Coming of Age Day in Japan (Seijin no Hee)
“I want to find a prestigious job and climb the career ladder,” “I will continue the family business and make sure my father’s firm thrives,” “I want to get married well and live in a big house,” “I want to make a lot of money, travel the world and study different cultures…” These are just some of the answers of the young men and women participating in the coming-of-age ceremony to the question “What do you want to achieve as an adult?”
The age of majority in Japan is 20, and every year, on the second Monday of January, all Japan celebrates the Day of Majority (Seijin no Hee).
Boys and girls in Japan have the rights and duties of adults: from that age they can vote, are fully responsible before the law, and labor law applies to them. Besides, just from the age of 20 young people are officially allowed to smoke and drink alcohol.
On Majority Day all who are or will be 20 this year receive congratulations and wishes at a specially organized ceremony. Girls usually wear brightly colored kimono with long sleeves, the so-called furisode. Young men usually wear festive black suits, although in recent years many prefer the men’s kimono.
Usually the city arranges festive gatherings and parties for the “newly minted adults,” at which the heroes of the occasion are given memorable gifts. Each receives a personal invitation from the head of the local government or school. The authorities receive, oddly enough, a list of 20-year-old citizens from the tax office: every Japanese is obliged to pay a residence tax.
Tax evaders do not receive invitations and are not allowed to attend the ceremony. The festivities do not always stop in time when the festivities themselves feel free. Those who have had too much to drink are taken home by their companions, but they will not be tormented by their conscience the next morning, because such behavior (within the limits allowed by law and morality) on that day is not considered shameful.
Wishes written and pinned in the temple will surely come true (Photo: Radu Razvan, Shutterstock).
Officially, Major’s Day became a holiday in Japan in 1948. Before then, the initiation ceremony into adulthood was not held publicly, but in a local temple or quietly among the family.
Originally Major’s Day was celebrated on January 15, and naturally the holiday often fell in the middle of the week. Just one day on such an occasion is very little, and, in addition, young people have a tradition of returning to their hometown to their parents’ home on Majority Day and celebrating adulthood with family and childhood friends.
In 1998, a law was passed that moved the holiday from a fixed date in 2000 to the second Monday of January. Young people were given a legal three days to celebrate, and all Japanese began referring to the day as “Happy Monday.”
History of the holiday
Every second Monday in January, Japan sees a sharp increase in its adult population every year. This is because it is on this day that young Japanese who have already turned 20 years old become adults. The Seijin no Hee holiday is the Day of Majority and Entrance into Adulthood.
The coming-of-age ceremony has been observed in Japan for many centuries. It all began in 714. It was the year when the young heir to the throne had his hair and clothes changed, thus marking his entry into adulthood. Until the middle of the nineteenth century, boys and girls became adults at different times. A boy between the ages of 10 and 16 had his bangs cut off and the rest of his hair tied in a plait, which was arranged at the top of his head. It was the hairstyle (eboshi) of an adult male samurai. At the same time, the boy changed his childhood name to an adult one. Girls aged 12-16, with the help of their elders, first put on a kimono of adult cut and blackened their teeth.
For centuries, such events took place on a clearly established day – January 1. That day was considered the birthday of every Japanese. In the old days, no matter when a person was born, with the onset of the first day of January he was considered a year older.
At the end of the nineteenth century, becoming a slightly more open country and looking to the rest of the world, mainly the Western world, Japan established a new age of majority for boys and girls: 20 years. In order to keep the age of majority from overlapping with New Year’s celebrations, it was moved to mid-January. It happened, however, that the holiday fell on a Sunday. Therefore, the sensible Japanese authorities passed a law in 1998 to move Major’s Day from the approved date to the second Monday of January, which soon became known as the “happy” Monday.
Since that day, young people and girls in Japan officially acquire the rights of adults, and from that age they can take part in elections and are fully responsible before the law. Besides, young people are officially allowed to smoke and drink alcohol from the age of 20.
The girls wear colorful kimono with long sleeves, the so-called furisode, which costs up to one million yen, about 226 thousand rubles in our money, and some girls inherit this chic costume. The kimono can’t be put on by themselves so the girls have to spend hours in beauty salons, putting on their elegant and rich outfits and waiting patiently for the unthinkable hairstyle to be created on their heads. The kimono is adorned with an adult knotted obi belt and a snow-white fluffy boa. On their feet – the traditional flip-flops dzori. A small handbag is also obligatory. Young men are much simpler, they wear the usual black European suit.
The festivities on this day are organized by the city authorities, usually in the form of meetings and parties, where gifts are given to all those who are celebrating. The local head of administration or the educational institution sends personal invitations, but not to everyone, but only to those citizens who pay the residence tax, those who evade the tax do not receive invitations and are not allowed to attend the ceremony. For all the rest of the festivities is great fun and joy, on this day is not forbidden uncontrolled consumption of alcohol, smoking and other adult joys. The event was moved to Disneyland in one Japanese city, probably to ensure that on their way to adulthood they would have enough time to say goodbye to their childhood.
On this day, the streets of Japanese cities are colored in the brightest colors. Therefore, the January holiday is sometimes compared to the life of exotic butterflies – also because after the carefree time of adolescence young Japanese begin the busy life of an adult Japanese.