coming of age

The Japan Self-Defense Forces have their own kind of Coming-of-Age ceremony and it’s pretty cool

If you haven’t heard yet, last week 20-year-olds all over Japan dressed up and gathered together on January 12 for their government official Coming-of-Age ceremonies. The event takes place every year for any young adult who turned 20 in the previous year. It’s an event that signifies their entry into adulthood and ability to legally drink alcohol.

However, there are some 20-year-olds who don’t get to celebrate the same way as their peers: those who joined the Japan Self-Defense Forces after high school and are off on duty somewhere. The forgotten few were not so forgotten this year, as some pictures of them were posted on Twitter. And you thought the guys in Okinawa were badass? Check out these soldiers.

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Halfway to adulthood: New Japanese festival for 10-year-olds gets parents talking

Japanese children enjoy many rite-of-passage celebration and age-specific holidays. This week it was Girls’ Day (hina matsuri) on March 3rd; next up in May will be Children’s Day (kodomo no hi). Another children’s holiday comes along in November: shichi-go-san, for children who have turned 3, 5 or 7 that year.

Once Japanese young adults turn 20, they have a special holiday to celebrate the beginning of adulthood, too. Coming of Age Day (seijin no hi) celebrates those who have reached the Japanese age of majority by turning 20 the previous year. And now growing in popularity is the “halfway to adulthood” festival, held when a child is 10 years old.

So what is this new(ish) celebration, where did it come from, and what does its burgeoning popularity tell us about Japan today?

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Megaphones! Mullets! Mayhem! Japan’s Future Leaders Hit the Streets 【Video】

Coming of Age Day is a public holiday held in Japan in the first week of January each year. The holiday has existed since the late 1940s, and, with most of the country given the day off work, those who have recently turned 20 are encouraged to celebrate their entry into adulthood by wearing traditional clothes and throwing parties with their friends and family, perhaps even paying a visit to a temple. Proud parents look on as their once rosy-cheeked cherubs stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them as mature men and women, ready to join the workforce and steer the country towards greatness.

This year’s crop of adults on the island of Okinawa, however, have become cause for concern in the Japanese media this week as a number of seijin-shiki (coming of age ceremony) parties got just a little too rowdy. What is normally a day of dignity and teary-eyed parents looked more like a public demonstration or protest as Japan’s newest adults filled the streets of Naha city, prompting lines of police and camera crews to show up.

The full video of the mayhem and despairing cries of “what is this country coming to!?” after the break.

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