Coming of Age ceremonies and rituals have been traditional in a variety of different cultures throughout human history. This can range from the Quinceañera that celebrates the 15 year old girl becoming a woman in Latin American culture to the Jewish tradition of celebrating the bat mitzvah or bar mitzvah when a child turns 13.
And many other cultures have their own coming of age traditions as well, which includes the official celebration of Coming of Age Day that originated in Japan!
History of Coming of Age Day
Depending on the culture as well as religion, the rituals celebrated at the time when a child becomes an adult can vary. In modern times, the celebration often simply includes a party or festivities. It might happen on the person’s actual birthday, or all of the children of the same age might be celebrated together on the same day, sort of like having a graduation party in the West.
And that’s what happens on Coming of Age Day in Japan!
The tradition of celebrating the time of a child coming of age into an adult dates back many centuries in Japan, but the official celebration of Coming of Age Day only goes back to the year 1948. It was originally scheduled for January 15 of each year and was celebrated on this day for many decades. However, due to the Happy Monday System instituted in 2000, the day was then moved to the second Monday of January each year.
For seventy years, the age was celebrated at 20 years old but, in 2018, it was agreed that the age would be lowered to teens of the age of 18 in the country of Japan. And it is celebrated for all of those who had a birthday from April 2 of the previous year to April 1 of the current year. This usually means that these young people are now legally allowed to smoke, drink alcohol, vote in elections, drive and gamble – all the things that teenagers are longing to do!
In the Japanese language, this important public holiday and rite of passage is called “Seijin no Hi” or, sometimes, Adults Day.
Ceremonies for Coming of Age Day often include participants wearing traditional dress in kimonos, often made of silk and embroidered or woven with special patterns representing flowers and nature. The ornamental affair goes further than just clothing, and is also quite visible with elaborate hairstyles and makeup, as well as special shoes.
Many times these Coming of Age Day celebrations take place in local city halls or high school gyms, where speeches are given, local government officials make appearances and small gifts are presented to the young adults. Afterwards, the young adults may celebrate on their own by going to parties or going to pubs and bars to drink.
Coming of Age Day Timeline
5th Century BC
Quinceañera tradition begins
These celebrations of 15 year old girls may have started as early as this time with the Aztecs and Mayans who lived in modern day Mexico.
Japanese coming of age ceremonies originate
Traced back to the Asuka era, Coming of Age ceremonies will continue in Japan for many centuries.
Bar mitzvahs begin
In the Jewish tradition, bar mitzvahs are celebrated when a boy turns 13, and later girls will also be celebrated with bat mitzvahs.
First Coming of Age Day is celebrated
The Japanese reinstate an ancient tradition of celebrating Coming of Age Day for young people who are turning 20.
Coming of Age is released in movie theaters
This film follows four teenagers as they grow up in a South African mountain village.
How to Celebrate Coming of Age Day
Enjoying Coming of Age Day can happen with all sorts of delightful activities! Get on board with celebrating the day by implementing some of these fun ideas:
Host a Coming of Age Day Party
Those who are parents, teachers or other important figures in the lives of young adults may want to consider hosting a gathering of those special people who are coming of age. Teachers or school staff may want to consider making Coming of Age Day an annual tradition at the school. Perhaps it would include a ceremony that presents awards and gifts to the students who are becoming adults. It might be fun to give out a coming of age novel for each one!
Perhaps consider showing a coming of age movie for entertainment. Or maybe Coming of Age Day means just hosting a simple but fun party that includes snacks, drinks, games and dancing in celebration of this important occasion.
Watch Some Coming of Age Movies
The coming of age genre offers a whole host of opportunities for enjoying and celebrating Coming of Age Day! Consider watching one of these entertaining and interesting movies that will make this day even more fun:
- Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986). Join in on Ferris Bueller’s escapades and hijinx when he and his friends take a senior skip day, making the most of all sorts of activities in the city of Chicago.
- Rebel Without a Cause (1955). This classic film starring James Dean, Natalie Wood, and Sal Mineo features a rebellious young man who is new in town, making both friends and enemies with his devil-may-care attitude.
- The Breakfast Club (1985). Featuring the brain, the criminal, the princess, the athlete and the basket case, this Brat Pack movie from the eighties takes place in the library of a high school when several kids are forced to serve detention on a Saturday.
- Mean Girls (2004). High school girls can be so cruel, but they also have a lot to learn. This Tina Fey coming of age comedy tells the story of the new girl in school who falls for the ex-boyfriend of the most popular girl in school.
Take a Trip to Japan
Head on over to the place where all of the Coming of Age Day magic happens – the beautiful country of Japan! Choose a city such as Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka. Or maybe it’s time to consider visiting one of the many amazing mountains located in Japan, such as Mt. Fuji (the highest mountain in Japan), Mt. Tate or Mt. Haku.
With one of the most efficient public transportation systems in the world, futuristic skyscrapers, natural bamboo forests and majestic mountains, as well as serene temples and shrines, Japan has just about everything anything could want to experience. While winter temperatures in Japan will be a bit chilly, it’s a lovely time to experience sipping hot sake!
Coming of Age Day FAQs
What does “coming of age” mean?
Coming of age refers to the time when a person becomes an adult or is emotionally mature.
What is a coming of age story?
A coming of age story starts in a person’s childhood and shows their story into adulthood.
Is “coming of age” a genre?
Yes, coming of age is a genre in literature, films, and more, often appealing to those in their teenage years.
Why do cultures have coming of age ceremonies?
Many cultures celebrate a child becoming an adult with rituals that typically signify a person is ready for marriage.