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Government Declares Young People Adults

January 15, 1990

TOKYO (AP) _ About 1.8 million 20-year-olds officially became adults today in ceremonies commemorating Coming of Age Day, a national holiday.

Women dressed in beautiful pink and gold Japanese kimonos, and men in Western suits filled the streets of Tokyo, in keeping with a custom in which young people are given new clothes upon reaching maturity.

But instead of heading for ancient temples to be confirmed as adults in religious or cultural rites, the young people went to municipal offices where mayors presided over brief ceremonies and urged them to be good citizens.

Coming of Age Day has little meaning as a rite of passage for many contemporary Japanese youth, however.

At 20 years old they gain the legal right to drink, smoke and vote for the first time. But many young Japanese and been drinking and smoking for years, and many 20-year-old do not even attend the event.

Ritsuko Hagiwara, a university student in Tokyo, wrote the leading newspaper Asahi Shimbun that she decided not to participate in the holiday and would use money from her parents intended for a new kimono instead for a trip abroad with friends.

″Although I was attracted by the gorgeous invitation (sent by the city government), I’ve begun to have doubts about the whole thing. Coming-of-Age Day was originally supposed to celebrate becoming an adult and afterward one was supposed to be able to live independently. ... But I’m still a student, and will have to be taken care of by my parents for the next three years,″ she wrote.

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