Seijin-no-hi is the Coming of Age Day festival in Japan. It has been a national holiday since 1948 and is presently celebrated on the second Monday of January. This festival is a rite of passage held in honour of all the people who have turned 20 during that year. Upon turning 20, young people in Japan are officially recognized (legally and socially) as adults. Appropriately, 20 is also the minimum legal age for drinking, voting, and smoking.

Each city holds its own ceremony and sends personal invitations to all appropriate residents (including foreigners, as I was please to discover while studying abroad in Nagoya). Most women attend the ceremony wearing a formal long-sleeved furisode kimono in the beautiful colours of the season. (After a woman is married, she is restricted to more subdued colours and styles..known as tomisode.)

Wearing a kimono on this day is a major under-taking. Because the kimono is such a complex garment, many young women have to go to a professional, called a kimono kitsuke who dresses them. Most of the kimonos or rented (or borrowed, in my case), because a new kimono can cost the equivelant of $4,000-$ 10,000. The average rental cost is about $1000. Some women also pay to have their hair and make-up done especially for this day (with reservations 6 months in advance).

Young men, for the most part, wear business suits, although occasionally there will be one wearing a traditional dark- coloured kimono for men (much less expensive for them, either way).

The ceremony itself is called seijin-shiki (adult ceremony). Government officials give speeches to solemnly reminding the new adults of their duties that must be taken seriously. Also, there are often performers who sing or play musical instruments (in Nagoya, 1998, it was seemingly inappropriate Bach's Tocatta Fugue in D minor on an impressive if culturally unexpected pipe organ).

In recent years, the young adults have taken to gather in groups to celebrate afterwards at night clubs and with copious amounts of alcohol.

However, the significance of this day goes far beyond the expensive clothes, elaborate ceremonies, and parties. TheJapanese culture is one that takes the time to officially recognize the importance of the new generation and to pass along the wisdom to help them uphold their societal responsibilities.

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