If you head down to your local municipal office, shrine, or even Disneyland this coming Monday, you’ll probably run into hordes of newly or soon to be 20 year old revelers in traditional Japanese attire. But why?

January 13th, marks this year’s Coming of Age day, or Seijin no Hi, here in Japan. When you reach 20 in Japan you are officially an adult. Coming of Age Day then is both a celebration of newly acquired independence and a commemoration of youth. The public holiday is held every year on the second Monday of January, but this year is special as it is the first Seijin No Hi of the Reiwa period.

In celebration of Japan’s newest adults, we’ve put together this article to explain everything you need to know about Seijin no Hi and how to celebrate it!

What is Seijin no hi and who is it for?

Seijin no Hi literally tranlsates as “Adult Day” and it is held for anyone who has turned 20 between April 2nd of last year to April 2nd of the current year. Once you reach 20 in Japan you are officially considered an adult, meaning you can legally drink and smoke. The celebration is held in recognition of the significance and new found responsibility that comes with being an adult. It is worth noting that from 2022, you will be considered an adult from the age of 18, however, drinking and smoking will still only be legal from 20.

When did Seijin no Hi begin?

Records of ceremonies which officially recognize crossing the threshold to adulthood date back as early as 700 in Japan. However, the official Seijin no Hi as we know it today is said to have begun in 1946, in what is now Warabi city in Saitama. Residents organized an event to give hope to young people after World War II which in turn inspired other cities to do the same. In 1948, the event became a national holiday to celebrate the journey in to adulthood of all young Japanese people.

How do people celebrate?

Traditionally, young Japanese adults will attend ceremonies held by their local municipal offices. Here senior officials give speeches and pass on their wisdom about the significance of adulthood, beyond mere booze and smokes. Guests will also receive some small commemorative goods after the ceremony.

Dressing up is an important part of Seijin no Hi also. Young women normally wear beautiful, vibrant kimono with furusode, long sleeves, to indicate they are unmarried. They’re also well known for waking up at the break of dawn to head to salons and get their hair meticulously coiffured for the big day.

Men on the other hand wear traditional Hakama, though the trend in recent years has been towards smart suits. Either way, Seijin no Hi presents one of the brightest and most visually impressive spectacles of all Japanese holidays, so it’s well worth going to see….

How can you Celebrate Seijin No Hi?

While Seijin no Hi is all about Japan’s new young adults, it’s a great opportunity to experience an important part of Japanese culture. We’ve come up with a couple of things you can do to celebrate Seijin No Hi in keeping with the spirit of the day (some less serious than others):

1. Visit a Shrine

After the ceremonies in the morning, many new adults will head to shrines with their families and friends to give a prayer to their new life stage. Why not also pay a visit to your local shrine and say a prayer for Japan’s new adults? You’re likely to see some Seijin in the process and if you ask nicely, you might be able to take a picture of their traditional clothing.

If you’re not sure which shrine to visit, Meiji Shrine in Tokyo is a popular destination for Seijin no Hi, and also a beautiful spot to spend an hour of your day.

2. Visit other popular Seijin no Hi locations

Shrines and the municipal offices aside, there are plenty of other popular places for Seijin no Hi celebrations. One famous example, as reported by Japan Today, is Tokyo Disneyland and Disneysea. Disney is a perfect place to get lost in the joys of youth and adulthood, especially Disney Sea where you can enjoy some adult libations.

Or you can head to symbolic Japanese landmark, Tokyo Tower, which is offering Seijin free entry to the 150m high observation deck and ONE PIECE Tower, an indoor theme park dedicated to popular manga and anime ONE PIECE. The offer is only extended to Seijin who are residents of the Minato ward. However, it’s worth paying the ¥1,200 as an adult to ride the elevator to the viewing deck of Tokyo tower for spectacular views of Tokyo, and on Monday, equally impressive views of celebrating Seijin.

Go Drinking (assuming you’re of legal drinking age wherever you are that is)

One of the most exciting things about becoming an adult it being able to legally drink alcohol. This is a *ahem* new experience for Japanese post-teens and they traditionally use Seijin no Hi as a time to enjoy it. Sometimes even too much, as in recent years Seijin no Hi celebrations have gotten out of hand due to Seijin drinking excessively. Anyway, pop in it an izakaya on the 13th and you can probably enjoy some drinks in the presence of kimono and hakama clad celebrants. You might not be a Seijin, but you can still enjoy some sei-gin, Seijin style. Just remember, it’s their special day, so sit and soak up the culture, but don’t harass them!

Go (soft) Drinking

Being an adult isn’t all fun and games. It’s tough and requires responsibility. Why not head down to an Izakaya and show Seijin they can have a good time by just enjoying just some soft drinks and your friends?

We hope that this gives you some inspiration for Monday, a national holiday in Japan. However you choose to spend it, take a moment to think about what it means to be an adult and savor that feeling of fun and responsibility.

By - Toby M.