Most people associate January with New Year’s celebrations and the start of a brand new year. It’s an important time for many people, whether they are planning to change their lifestyles or simply excited to welcome something new. For people in Japan, the month is extra special, as it represents one of life’s most important milestones.
Seijin no hi (成人の日), or literally “Adult’s Day”, is something many young people look forward to. In Japan, the age of adulthood is 20, and those nearing that age are often overcome with excitement. Each year, new adults are congratulated amidst celebrations with friends and family, as parents look on proudly. Those eligible gather early in the morning, mingling with other locals as they await speeches and presents. Later in the day, many will go out for drinks with friends or relatives.
Numerous other countries also have special events or traditions that celebrate those who recently enter into adulthood. The first Japanese coming of age celebration allegedly occurred in 714 AD, when a prince dressed up in new robes and a fresh hairstyle to signify his adulthood. First officially established in 1948, Coming of Age Day was held on January 15th. In 2000, the date was changed to a Monday to allow for a three day weekend.
One of the trademarks of this holiday is the fashion, especially for women. Look around a Coming of Age Day celebration and you will notice most of the stars dressed in their finest kimono, with perfectly coiffed hair and accessories. The event is so important to some that they will go to special salons to ensure they look their best. Men will also dress up for the occasion. Some will be decked out in traditional attire, though suits have become increasingly common.
The holiday is an important one for individuals, but it is equally important for prefectures and local governments. Local and prefectural organizations organize many of the festivities, and officials will also give speeches. The organizations eagerly welcome these new adults, for they will become important members of the community and agents of change.
Of course, the holiday is not all about fun and games. Being an adult comes with serious responsibilities, which is something both the community and parents emphasize. No longer children, the speeches firmly underline their new status as mature members of society and the need to act accordingly. Indeed, the participants are joyous over their new freedoms, but also eager to prove themselves in their new roles.
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