Turning 20 in Japan – The Seijinshiki

In Japan, the big 18 or 21 comes on the second Monday of January, where all the youth who are turning 20 in that year become full-fledged adults. Unlike the United States and Australia, this coming of age day in Japan is not a huge drinking fest– sure, you can drink all you want (and now, legally) on your actual birthday, but for the formal ceremony, it’s a little more orchestrated.

(Image from Jappleng)

The ceremony itself is called the seijin no hi (成人の日 ‘Coming of Age Day’ or ‘Adult’s Day’), and for some, the process starts a year in advance. According to Kay, our Japanese Sales Associate here at Tokyo Creative, the demand for a furisode (the specific type of kimono worn on the day) for your local area is at its peaks every year, so in order to choose your favorite designs, you’ll need to start reserving your spot way in advance.

(Image from TokyoBling)

When you’re reserving your desired furisode design, you’ll also need to go in for a fitting, which if you’ve ever worn a kimono, is a huge task in itself. Depending on the kimono, you’re looking at a 15-step process for putting a kimono on, with all its different fabric pieces. Don’t worry– you’ll be getting help from the kimono attendant, so don’t stress with the process. The only thing you’ll be stressing out about is the weight, because by god, with the different layers, you’ll be packing on quite a lot of layers. When you’ve decided on your favorite kimono design and accompanying obi (decorated belt) and fur shawl, then get ready to fork out anything from 40,000¥ to 90,000¥ for your makeup, hair and clothing sorted. For guys, you’re a little luckier because you have the option to wear the traditional hakama (traditional loose trousers) and haori jackets, or can settle wearing just a suit. How extravagant you want the suit is up to you, but many opt for the standard three-piece suit– blouse, vest, and blazer jacket. If you want pictures taken, that’s an extra ¥20,000 on top of your kimono bill, and a photoshoot will be arranged a couple of weeks or months (depending on how busy the shop is) before your ceremony.

(Image from USA Japan)

After your kimono has your name next to it, those who have turned 20 in your area all get an official letter sent by your local government, inviting you and your family to your ceremony to becoming an adult. On the day of the sejin-shiki (成人式 'Coming of Age ceremony'), many Japanese women are said to start their day at 4 am to get ready for the strenuous gearing up of their kimono. Ceremonies usually start in the afternoon, which means you have plenty of time to look amazing, and capture those moments with your friends.

Hosted by local governments, schools in your area, and public organizations, ceremonies are usually held at public halls, community centers, and even places as big as Disneyland in Tokyo or Universal Studios in Osaka. On the day of your ceremony, you and all your fellow freshly 20-ers reunite to cross the passage into adulthood together, by listening to a series of official speeches made by the area’s mayor, community leaders, community alumni and, if you’re lucky, you’ll also watch some performances. What’s been normal in recent years is the junior and high schools of the area come together to create a nostalgic slideshow of all their alumni of that year and show it to a crowd of more than 400– the most fantastic moment for you to show people how much puberty hit you, and how much you’ve glowed up since that bowl cut and braces phase of your life.

(Image from Japan Italy Bridge)

After that, most Japanese senior high schools organize a reunion party, where you’ll be able to brag to all your old mates about the great things you’ve accomplished since leaving high school. Otherwise, if high school was hell for you and you don’t want to experience that trauma again, then this is a chance for you to walk around the streets of the city, stunting your traditional-wear. Not many people dress up this traditional anymore, so if you have a chance to embrace your culture a little, we say do it!

So why 20? Well, like in America, the age that’s most celebrated is the age that official documents start recognizing you as an adult, and not as the bratty kid you once were. In Japan, the freedom to indulge in adulthood’s glorious perks and downsides come at 20– drinking alcohol, smoking, gambling. After 20, you’re expected to do real adulting, such as thinking about your pension, how to save money and fend for yourself, and joining the national social welfare scheme. Terrifying stuff, we know.

(Image from Japan Times)

But as with age, your list of responsibilities also grow. If you enact in any illegal practices, you won’t receive a small sentence like you would’ve at 19, but instead will face the full sentence of Japan’s judicial system. We say that today because of the seijinshiki’s growing notorious reputation of rowdiness. A bunch of 20 year old’s celebrating their adulthood and right to drink, all in one day? Sounds like a great idea.

Stay safe everyone and congratulations on those who turned 20 in the year of 2018! Welcome to adulthood– it’s not great and you’ll be stressed and confused the majority of the time, but at least puberty is over.

Elise Meng