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A Detailed Guide to Japan's Coming of Age Day

Coming-of-age ceremony image

Coming of Age Day is an important and beloved tradition in Japan that celebrates individuals reaching the legal age of adulthood.

It is a time of reflection, joy, and celebration of the transition from childhood to adulthood.

During the celebration, individuals wear formal clothing – typically kimonos for women and suits for men – and visit their local government offices.

In this article, we’ll explore the history, traditions, and celebrations of Coming of Age Day in Japan!

What is Japanese Coming of Age Day?

Coming of Age Day is a national holiday in Japan.

It is observed on the second Monday of January under the "Happy Monday" system.

The "Happy Monday" system refers to a legal revision that moved some of the national holidays from fixed days to the Monday of a specific week.

Until 1999, it was January 15.

January 15 was chosen as the date because this day is Small New Year's Day, and the old coming-of-age ceremony used to be held on Small New Year's Day.

The old coming-of-age ceremony is a ceremony to mark the coming of age of boys since the Nara period (710-794).

With the introduction of the Happy Monday system, the day was changed to the second Monday of January (from January 8 to 14) starting in 2000.

At the same time, more and more schools are extending winter vacations.

In rural areas, many municipalities hold their coming-of-age ceremonies on the Sunday before Coming-of-Age Day to make it easier for newcomers returning to their hometowns to participate.

In cold, snowy regions such as the Tohoku region, many municipalities still hold the ceremony during the Obon season in the summer.

What is a Coming-of-Age Ceremony?

A coming-of-Age Ceremony is an event held by local governments in Japan to celebrate those who will become adults by the end of the fiscal year, at the age at which they are required to receive compulsory education.

It is held on the second Monday of January.

Lectures are given and commemorative gifts are presented.

Since the age of adulthood was lowered from 20 to 18 on April 1, 2022,

  • Municipalities that continue to age 20
  • Municipalities that lower the age to 18

The age for coming-of-age ceremonies can be divided into the above categories.

The origin of the Coming-of-Age Ceremony is said to be the "Youth Festival" held in Saitama Prefecture in 1946, shortly after the defeat in World War II.

The purpose of the festival was to encourage the youth of Japan, who was in a lethargic state due to the defeat of the war, by giving them hope and encouragement.

When they planned the festival, they included a "coming-of-age ceremony" in the program.

This coming-of-age ceremony spread throughout the country and became the "coming-of-age ceremony" of today.

Influenced by this youth festival, the Japanese government promulgated and enforced the following national holiday law two years later in 1948.

Celebrate young people who realize that they have become adults and try to survive on their own.

The following year, January 15, 1949, was designated Coming of Age Day.

Date and Place of the Ceremony

Coming-of-age ceremonies are often held on Coming-of-Age Day or the day before (always a Sunday).

However, this is not always the case in some areas.

Ceremonies are held on days other than Coming of Age Day, such as

There are many cities, towns, and villages that hold their ceremonies on these holidays.

In most cases, a multipurpose hall or large gymnasium that can accommodate a large number of participants is used.

As a characteristic venue, some local governments hold events at local theme parks.

In the case of the coming-of-age ceremony at the Tokyo Disney Resort in Urayasu City, Chiba Prefecture, the event was covered by the news media and criticized.

Some municipalities require advance registration to participate in the coming-of-age ceremony.

Also, there are places that have a membership fee system.

Coming-of-Age Ceremony Business

Coming-of-Age Ceremony is the biggest earning opportunity for the kimono industry, as many new adults wear high unit-price kimonos (especially furisode for women).

As the number of kimono shops continues to decline as more Japanese people move away from kimonos, it is a rare opportunity to appeal to young people about the goodness of kimonos.

In recent years, men have been wearing kimonos such as crested hakama.

Kimonos are expensive, so many people rent them or get hand-me-downs from their mothers.

In addition to Japanese clothes, the coming-of-age ceremony is also a time to earn money for the following beauty industry.

  • Dressing
  • Makeup
  • Beauty salon

The attire of participants in the "Youth Festival," from which the Coming-of-Age Ceremony is derived, is as follows:

  • Men: national dress
  • Women: monpe

However, the kimono industry's focus on the coming-of-age ceremony in the late 1950s and early 1960s was the catalyst for the change to kimono.

The kimono industry at that time was devastated because luxury goods were banned during World War II.

So, as a recovery measure after the war,

Kimono Woman's Image

Let's get them to wear furisode, the formal attire for unmarried women, to their coming-of-age ceremonies!

The department stores of the time took the lead in this effort.

Coming of Age Issues

There are four problems with the Coming of Age Ceremony.

  1. The purpose is outdated
  2. Attendance is declining
  3. Urban and county areas
  4. Decline in morale

Outdated purpose

According to the survey,

An event like a reunion where friends meet again

About 20~30% of young people in their twenties or younger answered that a coming-of-age ceremony is like a reunion of friends.

An event where new adults gather together in suits and festive clothes

About 20% of women in their twenties and younger think that this is the purpose of the coming-of-age ceremony.

This indicates that there is a gap between the original purpose of the coming-of-age ceremony and young people's awareness of it.

The decline in Attendance Rates

In the 1970s, the number of rōnin increased due to the intensification of the examination wars.

In Japan, a rōnin is a student who has graduated from middle school or high school but has failed to enter a school at the next level and consequently is studying outside of the school system for entrance in a future year.

In addition, many newcomers did not attend the ceremony because the date and time coincided with the National Center Test for University Admissions.

Surveys showed that

I didn't have time because of work, study, etc.

This was the most common reason for not attending the coming-of-age ceremony.

Recently, local governments have been making efforts to improve the attendance rate.

Urban and County Areas

With the advance of urbanization, more young people are attending coming-of-age ceremonies in urban areas.

Many young people go to urban areas for college or employment after high school graduation, and it was difficult for them to return home only for the coming-of-age ceremony on January 15.

So, more and more local governments in the county areas (administrative divisions that include towns and villages) held the coming-of-age ceremony during the summer Obon period.

Since around 2000, when the Coming of Age Day was moved to the second Monday of the month, many localities have held the ceremony the day before.

Decline in Morale

By the late 1990s, when public works budgets continued to increase, the number of facilities in urban areas that could adequately host coming-of-age ceremonies expanded.

However, after the early 1990s, the number of young people coming of age gradually decreased due to the declining birth rate.

In urban areas, the number of empty seats at ceremony sites became conspicuous.

This increase in the number of empty seats allowed people who would not normally have entered the venue to enter.

The following things became apparent, which until then had not been a problem because they were taking place outside of the venue.

  • Private conversation is too loud
  • Use of cell phones inside the venue
  • Disrupting the ceremony by storming around

Some cities, towns, and villages have developed into such a commotion that arrests have been made, mainly for obstruction of official business.

The coming-of-age ceremony, which is supposed to be an occasion to make a commitment to becoming a full-fledged adult, has in fact become an occasion to expose the decline in morals of young people.


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