Jan 7, 2016

Coming of Age Day in Japan and Back Home .. Sort Of!

Great news!  This Monday is a national holiday in Japan.  Why?  Honestly, who cares?  We don’t have to go to work!  Nuff said!

Well some people care a lot about this Monday, it’s Coming of Age Day/Seijin no hi/成人の日.

In my scant research into Coming of Age Day in Japan, I came across this screaming headline:

“Thousands of Japanese women celebrate one of the happiest days of their lives as they dress up in dazzling outfits for country’s coming of age day” (Mail Online)

Such rousing, superlative laden headline artistry surely says it all!  But what do the men do? Are they not invited?  No, anyone in Japan who has turned or will turn twenty between April 2 of the previous year and April 1, is officially invited to celebrate their own coming of age (the second Monday in January). The history bit, I don’t want to go into, a) because I don’t know it, and b) because it’s on Wikipedia and a thousand other blogs and portals.

What I want to do instead is contrast it with Coming of Age Day in my own country.

Problem - there is no Coming of Age Day in my own country.  However, I’ve identified two possible candidates; 16th birthday and 18th birthday.  I’m going here with the 18th.


In Japan, Coming of Age Day celebrates a youth’s passage into adulthood.  From the age of 20 one can vote, smoke, and drink.

Back home, we’re ahead of the game.  Turning 18 means voting, and drinking.  The smoking started at 16!! Yay!  I mean, Boo!  


In Japan it means women dressing in furisode/振袖 (a kind of kimono), and men going ‘Western’ in a dapper looking suit.  They tend to kick things off by gathering together in large numbers (at a seijinshiki/成人式) to have photos taken and listen to speeches delivered, usually by local dignitaries (i.e. old men in suits).  Hmm, not sounding like the ‘happiest’ day of one’s life so far.  Things pick up though, as this is then followed by something more fun and adult free (the much older kind), and hopefully involving drink.

Back home, coming of age day (i.e turning 18) is usually celebrated by finding the earliest opportunity to go and get drunk, without the, until now, anxiety of wondering whether or not you are going to get served.


In Japan, the first port of call tends to be local city halls (for the speeches), after this, well, Disneyland is a popular one, as are other (accessible) theme parks, and of course places to have a drink; karaoke joints, izakaya, maybe a family restaurant.

Back home, well, my day started at school!!  Rock n roll, I know.  It then moved on to one of the high street pubs for some legal drinking (although the ‘Will I get served?’ anxiety was still very much in effect).  Then it gets a bit hazy.  I remember climbing a tree in a mate’s garden and then laying down for a sleep on his kitchen floor.

What’s this got to do with expat life in Japan?

Well, not a great deal on the surface of things.  That said, some shutter bugs delight at the chance to get some quintessential ‘Japanese’ photos.  You don’t have to go far to find opportunities, any urban area worth it’s salt is sure to be full to the brim with young guys and gals, dressed to the nines, celebrating their Coming of Age Day/ 成人の日 in Japan.

Images (cropped to fit)

Thomas Johnson Flickr License (bottom)

Gene Jackson Flickr License (top)



Traveler, surfer, and scribe. Based in Tokyo for six years.