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Coming of Age Day: A Japanese Celebration of Adulthood

Thomas Joel - Monday, January 08, 2018

In the United States and most other countries around the world, young men and women are legally recognized as adults at the age of 18. However, in a handful of nations this milestone is not acknowledged until later in life. One of those countries is Japan, where the age of majority is attained on a person’s 20th birthday.

This special milestone is known as the Coming of Age Day and is widely celebrated in Japan each year on the second Monday of January. While the essence of Coming of Age festivities stretches far into Japan’s past, dating back to the early 8th century, it was not formally recognized as a national holiday until just 1948 just after the war ended.

On this day each municipality holds ceremonies facilitated by local government officials that consist of speeches and gifts to congratulate and encourage those who have hit this significant milestone in life. All young adults who turned or will turn 20 between April 2 of the previous year and April 1 of the current one and who maintain residency in the area are invited to attend.
 
To celebrate the occasion it has historically been custom for the young Japanese participants to wear traditional garments signifying that the person is single and available for marriage. Men customarily wear dark ankle-length kimonos tied about the waist while women sport kimonos worn with extra-long sleeves. However, in recent years there has been a shift away from this ritual Japanese garb toward more modern clothes, with most males opting to wear Western style suits.
 
Despite its long history, the Coming of Age Day ceremonies have seen a dramatic decline in participants. According to Japan Visitor, there has been “almost a 70% drop [in Coming of Age Day participation] over the last two decades.” This is due to several factors, primarily owing to a shrinking youth population and 20-year-olds choosing to skip out on what they view as an antiquated celebration.
 
Despite all this and whether you’re 20 years old or not, we wish you all a happy and prosperous Coming of Age Day!

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