What is Coming of Age Day in Japan?

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Coming of Age Day is held every year and is recognised as a national holiday in Japan, taking place on the second Monday of January. It is a customary rite of passage for all those who have reached the age of majority (20 years old) and is a national celebration of their first steps into adult life.

Reaching adulthood in Japan means you can drink, drive, smoke and gamble so there is plenty of reasons to celebrate the occasion! Ceremonies are held all over the country in local government city halls and offices and celebrations extend into the night with parties between family and friends. Although the legal age to vote was lowered to 18 in 2015, the increased rights of adulthood also comes with greater responsibility, making Coming of Age Day such a momentous occasion.

History of the Coming of Age Ceremony

Coming of Age ceremonies have been celebrated for hundreds of years with the first recorded ceremony taking place as far back as 714 AD.

The official age of adulthood in Japan has changed over the years and was historically dependent on gender. During the Edo period, boys were officially adults at the age of 15 and marked the occasion with a haircut and a new suit or robe. The boys followed in the footsteps of the first recorded ceremony where the young prince donned a new robe and changed his hairstyle in preparation for his new adult life.

Girls were considered adults at just 13 and to acknowledge their passage into maturity, they dyed their teeth black. This was recognised as a sign of beauty and an indication to the opposite sex that they are ready for marriage – a scary prospect for a 13 year old!

The age of adulthood for both genders was officiated in 1876 at the age of 20 and it was recognised as a national holiday in 1948.

Celebrating Coming of Age Day in Japan

The official Coming of Age ceremonies are usually held in the morning and are more of a formal occasion with government officials giving speeches and handing out gifts to the newly recognised adults.

Japanese Kimonos are often worn by women and some men as a popular ceremonial dress. Many women opt for the furisode which is a long sleeved kimono and can spend hours perfecting their hair and makeup in the lead up to the festivities. Nowadays, men usually favour a Western style full suit however some men still opt for the more traditional kimono.

Although the overall attendance has declined over the years, it is still a huge institution in Japan and many news crews, journalists and photographers still attend every year to document the larger gatherings.

Coming of Age Day is a huge part of Japanese culture and has been around for hundreds of years. Have you ever visited Japan during their celebrations or do you know a twenty year old who could celebrate like the Japanese right here in the UK? We love any excuse for a party here at the Japanese Shop, and we have everything you need to celebrate like the Japanese do.