If you are one of the many people who love Japan and the Japanese culture then it is very likely that you will be trying to learn as much about this fabulous part of the world as possible. A holiday to Japan will help to bring your thoughts to life and if you want to be able to soak up as much of the culture as possible, then arranging your visit to coincide with a special festival will give you much more insight into their way of life. January is a special month in the Japanese calendar, because as well as celebrating New Year, which is always done with much colour and celebration, January also marks another very special occasion – Coming of Age for all new 20 year old Japanese boys and girls.
Every year since its inception in 1948, this festival was celebrated on January 15th, however in 1999, the date was changed and now, the Japanese Coming of Age festival is celebrated on the 2nd Monday of January. It obviously makes for a long weekend and time for Japan`s newest adults to enjoy themselves, as it is not until they are 20 that young Japanese are considered adults. Adulthood obviously brings responsibility, however it is also the first time that these new adults are allowed to vote and, unlike other countries, 20 is the legal age for drinking and smoking!
Although the Coming of Age Festival has only been officially celebrated since 1948, it incorporates many older traditions which make it a wonderful holiday to experience. Proud parents and other family members gather with their children to listen as their children cross from that of child to adult. Local governments arrange special ceremonies all over Japan where speeches are delivered by elders such as Mayors explaining the right of passage and everything that being an adult entails. The Coming of Age Festival in Japan is known as Seijin-no-Hi and if you intend visiting Japan, this would certainly be worth seeing, especially if you (or your children) will be celebrating a similar birthday. Japanese girls enjoy the chance to dress up in their finery and traditionally, all Japanese girls will wear a special type of kimono – a furisode – which has long sleeves, complete with an obi belt. As well as looking wonderful, these costumes are extremely expensive and are sometimes passed down from mother to daughter. Boys traditionally wear suits, however you can sometimes see the boys in traditional dress – the male equivalent of the kimono – which is known as a hakama.
As well as speeches from the elders, Japanese boys and girls often pray for their future at shrines and a very popular shrine for this is the Meiji Shrine. Shrine priests hold a special archery ritual, known as Momote Shiki in which two priests dressed in white fire blunt arrows to a target. As the arrows fly, they make a whistling sound and it is believed that this sound calls the attention of the Gods. Once the first two arrows have been fired by the priests, many more are fired by archers dressed in very colourful robes. This is also a fantastic opportunity for photographers to capture that perfect picture.
Visiting Japan at any time of the year will be a wonderful experience, however if you are able to travel in January, holiday deals you could soak up the atmosphere and learn a lot more about the culture of this amazing place.