• SHARE

Across the nation, an estimated 1.2 million young people celebrated becoming an adult on Coming of Age Day on Monday in an annual rite of passage for 20-year-olds that has taken a direct hit from the COVID-19 pandemic.

While many coming-of-age ceremonies were canceled or hosted online, thousands of young men and women dressed in fancy suits and fashionable kimonos, the attire traditionally worn for the adulthood ceremony, gathered in Yokohama on the day to celebrate the once-in-a-lifetime occasion.

This year, Yokohama hosted an event for more than 36,000 new adults, the most of any municipality in the country. The city provided those who hadn’t received a COVID-19 vaccination with an antigen test kit in advance and requested they take the test on Sunday or Monday morning before attending the celebration.

The event was hosted at Yokohama Arena at four different times to help prevent the spread of infections. The city also livestreamed the event on its website.

“We want to do everything we can to help people participate with ease,” a Yokohama official said.

The annual event would in normal years have been celebrated in style with childhood reunions and all-night after-parties, but participants were required to wear masks to attend and encouraged by organizers to resist the temptation before and after the ceremony to mingle with friends, get drinks or hold parties.

New adults attend the Coming of Age Day cerebration hosted at Tokyo Disney Sea in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, on Monday. | KYODO
New adults attend the Coming of Age Day cerebration hosted at Tokyo Disney Sea in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, on Monday. | KYODO

“Amid a situation like this, I appreciate that they were able to host the event,” a woman dressed in a kimono who participated in the event in Yokohama told Nippon Television Network.

“I will enjoy the celebration while taking proper anti-infection measures,” another kimono-clad woman said.

In the days leading up to the event, major cities and prefectures posted a sharp uptick in numbers of new COVID-19 cases, driven by the spread of the highly contagious omicron variant, which is fast replacing the delta variant as the dominant source of infections. The nation posted 8,249 new cases Sunday, marking the second straight day that it has exceeded the 8,000 mark, as some prefectures such as Hiroshima and Okinawa posted record new cases recently.

In Tokyo, where all 23 central wards except Suginami canceled Coming of Age Day ceremonies last year, most wards this year decided to host the events, albeit not at the same time.

Shinjuku Ward, however, canceled the ceremony but prepared an area in a hotel where new adults could take photos with friends.

For decades, municipalities have held ceremonies in January for those who turned or will turn 20 in the year through the start of April to welcome them into adulthood. But this year’s celebrations may mark the last time that the event is held for 20-year-olds in some municipalities, as a Civil Code amendment for lowering the age of majority to 18 from 20 is set to take effect on April 1. The legal age for drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes and gambling, such as betting on horse races, will remain unchanged at 20, however.

Women wearing kimonos make their way to a Coming of Age Day celebration ceremony in Tokyo on Monday. | REUTERS
Women wearing kimonos make their way to a Coming of Age Day celebration ceremony in Tokyo on Monday. | REUTERS

But most municipalities are likely to keep on hosting the annual event for 20-year-olds, according to reports. That is because most 18-year-olds are still high school seniors who are too busy with college entrance exams or worried about future jobs to attend an event. Another reason is that hosting the event for 18-year-olds would mean hosting an event each for 18-year-olds, 19-year-olds and 20-year-olds in the first year.

According to the internal affairs ministry, there were 610,000 men and 590,000 women who turned 20 last year, down 40,000 from the previous year and the lowest on record.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida offered congratulatory words to all new adults.

“With the lingering effects of the new coronavirus, there may be times when things don’t go as planned in your studies, work and personal life. However, even in the midst of all this, I hope that you will take a new step forward as new adults with your dreams for the future,” he said in a Twitter message posted by the Prime Minister’s Office.

Information from Kyodo added

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

PHOTO GALLERY (CLICK TO ENLARGE)