TsukuBlog

A Local Perspective on Life in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.

Coming-of-Age Ceremonies (Seijin Shiki, 成人式) to be held in Tsukuba on Sunday January 7th 2018- and around Japan over this holiday weekend- A closer look at the evolution of SEIJIN NO HI ( Coming-of-Age-Day)

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Outside Capio Hall in Tsukuba, after the Seijin Shiki (Coming-of-Age-Day Ceremony- if you`d like to take pictures of this year`s crop of new adults all dressed up (many in extravagant kimonos), head to Capio Hall near Tsukuba Center, for this weekend`s  ceremony (January 7th 2018) will be held from 1:30-3:30. Due to violent disruptions that have led to arrests in recent years there will undoubtedly be some beefed up security for today`s event !

 

 

 

By Avi Landau

 

Before 1877 (Meiji 9), when it was set at 20, there was no set LEGAL AGE in Japan for achieving adulthood. For the children of the nobility and the samurai class there was a coming of age ceremony known as GENPUKU (元服), for which there was NO specifically set age, though which usually took place when boys were in their early teens (from 12-16). The ceremony was performed when certain academic (knowledge of Buddhist Sutras and Classical Chinese Texts) and height (150 cm, or 4′11″) criteria were met. For Crown Princes and future Shoguns, the GENPUKU rites were sometimes held much earlier, when the boys were still 7 or 8 years of age.

2016 - The Tsukuba Seijin Shiki offers an amazing contrast - the nerdy, conformist young adults from the Science City area schools- and the wild, biker-types who graduated Tsukuba`s rural high-schools

The Tsukuba Seijin Shiki offers an amazing contrast – a real sociological showcase- the nerdy, conformist, young adults (almost all of whom are now university students) from the Science City area schools- and the wild, rowdy, biker-types, who graduated Tsukuba`s rural high-schools (almost none of whom are in university). Some of the latter attended with children of their own.

The word GENPUKU (元服) came to Japan in the Heian Period (794-1185) along with the ceremony itself from China, though the characters used to write it, and of course the way it is pronunced have changed. The way it was written in Chinese was 冠衣, which means CROWN and ADULT ROBES, which were the symbols of having attained adulthood and which were donned for the first time at the GENPUKU ceremony. Another key feature of the ceremony was the bestowing of a new ADULT name on the young person.

 

Outside Capio Hall in Tsukuba on the day of the Coming-of-Age Day Ceremony (2014)

Outside Capio Hall in Tsukuba on the day of the Coming-of-Age Day Ceremony (2014)

It is interesting how this notion of specific, identifying, WEAR went on to permeate Japan and thrive to this day, as laborers have their baggy trousers, older artistic types their berets, yakuza their perms and tattoos, and so on and so forth. I have also written before about the red vest and cap one receives when becoming 60. It is not surprising then, that one of the key features of TODAY’s COMING-OF-AGE CEREMONY (sei-jin shiki) is getting dressed up. By that I mean a furi-sode kimono, with appropriate hair-dos for the young women, and suits or hakama for the men.

Some of the clean-cut new-adults (2016)

Some of the clean-cut new-adults (2016)

Since 1877 the only requirement for being considered an adult has been reaching the age of 20. After WWII, with Japan completely devastated and returning soldiers utterly demoralized, a ceremony was held in the city of Warabi, Saitama Prefecture, to welcome back the young men returning from the war, and encourage them to be good citizens who would work hard to rebuild the country. It appears that this event was what inspired the government of then, Allied-Occupied Japan, to establish a new national holiday, to be held every year on January 15, to celebrate the coming-of-age of each year’s new adults. This was to be done by having a formal ceremony at the city hall or other appropriate venue and having a distinguished guest give a talk to the young adults. In 1999, as a part of the HAPPY MONDAY system which created more 3-day weekends, SEIJIN NO HI was moved to the second Monday in January.

There is plenty of preening, posing, posturing and clowning around inside and around the venues at which the Seijin Shiki are held (Tsukuba 2014)

There is plenty of preening, posing, posturing and clowning around inside and around the venues at which the Seijin Shiki are held (Tsukuba 2014)

Twenty-year-olds (and those who will turn twenty before the beginning of this April) with official residency in Tsukuba City, received a postcard inviting them to attend this year’s SEIJIN SHIKI, on Sunday January 7th at Capio Hall from 1:30-3:30.

As you can imagine, it’s a much bigger deal for families with 20 year old daughters to prepare for the ceremony than it is for those with sons. This is because few girls can dress themselves in the FURISODE kimonos, and beauty salons have to be booked well in advance to help the girls get ready.

Some of the more colorful and rowdier gang from the out-lying areas

Some of the more colorful and rowdier gang from the out-lying areas

As Japanese society has been changing over the years, and the youth have become less submissive, it has become more and more common for incidents of unruly behavior to liven up, or mar (depending on how you feel about it) the ceremonies. The most famous place for rowdiness is certainly Okinawa, but these days such cases crop up all across the country.

2016

2016

Tsukuba, with its high (though steadilly dropping) percentage of academically oriented, nerdy, goody-two-shoed young people, is considered a paragon of good seijin shiki behaviour. I guess that is why Ibaraki television now often keeps its Coming of Age Day coverage exclusively of Tsukuba.

Outside Capio Hall on the day of the Coming-of-Age Day Ceremony in Tsukuba (2014)

Outside Capio Hall on the day of the Coming-of-Age Day Ceremony in Tsukuba (2014)

In recent years things have almost gotten out of hand, however. Two years ago,one  NEW ADULT grabbed a mike and started to address the crowd with an emotional “KORE DE II NO KAI?” (Are you satisfied with this — or with the way things are?). He was quickly whisked away by the staff. After the ceremony, when everyone was gathered outside Capio, this young man was still trying to get everyone’s attention. A sign of things to come? Unfortunately for him (or maybe for everyone) no one was listening.

I would like to give further details about traditional coming of age ceremonies in PRE-MEIJI Japan, especially those practiced by the lower classes — farmers, merchants, and craftsmen. Of special interest are the different criteria set for adulthood in the different parts of Japan (for example being able to lift certain amounts of weight or do certain amounts of work) and the many unusual coming of age rituals which vary from region to region.

Takezon High School graduates having their photo taken (2016)

Takezon High School graduates having their photo taken (2016)

There is also a ceremony held at age 13, which is called JUU SAN MAIRI. I have written about it here

The Seijin Shiki Ceremony is a great PHOTO-OP, with all the 20 year-olds dressed to the nines- either traditionally or very eccentrically. Obviously there is also lots of good cheer in the air.

In Tsukuba the Sejin Shiki will be held this coming Sunday ( January 7th) at CAPIO HALL from 1:30-3:30. If you hang out in front of that venue before and/or after the closed ceremony, you will be able to get some good shots.

Coming-of-Age-Day in Tsukuba (2014)

Coming-of-Age-Day in Tsukuba (2014)

 

2016

2016

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This year, as soon as the police left the scene, some motor-cycle gang members rode through the crowd revving their engines noisily

This year, as soon as the police left the scene, some motor-cycle gang members rode through the crowd revving their engines noisily



5 Comments

  • Mamoru Shimizu says:

    I didn’t have any ceremony in 1962, just recognized I got the right to vote, and be selected as a member of lower house. I had already accustomed to drink or smoke, and to enter certain places those off-limited before. Then I was up in the snowy mountains of Niseko in Hokkaido enjoying snow-powder-skiing.

    My daughters have pictures taken in photo shops in rental Traditional Japanese-Hakamas when they reached 20 more than 15 years ago, I don’t think my son had any ceremony. I won’t oppose Japanese cloth-shops or so to make big ads. Because it is their chance of big sell, it is an economical matter.They are beautiful in Kimonos very few occasions for most of them for their future.

    I hope inside those 20-s are thinking their future or the future of the World seriously, since there are very few occasion for me to communicate with them. Also I hope they are really people with good sense of humor even they used to use cheap jokes like me. At this moment I am watching in NHK TV several 20-s, working certainly, sincerely at Haneda Air Port. Nice young men and women!

  • […] Seijin no Hi (Tsuku Blog) Seijin no Hi (The Japan Guy) Seijin no Hi (Transparent Language Japanese Blog) […]

  • […] On the way to stop number five you will walk past Todoroki Ryokuchi which is a large sports area and happens to be near a city hall or museum. I chose to the walk on a public holiday..coming of age day! So there were tens or hundred of 20 year olds all dressed up, you can read more about it here. […]

  • Coming-of-Age Day Disturbance in Tsukuba says:

    Tsukuba`s Coming-of-Age Ceremony 2017 set a new precedent for unruliness in this city. About 15 minutes into the procedings, a group of about 20 “new-adults” ran up on the stage and started causing a disturbance – even throwing chairs around. The ceremony had to be stopped for 20 minutes before it was resumed. What a baptism by fire that was for newly elected mayor, Tatsuo Igarashi, who was standing at the podium when pandemonium broke out.

  • Avi says:

    This year`s (2018) security really WAS beefed up for the Coming-of-Age
    ceremony held at Capio Hall in Tsukuba. Indoor police presence was quadrupled – from 10 to 40 officers, while the number of city-office staff was upped to 200 hundred. They helped check the contents of all the bags brought into the hall (while a celebratory white and red sheet
    helped hide the wiring that blocked unofficial access to the stage.
    The most poweful police presence, though was outside the hall, where officers denied access to bikers and hot-rodders.
    All this led to a much smoother – and much more boring Coming of Age Day ceremony!