Twenty Years to Adulthood

Coming of Age Day in Japan

Reading Comprehension for January 8

The phrase, "coming of age," is used to describe the moment when a teenager becomes an adult. In the Jewish community, adulthood is celebrated with a bar mitzvah for boys and a bat mitzvah for girls. In America, prom night is considered to be a time of coming of age; high school graduation is thought of in the same way. However, not everyone attends a prom or graduates from high school, so perhaps those events are not good indicators of adulthood. In Japan, adulthood is achieved after a person celebrates his or her 20th birthday. A nation-wide celebration is held once a year to welcome youth into adulthood!

Seijin no Hi, or Coming of Age Day, is celebrated annually on the second Monday of January (until 1999 it was always celebrated on January 15). It was declared a national holiday in Japan in 1948 and in Okinawa in 1961. Everyone who has turned twenty years old since the previous Coming of Age Day gets to participate in the holiday. That means all those who celebrated their 20th birthday from the day after Seijin no Hi up to January 12 of the following year are invited to attend local government ceremonies held on their behalf.

As new adults, Japanese youth are granted the freedom to vote, drink, and marry if they choose. They may now take legal action without first seeking their parents' permission. Celebrations are held nationwide in civic centers and shrines in every town. Can you imagine the huge gathering of 20-year-olds? It is the largest birthday party ever! Government officials give speeches to explain their rights and responsibilities as adults. It's such an exciting day for them!

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