Seijin no hi: Old Japanese tradition transcending time
MISAWA AIR BASE, - In 1714 A.D., a ceremony would be held for young princes on their fifteenth birthday. To mark their passage into adulthood they donned new robes and adopted new hairstyles. This ceremony was called Seijin no hi or Coming of Age Day and although the celebrated age has changed from 15 to 20, it is a Japanese tradition still thriving within the country.
On Sunday, Jan. 13, Misawa City held their Coming of Age Day Ceremony at the Misawa Civic Center. Together, the Japanese elders honored the new members of their adult society with music and speeches of advice.
"Japan is a country built on caring and supporting one another. Although we all seek individualism, it is important to maintain good harmony with your family, friends, coworkers, other nations and nature," said Kazumasa Taneichi, Misawa City mayor, during the ceremony. "Be proud of your Japanese culture and traditions and carry them on to the next generation. Embrace your abilities and creativity and use them to succeed in your future."
The Coming of Age Day Ceremony is a Japanese holiday held annually on the second week of January. It is held in order to congratulate and encourage all those who have reached the age of maturity and help them realize they have become adults. At the age of 20, Japanese young adults are entitled to the rights and responsibilities of adulthood. These rights extend to smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol and voting.
"As legal citizens in our country you are now accountable for your actions as you have the rights, responsibilities and maturity of an adult," said Ryoetsu Funami, speaker for the Misawa City Assembly. "Remember what we, your community, have taught you, and use our teachings and your enthusiasm to lead the next generation."
"You will face many difficulties and challenges from here on out," he added. "Never give up in anything you do. Let the people who care for you, new and old, help you to fulfill your dreams."
As one of the most important ceremonies a Japanese person will attend, many women celebrate this day by wearing furisode, a special type of kimono with long sleeves that drape down and elaborate designs, and zori sandals. For unmarried women, this will be the most important formal attire they can wear prior to marriage, which is why they will go to a beauty salon to not only have the employees dress them but do their make-up and set their hair in a formal hairstyle.
Although the men can be seen wearing the traditional dress equivalent, a dark kimono with hakama, type of bellowing pants, it is common for young men to wear western style suits to the Coming of Age Day Ceremony.
"I still remember my Seijin no hi," said Miyuki Taneichi, 35th Fighter Wing multicultural program instructor, remembering the important date 17 years ago. "Even though I was already working at that time, I felt more mature somehow. I remember thinking 'I'm an adult now' and I'd get a chill knowing no one could take that away from me."
After the ceremony, as tradition, over 200 young adults enjoyed free food and social time with their friends from high school on the third floor of the Misawa Civic Center.
"I haven't seen some of these people since high school, which was almost two years ago, so partying with them was like dredging up memories of the past," said Rina Kanemi. "It was nice catching up with them, seeing what they'd been up to and if they were any closer to their dreams."
"This has been one of the most important ceremonies of my life," Kanemi added. "I want to remember this day always and remember the words spoken to me by my elders."