What’s Seijin No Hi?
The Seijin No Hi (成人の日) or Coming of Age Day is held on every second Monday of the year. On this day, which is a national holiday, people who turned 20 years old between the previous year and March 31st are celebrated and encouraged on their transition to adulthood. The young adults attend a ceremony (also known as Seijinshiki) where local authorities or government officials give speeches. After the ceremony, people often go to a shrine or get together to celebrate with their friends (this party is called dousoukai).
Although this ceremony dates back to the 7th Century, the national holiday is not that old, in fact it was established in 1948 and up until the year 2000 it used to be held on the 15th of January. However, trying to increase the number of 3 day weekends, the government moved several national holidays to monday, thus creating the “Happy Monday” System. Also moved to a monday are the Day of the Sea (3rd Monday of July), Respect for the Aged Day (3rd Monday of September) and Health & Sports Day (2nd Monday of October).
So why do we celebrate the age 20 you may ask. In Japan the majority is 20, meaning that all these young adults are now allowed to smoke, drink alcohol and marry without the permission of their parents. It also means that offenders aren’t considered minors anymore, thus their identity can be revealed by the police. The voting age though has been lowered to 18 in 2015 in order to get more people to vote.
As with many things in Japan, everything has its codes and traditions, and for the Seijin no Hi the tradition is to wear a kimono to attend the ceremony (Seijinshiki). Not just any type of kimono though. Women reaching adulthood wear Furisode, a type of kimono with very long sleeves. A kofurisode will have 85cm sleeves whilst the longest one, the ofurisode will be around 114cm long.
The colors are often bright and designed to draw attention to the lady wearing it. By wearing a furisode, a woman signifies that she is single and an adult, so available for marriage. It is said that originally furisode were worn by middle and upper class children (boys and girls), with sleeves which were much shorter. In the 17th century, boys were still allowed to wear furisode until they turned 18 or until they did their coming of age ceremony, while girls were allowed to wear it until their marriage. It was only until the 20th century that the furisode became restricted only to women and girls.
Due to the price being quite expensive, most people rent the kimono for their Seijin no Hi.
Men on the other side wear either modern dark suits or dark kimono with Hakama, a type of traditional Japanese trousers. The combination of kimono and hakama is called Hakamashita.
Seijin no Hi in 2017
With a population decreasing as years go by, it was a good surprise to see that this year’s number of young adults who turned 20 reached 1,23 million people, with an increase 20 000 people compared to last year. It’s not much but it’s a start.
Tokyo Disneyland, like every year, organized a Coming of Age Ceremony which gathered around 1491 people. The place that attracted the most people in the whole country though was in Yokohama at the Yokohama Arena, which more than 36 000 people. Pretty impressive! It’s a good thing that Charly from the channel 2min Japan went there to report!
Some Incidents Reported
As you may have seen in the video above, Charly came across some pretty excentric fellows at the ceremony. They are called Yankees, and are mostly gangs of young japanese people who have a thing for flashy clothes, crazy hairstyles, cars, motorcycles and bad manners.
During the Seijin no Hi, it is not rare to see groups of yankee act against the law: driving while drinking, sitting on top of their cars, playing loud music…This year, the biggest incidents occurred in Okinawa. Videos showing people driving a copy of a patrol car while waving flags or of a group of youngster making crazy circles in the middle of an intersection, have been circulating on social media.
However, most of the time the Seijin no Hi is held in a very serious way, and is a very important day for many Japanese people.
If you want to read more about manners in Japan, check out this article here about manners on the trains of Tokyo.