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Japanese Holidays: What is “Seijin no Hi” (Coming of Age Day)?

Celebrating the big 2-0!

By Weekender Editor

After the New Year’s celebrations comes another national holiday in Japan: “Seijin no Hi” or Coming of Age Day. Held every second Monday in January, this day celebrates those who have turned 20 in the previous year (or will soon be turning 20). One of the most beautifully observed and anticipated holidays in the year, Seijin no Hi is all about celebrating youth and encouraging Japan’s new adults to enter the world of maturity with responsibility, courage and high hopes.

What does Seijin no Hi celebrate?

The big 20. But why 20? Simply put, that is what’s considered to be the age of maturity in Japan. (That is, until April 2022, when the official age of maturity will be lowered from 20 to 18.) It’s the year the world of vices opens up: one can finally legally drink, smoke, gamble and visit pachinko parlors. But more importantly, it is an adolescent’s official transition into adulthood, and as such, they are expected to be more independent going forward. In essence, Seijin no Hi is a graduation ceremony from childhood and an entering ceremony to adulthood, held simultaneously.

This year, Japan celebrates 1,240,000 new adults.

The origins of Seijin no Hi

It is said that the tradition dates back to 714, when a young prince celebrated his move into adulthood with new clothes and a new hairstyle. Historically, coming-of-age days have been held much, much earlier, with major hairstyle cropping for boys and teeth blackening, once considered a mark of beauty in Japanese society, for girls.

In 1946, a city in Saitama organized a special event to give hope to younger generations after World War II. When other municipalities began doing the same, the holiday became official in 1948 as Sejin no Hi, established to commemorate young adulthood.

Today, various ceremonies are held at municipalities’ ward offices, city halls and even some shrines. In Tokyo, the ceremonies at the Shinjuku and Shibuya Ward offices are some of the biggest in the country and enjoy a lot of media coverage.

On the day, young women typically get dressed up in traditional furisode, a type of kimono meant for unmarried young women. Young men, on the other hand, often stick to formal western attire but some will opt for a traditional men’s kimono.

Coming of Age Day in the age of Covid-19

With the concerning rise in Covid-19 cases in the Tokyo metropolitan area and the recent announcement of the capital’s second state of emergency, many events surrounding Coming of Age celebrations have been canceled. According to a recent post in the Japan Times, some shops have been offering partial or complete refunds for photoshops and kimono rentals. However, there is still fear that a drastic drop in sales could bring many smaller rental shops and studios to close their doors for good. Even more heartbreaking are the stories of all young adults (and their parents) who were anticipating this day for years and are now forced to skip the celebrations.

In some areas of Japan, municipalities got extra creative by offering various alternatives to the traditional city hall celebration. In Yaezu, Shizuoka Prefecture, a drive-through ceremony took place on January 10 instead, with young adults staying in their cars with open windows to prevent the spread of the virus.

Let’s hope that next year will be different! Congratulations to all new adults!

This article was originally written by Vivian Morelli and published on January 5, 2014. It was last updated by the TW staff on January 8, 2021.