Seijin-no-hi is the Coming of Age Day festival in
Japan. It has been a national holiday since 1948 and is presently
celebrated on the second Monday of January. This festival is a
rite of passage held in honour of all the people who have
turned 20 during that year. Upon turning 20, young people in
Japan are officially recognized (legally and socially) as
adults. Appropriately, 20 is also the minimum legal age for
drinking, voting, and smoking.
Each city holds its own ceremony and sends personal
invitations to all appropriate residents (including foreigners,
as I was please to discover while studying abroad in Nagoya).
Most women attend the ceremony wearing a formal long-sleeved
furisode kimono in the beautiful colours of the
season. (After a woman is married, she is restricted to more
subdued colours and styles..known as tomisode.)
Wearing a kimono on this day is a major under-taking. Because
the kimono is such a complex garment, many young women have to
go to a professional, called a kimono kitsuke who
dresses them. Most of the kimonos or rented (or borrowed, in my
case), because a new kimono can cost the equivelant of $4,000-$
10,000. The average rental cost is about $1000. Some women also
pay to have their hair and make-up done especially for this day
(with reservations 6 months in advance).
Young men, for the most part, wear business suits, although
occasionally there will be one wearing a traditional dark-
coloured kimono for men (much less expensive for them,
The ceremony itself is called seijin-shiki (adult
ceremony). Government officials give speeches to solemnly
reminding the new adults of their duties that must be taken
seriously. Also, there are often performers who sing or play
musical instruments (in Nagoya, 1998, it was seemingly
inappropriate Bach's Tocatta Fugue in D minor on an impressive
if culturally unexpected pipe organ).
In recent years, the young adults have taken to gather in
groups to celebrate afterwards at night clubs and with copious amounts of alcohol.
However, the significance of this day goes far beyond the
expensive clothes, elaborate ceremonies, and parties. TheJapanese culture is one that takes the time to officially
recognize the importance of the new generation and to pass along
the wisdom to help them uphold their societal