The recent change to the age of adulthood in Japan is prompting changes to the country’s “Coming of Age” ceremonies. However, rather than lower the age of the ceremony itself, most locales seem content with a simple rebrand.
Coming of Age ceremonies in Japan date back to around 1948. The ceremonies are held by local municipalities. They usually involve young women and men of age 20 gathering in kimono or hakama and then paying a visit to a Shinto shrine afterward.
The ceremony reflects that Japan’s age of adulthood used to be age 20. However, in April 2022, the government officially lowered the age of majority to 18. The change means that 18-year-olds in Japan now have most of the rights of adults, such as entering contracts. (The right to vote was granted to 18-year-olds back in 2016.) The only restrictions are on “vice” rights such as alcohol, tobacco, and gambling, which are still restricted to those 20 or older.
So wither the “Coming of Age” ceremony? A report by Ryuku Shimbun found that, in Okinawa, no municipality is inviting 18- and 19-year-olds to the event. Rather, the events are simply being rebranded.
The city of Naha, for example, is following a common tactic by renaming the ceremony the “20-year Commemoration Ceremony” (はたちの記念式典; hatachi no kinen shikiten). Another common choice is the “20-year-old Gathering” (二十歳のつどい, hatachi no tsudoi).
The change has a side effect, however: none of the fliers, posters, and email templates used in previous years can be used as is. In Naha, officials had to change both the name and description of the ceremony. Instead of describing the event as a christening of “new adults”, it’s now described as an event “welcoming those turning 20”.
消えゆく「成人式」…18歳引き下げで多様な名称 寂しさ、戸惑いも 沖縄の全市町村を調査. Ryukyu Shimbun