Coming of Age in Japan: Seijinshiki – Tradition and Gifts

Last updated on February 23rd, 2016

In Japan, during the second Monday of January, every year, Coming of Age Day takes place. This national holiday is meant to celebrate the coming of age of every youth that have reached their 20th year, helping them realize that they are now adults who now have privileges and responsibilities that teenagers do not have.

Date of Celebration: 2nd Monday of January

Gifting Level: 3

The Celebration

Seijinshiki is the ceremony that takes place during Coming of Age day. This reflects the expanded rights and new responsibilities gained by becoming an adult. This is celebrated by young men and women who celebrated their birthday after last year’s Coming of Age Day but prior this year’s. This ceremony is held in the morning in the local city offices. The local government leaders gave speeches of encouragement and gave gifts to the new adults.

To attend the ceremony, the young ladies dress in an intricate kimono called furisode, which are easily distinguishable by their large, long sleeves. This kimono is usually given to her by her parents as a coming of age present (either a, heriloom kimono passed down from the ancestors, or a new one). This traditional clothing is hard to wear and most choose to go to beauty salons for this purpose.

The men traditionally wore hakana, but nowadays wear Western-influenced suits. For some reason, the ladies are more bound to traditional clothing than men.

After the ceremony, the celebrants go out drinking and partying with other adults to practice their newly found adulthood rights. It is not uncommon to see young drunk people wobbling home at the night of Seijinshiki!

The Gifting Tradition

During coming of age, the young adults receive presents:

  • During the morning Coming of Age Day, the young ladies received furisode as a gift from her parents. This clothing is quite expensive and is usually worn only on very special occasions like weddings. She receives zori, which are a type of traditional high-heeled sandals.
  • The men also receive clothes, but this can be a hakama (traditionally) or a suit (modern).
  • The local government leaders also gave gifts to the newly recognized adults after their Seijinshiki speech. This gift can be in kind, but usually, it is a small amount of money.

The History of Seijinshiki

Seijinshiki came from the traditional ceremony called genpuku where the young men were  dressed as adults and were treated like an adult member of the society.

During Genpuku (also known as Kakan), the young boys ages 12 to 16 were taken to shrines, where they were dressed in adult clothing, their hairstyles were changed from boy to man style and were given a new adult name.

The tradition was first celebrated by members of the noble and samurai families, but soon the tradition spread to the lower ranks. A similar ceremony called Mogi was also created for the young ladies, and was celebrated by young women also in the ages 12 to 16.

Seijinshiki first started in 1948 and was set to January 15th, but it was moved to every second Monday of January, every year through the Happy Monday System (holidays are moved to Mondays to give workers a time to rest).

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About the Author

Kit K

Kit Kalagayan is a content writer for many blogs and websites. He runs Gift Canyon and does most of the content and administrative work.

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