Throughout most of Japan, twenty is the age where people are subjected to adult laws, gain the right to vote, and to drink, thus making the age of twenty is the age of adulthood in Japan.
Usually, the ceremony takes place in the morning and all the "new adults" in area are invited. They can be celebrated at local and prefectural offices and include the families and friends of the new adults. During these ceremonies, government officials tend to give speeches in honor. Small presents are also given to the new adults.
Since Seijin Shiki is a national holiday, it is relatively standard to find women dressed up in beautiful furisode, a type of kimono purchased by the parents of the daughter(s) who will turn twenty. It is made out of very fine, brightly colored silk and are easily distinguishable by their long sleeves. The name literally translates to swinging (furi) sleeves (sode). They are generally worn for major social events such as tea ceremonies or wedding ceremonies for relatives. A furisode normally costs about ¥100,000–300,000 (roughly 1,000 to 3,000 USD) for the whole outfit, so generally it is rented or inherited for such occasions.
Due to their intense difficulty to put on, help is mandatory and women commonly go to beauty salons to get ready. Ironically, sometimes these women are accompanied by their already-of-age boyfriends, who wear normal street clothing. Meanwhile, men who are coming of age, have far less expensive needs; they usually wear business suits, though, finding men dressed in hakama (dark traditional kimono) is fairly common as well.
This holiday was rooted from Genpuku, also known as Kakan, which was the original coming-of-age ceremony. To mark the entry to their adulthood, boys between the ages of 12 and 16, they were taken to shrines. There, they were presented with their first adult clothing, and their boys' hairstyles (mizura) were changed to the adult style. Supplementary to that, they were also given new adult names (eboshi-na).
In Heian times, the ceremony was only restricted to the sons of noble and samurai families. During the Muromachi era, it gradually spread to include men of lower ranks. A similar ceremony for women was called mogi. This was performed for girls aged between 12 and 14, and was similarly based around the presentation of their new adult clothing. The exact age was never specified and was left for the adults to determine when the child is mature enough to be deemed an adult.
In 1948, Seijin Shiki became a national holiday and the date was set to January 15th. Alas, in 1999, the Japanese government created the Happy Monday System, which moved quite a few of the national holidays to Monday, thus Seijin Shiki is now celebrated on the second Monday of January.
Ending Seijin Shiki
In the end of Seijin Shiki, usually in the late afternoon or evening, the new young adults leave in groups to go to personal parties where they drink in a continuous celebration of their independence. The new young adult women are commonly found limping in their zori slippers, which they are not used to wearing. Later in the evening or at night, it's not strange to find young adults wobbling around in the streets, heading happily home from the joyous celebration.
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