What is Coming of Age Day?
Coming of Age Day, Seijin no hi, is a traditional Japanese holiday that falls on the second Monday of January and is a celebration of the country’s youth being welcomed into adulthood. In Japan, when you reach 20 years old you are officially considered to be an adult. At this point you may smoke, drink, and gamble legally. However in 2015 the voting age was dropped to 18 years of age.
While the actual holiday was only established after WWII in 1948 the celebration has been around for hundreds of years. The original ceremony, genpuku, was only meant for boys. Now both boys and girls are welcome and each municipality has their own Seijin-shiki ceremony.
What Do You Wear?
It is customary to wear traditional clothing, wafuku, to the ceremony. Young women typically wear elaborate kimonos. Unmarried women wear a long sleeve kimono called a furisode. Due to the high cost of kimonos it has become increasingly common to rent them as their price often sneaks up into the thousands.
Boys usually wear a traditional costume, reifuku, with a haori (loose jacket) over a kimono. However, it has become popular to wear western style formal attire as well.
Who Celebrates the Holiday
Anyone that turned 20 the previous year is welcome to attend the celebrations. The ceremony, especially in big cities, can get quite large and be a bit of a spectacle. Because of this you have to show proof that you live in the municipality in order to attend the ceremony. You must either be one of it's participants or a relative of someone "coming of age".
Since Coming of Age Day is a public holiday, celebrations are held all across the cities. Mayors and other public figures will often come out and welcome the new adults in addition to reminding them of their new responsibilities. At larger gatherings there is usually music and other live performances following the traditional ceremony. It is, also, common to have small class reunions following the ceremony with former middle and high school classmates.
Coming of Age Day is a government sanctioned holiday so it is not religious in any way. However, it is quite common for people to go to a Seijin- sai or Seijin festival at a Shinto shrine following the traditional ceremony. Here families wish for good luck and success in addition to taking pictures.