Coming of Age Day in Japan (January 2015)


Coming of Age Day (Seijin no Hi) is a very special holiday in Japan as it celebrates the “coming of age”, that is, reaching the milestone age of 20 (adulthood) during the last year. So you’ll find 20 year olds all dressed up to join ceremonies, partying and also visiting temples to offer prayers. On a lighter note, 20 is also the age from which you are legally allowed to consume alcohol and tobacco in Japan! 🙂

I went out to take some photographs on this day after many years and something struck me right away. About 10 years ago, when I accidentally was in the Harajuku area on the Coming of Age Day, there were hundreds and hundreds of young people dressed in brightly coloured kimonos. Their excited and hopeful faces beautifully highlighted by gracefully done make-up made them look splendid. Even on the trains and at stations, I could see young people making their way to local community centers or temples or heading to a family and friends party. There was an obvious mood of celebration in the air. Fast forward to 2015… the scene was quite different. Forget about hundreds of young people… during the more than 2 hours I spent in Harajuku and the Meiji Jingu shrine area, I hardly came across a dozen kimono clad youngsters. The observation was the same on the trains as well… despite the fact that I crossed from one end of the city to another over a period of an entire day, the number of 20 year olds (from what was obvious) was astonishingly low. I was quite taken aback by this stark change, which goes a long way to highlight the staggering population problem that plagues Japan. With a rapidly dropping birth rate and dwindling population, Japan is looking at a difficult road ahead as it tries every trick in the book to set its economic bandwagon back on the growth track. Let’s hope, for Japan’s sake, we see some real changes in the country to reverse the negative trends.

Anyhow, here are some of my favourite photographs from today. Hope you like them. Feel free to comment and critique.


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