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‘Coming-of-Age Day’ or Seijin no Hi (成人の日)- The second Monday of January is considered to be one of the most important national holidays in Japan. On this day, those who have turned the age of 20 that year attend a variety of special ceremonies organised in their hometown. During the night, school reunions are held especially for those taking part in the ceremony. By becoming 20, you are considered to have entered adulthood as a more independent self with new responsibilities; it is the legal age for drinking alcohol and smoking as well as gaining the right to vote and marry without parental permission. This national holiday has been a significant tradition for Japanese people for several generations and this article will tell you why this day is such a special experience for Japanese people.
For me, the celebration started a few months before the actual Coming-of-Age day. One morning, my mother handed me her furisode (振袖- a special type of kimono) that her father had bought specially for her Coming-of-Age ceremony and asked me to wear it for my special day. Nowadays, many people do not consider buying their own set of furisode, as it is too expensive to wear just for one day, instead they often resort to renting the formal clothing, hence my initial surprise to find out that my mother had kept her furisode in its perfect shape for all those years. After I received this wonderful gift, I remember impatiently waiting for the actual day.
On the day of the celebration, I was sitting in my favourite hair salon at 6am, getting my hair styled professionally to suit the floral pattern on my furisode. It is common for many hair salons to open as early as 4am to cater for the huge numbers of girls who need appointments to look their best for the occasion. Immersed in the vast number of layers and the use of special belts, without the help from my mother it was almost impossible to put on a furisode. I still remember the proud expression on my parents’ and grandparents’ faces when I was finally ready to head out to my local town hall for the first part of the festivities.
The ceremony itself consisted of a lot of celebratory speeches given by the mayor and the school governors as well as catching up and taking lots of pictures with friends – it was a wonderful experience to see my old school friends for the first time in over 7 years. After the ceremony, a special school reunion was organised for us at a local restaurant where we could enjoy a variety of food and alcohol (legally for the first time!). This then signalled the end to our long day of unforgettable festivities.
If you look back a few decades ago, you would find the majority of the newly 20 year-old girls all perfectly dressed in a traditional furisode with appropriate Japanese printings, such as cranes and peonies, that emphasise the wearer’s elegance and delicacy. However, nowadays, most girls prefer more modern patterns of roses and vivid colours for their furisode, as well as having hairstyles as extravagant as their clothing – I was particularly surprised to see a girl in my ceremony wearing a rainbow-coloured furisode complete with 10 butterflies in her massively back-combed hair. Despite the gradual change in tradition; the Coming-of-Age day will always be a day that you will remember for the rest of your life. I know I will never forget mine.
The UoB Linguist Magazine
Guild of Students,
University of Birmingham