One of Japan’s most thriving holidays is Coming of Age Day, when those who turn 20 that year dress in bright kimono or formal hakama and take photos at shrines. The celebration of adulthood, however, is not without controversy. Recent debates by the Legislative Council have suggested that the legal definition of the age of majority be lowered from 20 to 18 years of age. Unchanged in Japan for more than a century, reconsidering the legal line where childhood ends and adulthood begins must be done carefully.

The age of adulthood carries multiple meanings that affect the right to vote, drink, marry, and consent to sexual and legal activities. All those would make a busy year for anyone, but for young people just graduating from high school, it might be overwhelming. Some 18-year-olds are ready; some are not. Therein lies the dilemma: a change seems imminent, but a patchwork of restrictions would only be contradictory. A single age for majority for all these issues is simplest, yet where to draw the line and why?

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