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EDITORIAL | Coming of Age Day is the Start of New Lessons

Coming of Age Day is officially meant to celebrate young people who now realize that they have become adults and are committed to surviving on their own.



New adults takie photos of themselves with smartphones on January 8, 2024, in, Chuo Ward, Chiba City. (© Sankei by Tsubasa Matsuzaki)

Congratulations to all you who are turning 18, the legal age of maturity in Japan, from April 2, 2023 to April 1 this year, 2024. You are coming of age and entering the world of adulthood.

The new year started off tumultuously, with a major disaster starting on New Year's Day. That is all the more reason why we wish you all the best for your futures.

In 2020, the age of majority under the Civil Code was lowered from 20 to 18. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, as of January 1, there were 1.06 million new adults (18 years old) born in 2005. That was 60,000 less than 2019 and the lowest on record. 

Conditions are difficult right now. However, we sincerely hope those of you who have joined the ranks of adults will step forward boldly into the future. At the same time, from now on you too will have to share the burden of supporting our society.

Although you are now adults, you will not be able to drink alcohol and smoke until you reach 20. Despite that, you will now be able to vote in national and local elections. Moreover, you can sign a mobile phone contract or take out a loan without your parents' consent. 

New adults take commemorative photos at a coming-of-age ceremony held at Tokyo DisneySea on January 8, 2024. Urayasu City, Chiba Prefecture (©Kyodo)

Appreciating Coming of Age Day

According to the Public Holiday Law enacted in 1948, Coming of Age Day is meant to be a day to celebrate young people who now realize that they have become adults and are committed to surviving on their own.

Ceremonies to celebrate the milestone of transitioning from childhood to adulthood have long existed in Japan. When aristocratic boys reached a certain age between 12 and 16 in the Nara period, (AD 710-784), they changed their clothes and hairstyle to those of adults. They donned a ceremonial court cap called a genpuku, which gave its name to the ceremony. 

Girls in the same age group had their hair tied up in an adult style. They also received a pleated skirt called a mogi

Aki Sawada (in her kimono) and her family returned from the disaster area and had their coming-of-age ceremony safely on the morning of January 7th in Tonami City, Toyama Prefecture (© Sankei by Akihiko Tozaki)

Lessons From the Past, Learning for the Future

The particulars of the ceremony changed over time as well as with social status. Nevertheless, the significance of the form of the original ceremony remains relevant to the present day.

We would like to introduce, for example, one of the teachings of Yoshida Shoin. He was a mentor to some of the top leaders of the Meiji era, including  Kido Takayoshi and Ito Hirobumi. Shoin wrote down the seven teachings (Seven Precepts to Govern the Conduct of a Samurai) and gave them to his cousin who was celebrating his genpuku

The lesson is that, without knowledge of history and a sage as his teacher, a man will remain spiritually impoverished. It is through study and becoming  acquainted with the ancients that he becomes a gentleman [a man in full).

You new adults are living in an era of wrenching changes. There is a tremendous amount of information available on social media, much of it of dubious truthfulness. 

As you go forward in life, you may also feel lost at times. At times like that, pick up a good book and experience the teachings of those who have gone before us.

In those teachings you will find hints on how to navigate through troubled waters.


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun


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