Japan’s newest adults ponder politics on Coming-of-Age Day

by

Staff Writer

Monday marked Coming-of-Age Day, bringing with it the usual festivities that saw Japan’s 20-year-olds celebrate their newfound adulthood — each in their own way.

While some took the holiday as sufficient reason to go crazy and carouse, others stopped to ponder what it means to be an adult, what they want for their future and what they expect of the nation’s policymakers.

This year’s Coming-of-Age Day precedes the Upper House election this summer, the first chance for the new adults to contribute their voices to national politics.

One of them will be Yamano, a university student who requested that he be identified only by his family name. Among the large crowd attending the annual ceremony at Tokyo Disneyland in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, he said he plans to cast his vote.

“To me, being an adult means to do what you’re supposed to do as a responsible adult,” he said.

Yamano said social security is one issue he will pay close attention to in deciding which political party to vote for, citing the grim outlook regarding his generation’s dwindling post-retirement pension payments.

Irked by the heavy-handed enactment of the controversial security bills last year, Yamano had a stern message for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: “Don’t disregard public voices.”

University student Momoka echoed Yamano’s disappointment in politics. She recalled feeling shocked by TV coverage last year of a Diet session on the security bills that descended into unsightly scuffles between politicians.

“That was so childish of them,” she said. “A scene like that really unsettled me. It kind of makes you wonder if they’re really capable of level-headed dialogue.”

Seemingly typical of Japan’s politically apathetic youngsters, her friend, Izumi, however, said she probably won’t bother to vote.

“I know nothing about politics,” she said. Speaking in a somewhat nonchalant manner, Izumi said she has “no purpose.”

“I actually think I’m better off having no aspiration in life” because, she explained, the devastation would be hard to overcome if she didn’t achieve her dreams.

The ceremony at Tokyo Disneyland proceeded without a hitch, as opposed to some held in other parts of Japan over the weekend, such as in Kitakyushu and Okinawa.

In Kitakyushu, officials instructed this year’s attendees to “dress properly” for Sunday’s ceremony following complaints that their predecessors tended to show up in over-the-top attire and punk-style hairdos, which was blamed for ruining the rite’s solemn atmosphere.

The request fell on deaf ears, however, as Twitter pictures showed many attendees dressed in tawdry getups.

Two attendees at a ceremony in Okinawa, meanwhile, reportedly were arrested for reckless driving after decorating their convertibles for the event.

Such a spectacle “is not fun to watch,” university student Ken Inami said while attending the Disneyland ceremony. “Organizers should impose a stricter rule on what kind of attire or hairstyle is acceptable.”

While some agreed with Inami’s view, others were more sympathetic to high-spirited hijinks.

Sayaka Ishida was seemingly the only one to attend the ceremony in Disneyland wearing her kimono in a loose, coquettish style reminiscent of oiran high-class prostitutes from the Edo Period. Ishida, who works at a cleaning company, seemed to enjoy being the center of attention.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime event for me. I wanted to stand out,” she said