Young People Celebrate Entry into Adulthood at 5th Seijin-Shiki USA

    Young People Celebrate Entry into Adulthood at 5th Seijin-Shiki USA

    By Mimi Shiraki & Mizuki Sakae
    For The North American Post

    ▲The 5th annual Seijin-Shiki celebrated young adults turning 20 or 21. The celebration featured taiko, speeches by students and mentors, and a chance for young people to don kimono and other formal wear. Photos courtesy of JIA Foundation

    On Saturday, January 13, the fifth annual Seijin-Shiki USA, sponsored by JIA (Japan in America), was held at Bellevue College. It was a distinguished celebration commemorating individuals who have recently turned 20 or 21, signifying full adulthood in Japan and the United States, respectively. The local event took place about a week after Japan’s national Seijin no Hi (Adult Day) holiday observed on the second Monday of January.

    The local ceremony lets young adults partake in a unique Japanese tradition. Exchange students and other young adults from Japan would otherwise miss out on the celebration. Thanks to the support of JIA, donors, supporters, and volunteers, families, friends, and those curious about Japanese culture could join the fun.

    ▲▼The fifth annual Seijin-Shiki USA drew a big crowd of new adults to the Carlson Theater on Bellevue College campus despite the chilly weather outside. Performances included live music from Kaede01, a UW rock band , taiko, speeches, and plenty of photo opportunities.

    To provide a little bit of background, the Seijin-Shiki marks a significant turning point in life. In Japan, becoming an adult has been a rite of passage since as far back as the Nara Period of 710-794. Back then, a ceremony called Genpuku celebrated boys ages 12 and 16. The boys wore their hair in adult style and changed into different clothes to look more mature. They were given a new name and a crown to wear. Girls took part in Mogi rituals at the same ages of 12 and 16 in which they wore a special garment. The ritual marked them as ready for marriage. The girls also wore their hair in a different style. Today’s version of Adult Day originated in 1946 at a youth festival in Warabi City, Saitama Prefecture.

    At this year’s celebration, the crowd was treated to a live performance by Kaede01, a J-pop and rock band from the University of Washington. They even composed a new song called Sora for the Seijin-shiki celebrations.

    The concert was followed by speeches by two new adults: Misato Okamoto of Temple University and Koji Ishihara of the University of Washington.

    Misato Okamoto

    Misato grew up in Washington and left to attend Temple University in Philadelphia. At first, she said she felt confused after leaving her family and friends. However, she began to learn about herself as she opened the door to new relationships and opportunities. She met people from different backgrounds in her classes, she said, and her college friendships deepened. At the same time, she found that when she did return home, she had a newfound appreciation of her family.

    Misato told the crowd that everyone should “accept new experiences, no matter how prolonged the initial fear, doubt and discomfort.”

    Koji Ishihara

    The second speaker, Koji, studies engineering at the University of Washington. As a child, he attended Japanese school every Saturday for nine years. He volunteered at a homeless shelter, which taught him humility and gave him a sense of how important even small gestures can be.

    A few months later, he said he had the chance to volunteer with Shinji Maeda, a pilot who had also overcome the hardship of only having sight in one eye. Koji said Shinji was an inspiration to him and made him redouble efforts to improve himself and make a meaningful impact on his community.

    Young adults in gorgeous kimono were then paraded on stage, including one that was passed down by the young woman’s great grandmother. It was a beautiful kimono with a beige garment and a red obi that stood out. Another woman who stood out wore frilly lace in a Japanese-Western fusion style.

    Video messages from some senpai and comments from Deputy Consul General Junichi Sumi inspired the new adults to live their best lives.

    Deputy Consul General Sumi

    Sumi told the crowd that as a young adult he lacked self-confidence and hated his surroundings. He left his country home to travel around the world and has visited 80 countries so far. He said a personal turning point came in Iraq in 2003, when two police officers and a driver were killed while he was volunteering there.

    “After this event, my outlook on life changed completely,” he told the audience of young adults and family. “I could not take every day for granted.”

    With this renewed sense of purpose, Sumi started challenging himself in all kinds of ways, he said.

    Today, Sumi radiates confidence and is a goodwill ambassador to is once hated hometown in Shimane Prefecture.

    Sumi told the young adults about the ancient Japanese concept of ichi-go ichi-e, which stresses that every moment is unique. He encouraged the new adults to embrace this concept and acknowledge the amazing moments that make up our lives.

    Before the event came to the end, Taiko Kai at the University of Washington gave a powerful and cheering drum song to the audience.

    Overall, the 5th annual Seijin-shiki USA was a great success, even with the freezing temperatures outside!