The second Monday of January is an important day for girls and boys who turned 20. This special day is called “Coming of Age”, or in Japanese, Seijin no hi (成人の日) and it marks the moment from which Japanese will be considered as adults.
Except for voting and driving, that are legal from the age of eighteen, in Japan the legal age is 20, so it means that you officially make your entrance into adulthood. Turning twenty means new responsibilities, such as becoming part of Japan social welfare system and of the judicial system, but it also means that you’re allowed to drink alcohol, smoke and gamble.
On the Coming of Age day, which is also national holiday in Japan, girls and boys who turned 20 from the April 2nd of the previous year and those who will turn 20 before April 1st of the same year are invited to ceremonies that will be held at local and prefectural offices.
According to what Nana-san and Ai-san- two young girls I’m working with – told me you can be invited both by the local office of your home town or by the office of the town you’re currently living, if you’ve moved. During the ceremony well-known people, such as government officials, give speeches, and once the ceremony is over, the fresh adults receive small gifts from their friends and family.
Nana-san told me that she received a Quo card, that’s to say a gift card that you can use in the conbinis, drugstores and book shops, and a pen.
Even if the ceremonies may start late in the morning, the day starts way earlier, especially for the girls. That’s because the preparation takes time. Beside fixing their make up, usually girls wear furisode, a kimono with long sleeves, and furry stoles to face the cold wintry air. Guys on the contrary wear suits or the traditional hakama.
Even if the ceremonies start from the morning, the actual party is from the evening, when the fresh adults go out with their friends to celebrate. Ai-san and Nana-san were both still nineteen on their Seijin day, however one of the two didn’t mind that much and still had her drink (I’m not saying who).
In Kyoto the most popular place to go drink with your friends is Kiyamachi. In my country (Italy) there’s not a special day on which we celebrate all those who become adults. In Italy the legal age is eighteen and on the day of our birthday we usually have a party with our own friends. So, curious to see how the celebrations were going, a friend of mine and I decided to go to Kiyamachi to have a look. I was really surprised to see almost everyone dressed in their Sunday best.
Have you ever been invited to a Seijin no hi celebration? If so, tell us about it. If not you can also share how it works in your country.