Coming-of-age ceremonies in areas of Japan devastated by last year's disasters hold extra poignancy

JIJI, Kyodo, Staff Report

Coming-of-age ceremonies were held in many places across the country over the weekend, including areas devastated by natural disasters last year.

Those who were born in 1998 and became 20 years old in the last year number 1.25 million — about half of the national record of 2.46 million set in 1970 — according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

In addition to the numerous ceremonies held Monday, a coming-of-age ceremony held Sunday in the town of Saka, Hiroshima Prefecture, was preceded by a minute of silence in memory of the victims of floods caused by torrential rain in July.

Naoya Nishitani, 20, chairman of the ceremony planning committee, called for the minute of silence. His home was severely damaged by the floods.

He said he accepted a request to assume the committee’s chair “to return the help I received from my former classmates and the Saka town government during the disaster.”

“I myself faced hardships, but we were able to overcome difficulties together. This gives me confidence for the rest of my life,” Nishitani said.

At a coming-of-age ceremony in the city of Kurashiki in neighboring Okayama Prefecture, which dealt with extensive flooding due to the heavy rains, Mayor Kaori Ito said many people came to the ceremony from heavily affected areas, expressing her heartfelt sympathy.

“I hope that you will push forward vigorously toward your goals,” Ito said to the new adults, especially those affected by the disaster.

Ayaka Shidahara, a 19-year-old from the heavily hit Kurashiki district of Mabicho who now lives in temporary housing, said: “The light is gradually coming back to the town. Supported by this, I’ll work hard.”

In the town of Atsuma in Hokkaido, which was struck by a massive earthquake in September, a total of 26 new adults attended a coming-of-age ceremony .

In a speech, Hikaru Asano, 20, said, “We’ll pass down the memories of the disaster into the future while praying for a decrease in the number of people having hardships.”

Koji Yamada, 20, whose family business has about 70 cows, is set to graduate from an agriculture school this spring. “I want to be a good farmer,” he said.