University of Paderborn – Asian Studies in Business and Economics – SS13
“Seijin no Hi – The Coming of Age Day”
Group Podcast by
Alessandra Ali, Lukas Block, Zhang Han, Patricia Kraus and Johannes van der Molen
Alessandra, Han, Johannes, Lukas and Patricia are really looking forward to spend
one semester abroad in Japan. They already met many students from Oita University
who are currently studying in Paderborn and keep asking them as many questions as
possible in order to be best prepared for their upcoming trip in September. One day
Alessandra, Han and Johannes met their new Japanese friends Hiro and Yuko at the
Caféte and started talking about a picture Yuko had posted on facebook a couple of
Yuko, I saw your picture on facebook. What a beautiful kimono!
Oh, thank you. Did you like my furisode?
What do you mean by furisode?
Well, my kimono with the long sleeves that hang down. We call it furisode. It’s the
most formal style of kimono worn by unmarried women in Japan. I wore it with zōri
sandals on Seijin no Hi.
Wait, what is Seijin no Hi about?
It’s a Japanese national holiday for 20-year-olds held annually on the second
Monday of January. I think it’s called ‘Coming of Age Day’ in English. On this day we
celebrate that we have reached the age of majority and have become adults. This
means that we have expanded rights such as the right to vote, to smoke and to
legally buy and drink alcohol, but also increased responsibilities.
Isn’t it the same in Germany?
No, because in Germany you become an adult at the age of 18. There is no official
holiday or celebration. Usually everybody celebrates on his or her birthday date or a
couple of days before or later depending on the weekday. Then we have a party with
our families and friends where we drink and have a lot of fun and do not think about
our new responsibilities at all. I’ll show you some photos: Here!
What happens exactly on Seijin no Hi in Japan?
All young adults who turned 20 or will turn 20 until April receive an invitation from
the municipal government to attend the ceremonies (seijin-shiki) that are held in
the morning at local and prefectural offices in our place of residence. Government
officials give speeches and hand out small presents to us.
So, what present did you get?
A gift card so I can buy books in every bookstore and a pen with signature stamp.
These two things are still useful for me.
Hm. Ok, so just a little present.
Honestly, it sounds a little boring to me to spend my birthday party listening to
government officials. Don’t you think so?
Yes, I agree. Actually, in recent years during the ceremonies many young adults
started heckling or letting off fireworks rather than listening dutifully to the
sometimes lengthy and serious speeches explaining the new responsibilities as
adults in society. But the government reacted to this by cutting the speeches short
and offering more entertaining stuff like Bingo and Karaoke. One city even
transferred the ceremonies to Disneyland.
That sounds funny. But what about partying with your friends and going out drinking
like it is usual for birthday parties in Germany?
We also have after-parties amongst family and friends. I also went out drinking with
my friends after the ceremony.
Hm, I see.
Does Seijin no Hi have a religious meaning comparable to the German ‘Kommunion’,
‘Firmung’ or ‘Konfirmation’?
No, it is not comparable. I don’t think that Seijin no Hi has got a religious
background. It probably depends on your family whether you visit a shrine after the
ceremony or not. I didn’t go to a shrine.
Ah, I understand.
Hiro, did you also wear a traditional kimono on your Coming of Age Day?
No look, I wore a black suit and a tie. Nowadays only few men wear traditional
dresses like the dark kimono with hakama pants. Kimonos are really expensive!
Yes, that’s true. A furisode can cost up to $10,000. In fact I only rented mine for this
special occasion. Before going out in the evening I returned it and changed into
Let me see if I can show you some more pictures of Seijin no Hi on the internet.
Maybe you can get a better idea of the event.
Oh, wow, the girls look beautiful. Look at their hair.
Yes, girls spend hours in hairdressers and salons getting ready for the big event.
I’m sure they do.
Hm, strange, did you read that headline? It said something about decreased
attendance of the ceremonies.
Yes, that’s true. The attendance has been declining for five years in a row now.
First of all because of Japan’s low birth rate and shrinking percentage of young
people. But also because nowadays many 20-year-olds do not feel themselves to be
Hm. Ok. Do you think there will be some people attending Seijin no Hi next January
Oh yes, of course. We can go and watch the ceremony together.
Yes, that sounds great. Let’s do this!