On the second Monday of January a special ceremony/festival takes place in Japan. Coming of Age Day (成人の日) celebrates everyone who turned 20 over the past year and who have now officially become adults. Ceremonies take place all over the country and everyone enjoys this celebration together.
The importance of this day is connected to the fact that you need to be at least twenty in Japan to smoke, drink and vote. So on this day you truly become a responsible adult.
Although this special day has its roots going back hundreds of years it officially became a holiday in 1948, originally on the 15th of January each year, but in 2000 was changed to the second Monday. One of the lovely aspects of this day is that all of the girls wear beautiful kimonos while the boys wear dashing suits or traditional hakama.
Many girls book appointments a year in advance to get their hair styled and have their kimono dressed with many businesses staying open all night. It is quite common to see flowers interwoven with their hair.
Usually the day begins in the morning or early afternoon with a ceremony at the local governmental office where local officials give speeches and small gifts are handed out to the attendees. After this is photo time! Everyone wants photos with their friends, and for foreigners it is possible to get great photos of Japanese people in gorgeous Japanese clothing.
After the ceremony these young people can be seen everywhere as they celebrate the day. Many in Tokyo go to Disneyland to see a special show and get their photo taken with a Disney character. However, most will end the day in an izakaya or restaurant to eat and drink until late.
Unfortunately, due to Japan’s problem with depopulation there have been fewer and fewer attendees each year. Compared to the 1970s when nearly three million young people would celebrate this day, in more recent times the total number of participants has been just over a million.
For 2015 a special occasion was marked in Kobe as the first children who were born in the year of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake became adults. Over nine thousand young adults were silent as they watched footage of the destruction which occurred twenty years ago. Over six thousand people died that day.