Seijin no Hi: Exploring Japan’s Coming-of-Age Day

Seijin no Hi: Exploring Japan’s Coming-of-Age Day

Seijin-no-Hi (成人の日) or Coming-of-Age Day is an important Japanese National Holiday, observed on the second Monday of January each year. The day serves as a rite of passage, celebrating and marking the moment when young individuals are officially recognised as adults in society. The transition into adulthood in Japan carries with it various rights and responsibilities, including the right to vote, drive cars, and drink alcohol.

Officially established as a public holiday in 1948, Coming of Age Day was initially celebrated on 15 January, until it was changed to the second Monday of January in 2000 under the Happy Monday system (ハッピーマンデー制度), where public holidays were adjacent to a weekend, so that people can enjoy a longer rest period and holiday.

 

Recent change to the age of adulthood

Seijin no Hi is celebrated when one turns 20Previously, 20 was the age of adulthood | Photo by photoAC

Previously, the age for adulthood in Japan was 20. This was the age at which young people could legally engage in adult activities such as voting, applying for credit cards, driving a car, applying for a 10-year passport, drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, and getting married without parental consent. 

 

20 to 18.
The age of adulthood was recently lowered from 20 to 18 | Photo by photoAC

From 1 April 2022, the age for adulthood was lowered to 18, and 18-year-olds are now able to vote, apply for credit cards, drive cars, and marry without parental consent. However, this change in age does not extend to activities like drinking, smoking, and gambling, for which the legal age remains fixed at 20. 

Since the law has only recently been changed, for practical reasons many young people still celebrate Coming of Age Day at 20 instead of 18, as 18-year-olds are still finishing high school and have a busy time preparing for university. 18-year-olds are also not allowed to drink alcohol, which is a big part of the celebratory aspect of Seijin-no-Hi

 

How is Coming of Age Day celebrated?

Furisode are special kimono traditionally worn by single adult womenFurisode are special kimono traditionally worn by single adult women. | Photo by photoAC

Coming of Age Day is a huge deal in Japan, and tremendous efforts are put into attire and styling. On this special day, young ladies usually wear a type of elaborate kimono (着物) known as furisode (振袖). Traditionally, furisode are worn by single adult women, and signifies that the woman is of legal age and available for marriage. Furisode cannot be worn until a woman reaches adulthood, so Coming of Age Day marks the first time that young ladies can wear furisode

 

Young women in colourful furisode
Young women in colourful furisode | Photo by photoAC

Furisode are considered a type of formalwear, bearing pretty patterns and dazzling designs, with long, draping sleeves that almost touch the ground. Furisode can be very expensive, and can cost up to tens of thousands of dollars. Thus, many young people opt to rent one for Coming of Age Day instead of purchasing one, but even rentals can range from hundreds of dollars to a few thousand dollars.

 

Seijin-no-Hi outfit consists of furisode, a small bag, tabi socks, and zori sandals
A small bag, tabi socks, and traditional sandals complete the Seijin-no-Hi outfit | Photo by ぱくたそ

In addition to the furisode, the complete Seijin-no-Hi outfit for women often includes a beautiful up-do hairstyle with colourful floral hair accessories, a small bag made from kimono fabric for storing personal items, white tabi socks, and traditional sandals (zōri 草履). Specially for this occasion, many young women will engage professional hairstylists, make-up artists, and photographers to help them look their best and memorialise this special day. 

 

Western suits, colourful furisode and elegant up-dos
Spotted on Seijin-no-Hi: Western suits, colourful furisode and elegant up-dos | Photo by photoAC

As Seijin-no-Hi takes place during winter, many women will also wear a short, white shawl to keep warm in the cold weather. Men have simpler outfits, with options to wear either a black Western suit or a black/dark-coloured kimono with traditional hakama (袴) pants.

 

Official ceremonies (Seijin shiki)

On the way to a Seijin shiki ceremonyOn the way to a Seijin shiki ceremony | Photo by ぱくたそ

Now that the new adults are dressed to the nines, where do they go? Seijin shiki (成人式) or Coming-of-Age Ceremonies are held across Japan at the city halls, municipal or ward offices, and other official venues, usually in the late morning of Coming of Age Day, as the participants need time to dress up and get ready. 

Each year’s Seijin shiki participants are young people who have reached the age of adulthood between April 2 of the previous year and April 1 of the current year. They will receive a Seijin shiki invitation in the mail from their city of residence, which they will need to enter the ceremony venue.

 

Gathering at a Seijin shiki venue
Gathering at a Seijin shiki venue | Photo by photoAC

Other than the chance to dress in exquisite clothing, one of the main reasons that young people look forward to celebrating Seijin shiki is the rare opportunity to meet up with old classmates, as many would have split ways after graduating from high school.

The new adults gather at the venue, where government officials will give speeches to welcome the young people into adulthood, encourage and remind them of their new responsibilities.

 

Heavy snowfall on Coming of Age Day in Japan
Seijin shiki participants braving their way through the heavy snowfall to the ceremony | Photo by photoAC

While most Seijin shiki ceremonies are held on Seijin-no-Hi, due to potential inclement weather during winter, it is not uncommon for areas that receive heavy snowfall―like Niigata and parts of Northern Japan―to hold them on a later date, such as during Golden Week in May or the Obon holidays in August, when many young people go back to their hometowns.

 

Afternoon visit to a shrine or temple

Praying at a shrinePraying for blessings at a shrine | Photo by ぱくたそ

In the afternoon, many new adults will visit a shrine (jinja 神社) or temple (otera お寺) to pray for blessings for their new stage in life, as well as to take celebratory photos with their friends. 

 

Seijin-no-Hi participants head to shrines to pray for blessings
Seijin-no-Hi participants head to shrines to pray for blessings | Photo by photoAC

Recently, many shrines even offer special Seijin-no-Hi packages, which include clothing rental, photoshoots, and prayers. In Tokyo, you can expect Meiji Jingu Shrine near Harajuku Station to have massive crowds on Coming of Age Day.

 

Celebrating the day and night away

Drinking alcohol is part of the celebration of Coming of AgeKanpai! | Photo by photoAC

After transitioning into adulthood and participating in the formal aspects of the holiday, many young people will organise their own celebrations, going out with their friends and peers. Tokyo Disneyland has become a popular destination for group outings, and in the evenings, many young adults flock to enjoy drinks at izakaya (居酒屋 Japanese pubs) or other drinking establishments, as they are now legally able to drink alcohol.


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January’s box is themed “Ichigo, Ichie” where you can savour the serendipitous moment of the now with our strawberry-themed snacks hailing from all across Japan. At JAPAN RAIL CLUB, every occasion deserves of a sweet celebration, so sign up for a Snack Subscription Plan and unbox the joy of life, just like the exciting transition of Coming of Age Day. Here's a promo code "ICHIGO10" to kickstart your 2024 with goodies from Japan—apply this discount code during checkout and you're all set to celebrate!

Meet the author

Carissa Loh

Having visited all 47 prefectures of Japan, Carissa's next goal in life is to ride all of Japan's sightseeing trains and climb all its 100 Famous Mountains. Sounds like a dream? Check back in 50 years.

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