Coming of Age in Japan

Yesterday while my husband and I were out for lunch at a local restaurant, I kept seeing young women in kimono. You often see one or two (usually middle-age or older) women wearing kimono in busier downtown Tokyo train stations, but the only time I see lots of (younger) people in kimono locally are during summer festivals. Since it’s definitely not summer, I wondered what was going on. I soon found out, it was Coming of Age Day (成人の日)!

This national holiday celebrates those individuals who have reached the age of majority (20 years) during the past year and marks the transition into adulthood with the associated increase in responsibilities and rights. Turning twenty brings not only the right to vote but also the ability to buy cigarettes and alcohol in Japan. For the holiday, ceremonies are held at local offices and then attendees go out to celebrate with family and friends. Many women wear kimono for the holiday but it seems most men wear Western-style suits instead. Sadly, I didn’t see any men in kimono but I saw many kimono-clad women alone or in small groups, often with men dressed in suits, heading into cafes and restaurants. I’m assuming they were beginning their after-party celebrations.

I love when I come upon someone wearing kimono so this was a happy surprise of a holiday for me. It’s not just the beautiful designs and splashes of color that I love, but the way they add a touch of traditional culture to the modern cityscape. For anyone celebrating their twentieth year in Japan, welcome to adulthood!

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