For many 20-year-old women and those close to turning 20, Monday was a busy day that involved waking up early to apply makeup, arrange their hair and don a furisode, a style of kimono distinguished by its long sleeves.
But above all, once preparations are complete, Coming of Age Day — which celebrates the onset of adulthood — is a chance to reunite with old classmates, dress up and have a good time.
“It’s a special day. We spent nearly a year preparing for it,” said Mirei Hoshino, a first-year business student at Keio University.
The 19-year-old made plans with three of her friends to get their hair and makeup done at the Imperial Hotel in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo. The preparations began nearly 12 months ago in order to make reservations early enough to secure their preferences of kimono and venues for hair and makeup arrangements.
When she was younger, Hoshino thought 20-year-olds were the image of adulthood. Now that she’s coming of age herself, she realizes that isn’t always the case. “I still feel like the same child I was all those years ago,” she laughed.
Around 1.22 million teenagers came of age in 2019, some 30,000 less than a year before, according to the internal affairs ministry. In Tokyo, around 119,000 young people celebrated their new adulthood, according to the metropolitan government.
“Turning 20 years old on its own doesn’t make us adults,” said Eri Fujiwara, 21, a second-year law student at Keio who was celebrating with her 20-year-old friends. “But this day is an important benchmark in our lives that we can look back on in years to come.”
Their cohort is the first to come of age since the new decade and the Reiwa Era began. As depopulation and rural migration in Japan continue, growing concerns surround the future of the country’s economy and labor force. Young people around the world are leading action related to climate change, as countries across the globe face increasingly devastating natural disasters.
“As we become adults, my generation will have to carry this country into the future,” Hoshino said. “We can’t count on others to do it for us.”
For Ayana Fukushima, 19, a first-year environmental studies major at Keio, one particularly memorable moment from recent years was Typhoon Hagibis, which made landfall near her home in Shizuoka Prefecture before tearing a path northward through Honshu. The storm brought with it strong winds and record-breaking rain that led to extensive flooding, taking the lives of many and destroying thousands of homes.
“Seeing everyone line up to help carry buckets of fresh water to those who needed them, I realized how grateful I should be for the life I have,” she said.