Saturday, 19 January 2013

Coming of Age Day



From Wikimedia Commons: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Young_ladies_at_Harajuku.jpg
The second Monday of January is a public holiday in Japan to mark “coming of age day” (成人の日). Legal adulthood is twenty in Japan, and on this day all of the year’s twenty year olds gather for ceremonies at places like city halls and other celebrations. Young people who have moved away for university or work return to their home town, and it’s a bit like a giant reunion party. My old Japanese flat mate flew all the way from Tasmania to Kyushu, a long and expensive trip, for her coming of age ceremony. There is a particularly beautiful style of kimono worn by girls for the occasion. Boys have traditionally worn black suits, but obviously this is a major rip off in the dress-ups department so recently a lot more boys have begun wearing hakama. In my town this usually means a rather yankii (bogun) aesthetic dominates.
"Heeeeeey"
Others use the occasion to dress up in less… traditional… costumes




Including the fake tattoo, she must have spent hours getting ready
Yes, 20 is the legal drinking age.
When I was a uni student I remember waxing lyrical to my Japanese teacher about how wonderful it was to hold a nationwide celebration to mark the rite of passage into adulthood. She told me that some cities were cutting back on celebrations because of young people disrupting the events: knocking over tables, throwing garbage at the speakers and so on. I asked her what they were protesting about (the logical question for someone who grew up in an activist family) and she rather bemusedly replied “nothing… they just want to destroy.” At the time I assumed she was just missing the political message, but having since spent a lot more time with the “indolent youth” I’ve had to concede that her assessment was probably accurate. That unfortunate trend aside, I still get the warm and fuzzies every year on 成人の日. Although life stages can’t be measured in arbitrary numbers, I still think that acknowledging and celebrating arbitrary numbers is an important social task for communities that Australia does not do well. We don’t have a strong tradition of christenings, bar mitzvahs or any major milestones that don’t involve alcohol. I love the idea of each city throwing a party to welcome a new class of adults into the community and telling them how valued they are.
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2 comments:

  1. I was cringing as I was watching coverage of the local ceremony here... so many 20 year olds who seem to be still caught in the 16 year old mentality...

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    1. But I maintain that in theory, it is great! ;)

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