Do American college students have something to learn from Japan’s “Coming of Age Day”?
The second Monday in January is a Japanese public holiday termed 成人の日 “Seijin no Hi”. “Coming of Age Day” or “Adults Day” honors young people who have turned 20 years old since April 2 of last year, or will turn 20 by April 1 this year. Twenty-years old is termed the “age of majority” — meaning that the youth join all other adults in the larger society. Age 20 is also known as the “age of maturity”. The holiday is an important rite of passage for young people, and the tradition dates back centuries. The day is observed to congratulate and honor those young people who will accept the responsibilities of being an adult citizen. Certain legal rights are expanded at that age, but with that also comes with an expectation of increased responsibility.
The legal age for drinking alcohol, smoking, signing a lease, getting a loan, or getting married without parental consent is 20 years old in Japan. Japanese youth are expected to give up childish behavior, and commit to being a more serious adult. Ironically, as age 20 is also the official legal drinking age – thus many young people are welcomed into the adult majority by having their first (legal) drink of sake, and many become intoxicated in celebration. I think that most American college students would agree that the best way to demonstrate maturity and independence is to drink alcohol.
Seijin Shiki ( 成人式 ) refers to the social celebration and observation of the youths’ commitment. This usually involves a ceremony at a Shinto shrine and/or commemoration at legal offices in local prefectures. The entertainment districts in Tokyo are filled with young people and their families. Even Tokyo Disneyland also hosts events.
Notable is the formal wear the young people wear. A formal kimono is traditional for young women. These are termed a furisode (a long-sleeved kimono for unmarried women). These are all strikingly beautiful garments. Most young women rent them for the ceremonies, as these formal kimonos may cost thousands of dollars each.
Kimonos are one of the more unique and interesting aspects about Japanese culture:
Young men wear either Western-style formal attire or a traditional men’s kimono with hakama. Some celebrants instead wear traditional (historical) Japanese dress. A recent trend has begun, where participants wear “cosplay” type attire, as some may choose to dress as a famous Japanese character. They perhaps “party hard” on this day, because from then on they will have to be a responsible adult.
See more photos at http://netachou.blog.jp/archives/27809156.html
Unfortunately, there are fewer participants every year, which is a reflection of Japan’s declining birth rates and its inverted population pyramid. There is also an attitude of rejection of the concept by some youth. The idea of taking on more responsibility merely because of age is not something some agree with. Japan’s “age of maturity” is scheduled to be legally reduced from age 20 to 18 in the year 2022. Japan’s leaders hope that more young people will mature faster, get married sooner and start families at an earlier age.
Do you think that a commitment to maturity would take hold among American youth? Why or why not? Is twenty years old the right age for American kids to accept responsibility? How about thirty? Please comment.
It took the sap about 3:00 to flow today.