Seijin no hi (Japanese coming of age day) explained

Why do they hang out hi no maru Japanese flags on buildings on seijin no hi coming of age day? What’s nationalistic about reaching the age of 20?

Could it be another disguised emperor’s birthday, like Midori no Hi (Hirohito’s birthday)???

Why is coming of age in Japan 20 years old, not 18 like most countries?

It’s a lucky number (which is also why the 20th of the month has a special number that doesn’t follow the counting sequence), and has stayed that way since the first official age of majority was declared in the Meiji era (before that boys came of age at around 15). Knowing Japan, I’m guessing young people have never been in a hurry to grow up and get involved in politics, especially as the drinking and smoking limit of 20 has been widely ignored until recently. There are plans to make it 18 in the next few years, though.

Why do some Japanese women wear hakama formal trousers over their kimono for seijin no hi?

They are used for very formal occassions when you might want to wear something even more fancy than an expensive kimono, such as graduation and coming of age day. Think of it as being like taking the chance to dress up in a dinner jacket for a graduation ball.

Why do women dress up in traditional kimono but men dress up in suits?

For some reason, in most countries of the world women hang onto traditional clothes more than men. I’m sure there must be lots of academic research on this, but my own pet theories are that women are generally more conservative than men and the handers on of traditions in a family.

Why is coming of age day on January 15th?

Actually, since the government tried to move all public holidays to Mondays to make long weekends (known as the ハッピー マンデー 制度- Happy Monday system, apparently not inspired by the wild times of the Manchester band The Happy Mondays) it is now the second Monday of January. It was founded in 1948. I’m guessing that they wanted to put it as near to New Year as they could without actually interfering with the New Year holiday.

Why does everyone celebrate coming to their majority publically on the same day instead of privately as they have their birthdays?

Sensibly, people taking their place in society is something that is done in front of society. People coming of age on the same year puts them in the same group, just like people who start a company on the same day are each other’s allies for life.

Why is seijin no hi a national holiday when only people coming of age are affected?

Parents and other family members are expected to attend the ceremony at the local government hall.

Why do they spend so much on their kimonos for seijin no hi?

Apparently even rental can cost $1000- perhaps because it is the most public ceremony most of them will ever be involved in, as it involves everyone in their local area.

Why did Japanese samurai use to change their name when they came of age?

If it is anything like some other countries or what happens when someone dies, getting a new name would clear the sin you have committed under the old one.

More information on:

Wikipedia Seijin shiki

Yamasa student network seijin-no-hi

A personal touch from a man who had to pay from it all from Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers

8 Comments

  1. January 9, 2008 at 4:26 am

    [...] more Japanese coming of age stuff on the Seijin no hi Explained page on the [...]

  2. January 10, 2008 at 2:44 am

    [...] on Seijin no hi on the relevant page on the [...]

  3. jade said,

    May 15, 2008 at 9:12 am

    this is interesting stuff

  4. crella said,

    January 13, 2009 at 9:21 am

    “Sensibly, people taking their place in society is something that is done in front of society. ”

    I’ve always thought it similar to the Austrian debutante ball.

  5. crella said,

    January 13, 2009 at 9:24 am

    Mike, thank you for that link. Your daughter looks lovely!

  6. Kitty said,

    October 6, 2009 at 12:20 am

    What kind of gift do you give someone who’s having their seijin-shiki, outside of Japan? I have no idea what I should give to my friend…

  7. robin said,

    January 10, 2010 at 7:59 am

    I love this time of year, its’ so colorful with all the girls wearing their lovely kimonos
    http://www.japansugoi.com/wordpress/japanese-coming-of-age-seijin-no-hi/

  8. jessica said,

    October 24, 2012 at 2:58 am

    What happen if the kid is Homosexual?


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