Many local governments remain undecided on whether coming-of-age ceremonies should continue to be held for people aged 20 after the age of adulthood defined under the country’s Civil Code is lowered to 18 from 20 in April 2022 following the planned revision of the law.
Many municipal governments hold coming-of-age ceremonies, mainly on the second Monday of January, which is designated as Coming of Age Day, a public holiday.
According to a Justice Ministry survey conducted on 1,037 municipalities last year, only 6.5 percent said they had decided on the age of people who would be qualified to take part in coming-of-age ceremonies after the law is revised.
Most of those that have reached a decision, including the city of Warabi in Saitama Prefecture, said the ceremonies would continue to be held for 20-year-olds.
“Many people aged 18 are third-grade students at high school, and January when the ceremony is held is a crucial period in which they are in the homestretch in their study for university entrance exams or in job-hunting activities, preparing the way for their future paths,” said an official responsible for ceremony arrangements at the Warabi Municipal Government.
“It’s not that all of the rights granted to adults would be given to people as soon as they turn 18 after the adult age under the Civil Code is lowered, and the age of 20 will therefore remain an important milestone,” the official said. Warabi is believed to be the first municipality in the country that held a coming-of-age ceremony.
Meanwhile, Sakae Okamoto, mayor of Iga, in Mie Prefecture, said during a municipal assembly meeting last month that the city’s coming-of-age ceremony would be held for people aged 18.
An official of the Iga Municipal Government said the ceremony would be an opportunity to underscore that people reaching adult age will start to be treated as adults in society. “Our fiscal 2022 coming-of-age ceremony will probably be held jointly for people aged 18-20,” the official added.
Haruhiko Tanaka, former professor at the faculty of human sciences at Sophia University, suggested that municipalities do not necessarily have to stick to the age of 20. It “will no longer be a milestone in life once the legal basis (for making 20 the adult age) is lost” after the revised Civil Code provision lowering the adult age takes effect, he said.
Holding coming-of-age ceremonies for people at age 19 could be one solution, Tanaka added, pointing out that the number of 19-year-olds who need to take university entrance exams would be relatively small and that many participants would be dressed in school uniform if the ceremonies are held for 18-year-olds — a situation that would frustrate businesses related to kimono. Currently, many coming-of-age ceremony participants dress in kimono for the special occasion.
On social media, many — mostly young people and parents — have suggested support for maintaining the status quo. “It’s not good that coming-of-age ceremonies would take place during the (university) entrance exam season,” one said. Another person wrote, “The age of 20 is a good milestone.”
But another, in favor of such events being held at 18, posted a message saying, “There will no longer be cases in which coming-of-age ceremonies are ruined by drunken participants.” Even after the adult age as defined in the Civil Code is lowered to 18, the legal age for drinking — as well as for smoking and betting in publicly managed gambling, such as horse and bicycle racing — will be kept at 20, due to concerns over possible addiction and health problems.