Shinto: Welcome adulthood on Seijin no Hi

Photo in public domainMONDAY, JANUARY 9: In a centuries-old tradition, 19- and 20-year-olds in Japan today dress in formal clothing, visit government offices and attend parties: it’s Seijin no Hi, a Shinto tradition that signals coming of age. In most of Japan, turning 20 means more privileges and responsibilities, ranging from the right to vote and drink alcohol to observance of adult laws. What was once an annual Jan. 15 ceremony now falls on the second Monday of January, since Japan introduced the Happy Monday System slightly more than one decade ago. (Wikipedia has details.)

It’s difficult to determine how Seijin no Hi began—some claim a young prince wore new robes to mark his passage into adulthood, while others insist that the coming of age ceremonies common among nobility morphed into a country-wide festival. Either way, today’s Seijin no Hi calls young adults to attend speeches at local city offices, receive small gifts from government officials and to accept their new place in society.

Since most females don a traditional furisode, or kimono with draping sleeves, to ceremonies, it’s common for young women to rent or borrow this expensive piece of clothing and then have it put on at a salon. Young men wear either a dark kimono or formal Western clothing.

Japanese newspapers have reported record lows for this year’s Seijin no Hi, as only 1.22 million—or .96 percent of Japan’s population—are taking part. (Check out an article from the Mainichi Daily News.) Even with a lively annual ceremony at Tokyo Disneyland, the festival’s popularity is in its fifth year of decline. For those who attended, officials encouraged the support of Japan’s future and urged the young adults to become involved in their country’s affairs. (Get a visual with photos from this year’s ceremonies.)

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