Monday, 12 January 2009

Happy Seijin Shiki !

Today is the second Monday of January. Just another normal day for most of the world, but for the Japanese, it is know as 成人式 (seijin shiki) - or coming-of-age day. Many cultures all around the globe have some form of recognition when someone becomes an adult. Most commonly, they are in the form of legal rights when an adolescent turns from a minor into an adult.

For example it allows individuals the right to vote, drink, gamble, get married without parental consent (although this is 16 in Scotland), and sign contracts. Up until 1st October 2007 the legal age for smoking in England was 16, but in most European countries the age is 18.

Since 1948, the age of majority in Japan has been 20; persons under 20 are not permitted to smoke, drink, or vote. Coming-of-age ceremonies, known as seijin shiki, are held on the second Monday of January. At the ceremony, all of the men and women participating are brought to a government building and listen to many speakers, similar to a graduation ceremony. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the government gives the new adults money.

Historically, coming-of-age ceremonies were largely reserved for noble and samurai families. A ceremony called 元服 (genpuku) was celebrated for men of such ranks at an age varying from 12 to 16. The equivalent for women was called 裳着 (mogi), and was celebrated for girls between the ages of 12 and 14.

元服, Genpuku (Genpuku), which was also know as 加冠, Kakan (Kakan), was used to mark the entry to adult life of boys between the ages of 12 and 16, where they were taken to the shrines of their patron kami. There they were presented with their first adult clothes, and their boys' hairstyles (角髪, mizura) were changed to the adult style. They were also given new adult names (烏帽子名, eboshi-na). 裳着 (mogi), mogi was similarly performed around the basis of providing new clothing to the new adult.

As mentioned, during Heian times, the ceremony was restricted to the sons of noble and samurai families. During the Muromachi era, it gradually spread to include men of lower ranks.

In modern Japan, these ceremonies have been replaced by annual coming-of-age ceremonies for 20-year-olds of both sexes on 成人式 (seijin shiki). As of 2000, seijin shiki moved from January 15th to the second Monday of the month under the Happy Monday System, which was developed to create a three day weekend for those who work a five day week.

The image above was taken on the 1st July 2008, and I decided to post it today because it is clearly a young mallard, and It struck me as amusing that I should find such a young bird trying to make itself as big as possible. Post a comment below if you think you know what it is copying and find out tomorrow what the answer is.

Photograph details: Nikon D40, Nikkor 18-200mm lens. Focal Length: 165mm, exposure 1/1250 sec, F-stop f/5.3

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