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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Coming Of Age Day

Coming of Age Day In Japan will he held on January 13, 2014. Known as Seijin no Hi (成人の日), this Japanese holiday is held on the second Monday of January and is a done to honor, celebrate, congratulate and encourage all the young people who reached the age of 20 over the past year.

It is done to help the young men and women realize they have become adults.

In Canada (specifically Ontario), we can get our driver's license at 16, are considered adults at 18, can join the army and start killing people at 18 and can get our first legal taste of alcohol when we are 19.

I got a head start on all of those things... except for the driving thing, which I didn't actually get until I was 20 for no reason I can recall. I killed my first person at the age of 12, however, so I think that makes up for that.

Now... I'm kidding about the killing thing... I didn't kill anyone until I was in my 30s... but let me tell you, when I became an adult, I suddenly stopped acting like one and began doing a lot of drinking and other things I should be embarrassed about but wasn't and still aren't.

It's because of this lapse in commonsense that I think the whole Shinto ceremony thing that Japan does is probably a good thing - though I can fully attest that most of the Japanese adults I met sure didn't act like the adults Japanese stereotypes picture them as!

But... in theory... the Coming Of Age Day is a nice try.
I think this photo of the shrine in the distance was taken at a later date.
Now... who gets to participate? Twenty-year-olds... those who turned 20 in 2013, right? Or... since the ceremony is on the 13th or 14 or 15th or 16th or whatever of January, do people who turned 20 in the days of 2014 BEFORE the ceremony get to participate?

Also.. what about those infamous leap-year birthday babies born on February 29? I would assume some latitude is given here for them to participate.

It turns out that I am not the only one to be confused by the rules governing Coming of Age Day, as until very recently one did have to celebrate their 20th birthday AFTER the previous Coming of Age Day, but BEFORE or ON the current Coming of Age Day.

But that changed. And I can't figure out if it's a fiscal calendar thing or a school year calendar thing, but nowadays the attendees of Coming of Age Day are all those whose birthday falls between April 2 of the previous year (in this case 2013), and up to and including April 1 of the current year (2014).
Now that's more like it! The Tori entrance to the shrine on a cold, crisp and sunny January day. Opposite view of the photo above. No blossoms!
This means that not all of the people celebrating are actually 20. Some are still 19... and... should they live long enough to celebrate a birthday on or before April 1, 2014... then they can claim to be an adult. It's just that they aren't yet.

But... does age really really matter? It depends on many things... as I mentioned... old enough to drive, old enough to kill (and vote)... but not old enough to drink in Ontario - my home province in Canada.

Well, this whole coming of age thing in Japan has been celebrated in various forms since - well, there's a written record from as far back as 714AD. At that time it mentions a young prince wearing some new robes and having a new hairstyle to celebrate his change of status to "adult". After that, followers of the Shinto religion would have JUST the boys who were anywhere between 11-17 go to the shrine of their patron deity... their family kami (spirit)... and as part of the ceremony, the boys/men would get new adult robes and a haircut. This whole ceremony was called genpuku.
Gen () means "head" and fuku/puku () means "wearing".

Officially, the holiday was actually only formally established in 1948, and was held every year on January 15... until the year 2000 when it was changed to its current set-up.

Back in 1993 - I'm guessing because that was when I became more adventurous about investigating my home town of Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken by myself - I inadvertently paid a visit to a shrine in the city... a huge one... and wondered what the hell was going on.

So many beautifully dressed young men and women in classical-style Japanese clothing of robes and kimono... that I had to stop and snap a few photos... which you see scattered about this blog entry. I had no idea at the time what it was, but after I showed my photos to a Japanese friend, she told me what it was I was spying on.
This blessed car is probably long dead.
Or maybe that's not what it was at all... why the hell would I go out sight-seeing in January? It would have been cold! And... why are there blossoms on the trees? Fug. Whatever. The photos are whatever the hell the photos are... a wonderful shrine in Ohtawara... young people dressed to the nines... and a shinto priest blessing a car. They accept donations for these functions.

Actually... it is also quite possible that the priest and the car stuff IS from the right date... but the other shots were from another time... can you believe that I thought I would remember everything about Japan.

I forgot that when you reach a certain point in adulthood, you don't have perfect recall anymore. Crapola!

Anyhow... Coming of Age Day is coming up - so for any foreigners in Japan... go and visit your local shrine and see what the hubbub is about.

At last! I post something ahead of time!

Andrew Joseph
PS: I forgot that I never had perfect recall.
PPS: All photos are by me, Andrew Joseph, and are free for any and all to use.It's a shame I only had a disposable camera I bought at the shrine that day.
PPPS: The priest blessing the car thing... I could have used that... as the cold weather here in Toronto - -41C with the wind chill caused my car door look to break. No freeze... break. More money. More blessed money. I'd cry but the cold would freeze the tears into ice cubes.


  1. Looks like all photos have blossoms, including the third photo.

    1. I thought so, too, David... but I thought that those "white flowers" in the car photos were the fake paper ones... ah me... perhaps you are right... still... the info in the article is correct even if my memory is wonky.