City hall ceremonies, shrine visits and wild parties will mark the annual Coming of Age Day on Monday as Japan encourages new adults to join society as responsible individuals. The holiday, which is held each year on the second Monday of January, is all about the adolescents who turned 20 in the past year. In Japan, people can drink, smoke and vote once they turn 20, so after Coming of Age Day they're urged to become self-reliant.
Coming of Age Day traditions reach back to the 700s, when a prince put on new robes and got a new hairstyle to showcase that he had become an adult, Stars and Stripes reported in 2004. Between 1603 and 1868, boys began cutting their hair and wearing swords on their 15th birthdays. On girls' 13th birthdays, they dyed their teeth black, according to China Daily. The age of adulthood was eventually set for both genders at 20 in 1876, and Coming of Age Day became a national holiday in 1948. While still extremely popular in Japan, Coming of Age Day participation has been declining in recent years. Only 1.2 million people turned 20 for the holiday last year, Quartz reported, which is less than half of the 2.46 million who did in 1970.
Here's a quick Coming of Age Day vocabulary lesson:
Seijin no hi = Coming of Age Day
seijin shiki = adult ceremonies held on the holiday
furisode = kimonos with long sleeves worn by women. They cost thousands of dollars, so women often rent them just for the day, like debutante gowns, according to Japan Talk.
zori = women's slippers
hakama = baggy pants worn by men. Most wear regular business suits, though.
izakaya = pubs where friends meet after the ceremonies to drink
So on Seijin no hi, government officials hold seijin shiki where they recognize new adults. Women wear expensive furisodes and zori, and men wear hakama or suits. After a visit to the shrines, they go to izakaya to party with their friends and families. Anyone who turned or turns 20 between April 2, 2014, and April 1, 2015, is invited.
Check out photos of the celebrations: