Coming of Age Day, or Seijin no Hi, is a national Japanese holiday celebrated on the second Monday of January, and held to encourage Japanese residents who have turned 20 years of age to partake in all the benefits of becoming an adult. In Japan, turning 20 means residents can legally drink alcohol, smoke tobacco, drive and gamble.
A select number of students from a university in Hiroshima, Japan, spent time in Pittsburgh over this holiday. Luckily for them, the University of Pittsburgh and Japan Association of Greater Pittsburgh decided it was time to hold a Coming of Age ceremony for the international students, and local American students, to participate in.
On Jan. 10, about 30 participants gathered together in the ballroom of Pitt’s University Club. Many were dressed in traditional Japanese kimonos, but others wore western business attire. Young men and women participated, and the Japanese international students were grateful for the chance to celebrate this right of passage.
“Before we came here, we couldn't expect this,” said Nika Tanimoto, a 20-year-old student from Hiroshima, at the event. “It is great, a special event.” Tanimoto’s friend and fellow international student, Manami Wada, said the event is an “honor” for her.
American students were happy to get a chance to celebrate the holiday too, and experience a bit of Japanese culture. Students from Pitt and Chatham University participated in the Coming of Age Day ceremony, which included speeches and a traditional Japanese drum performance by Pittsburgh Taiko, a local Japanese percussion group. Nora Douglas, a Pitt student from Washington, D.C., who is studying Japanese, said she didn’t have a big celebration for her 16th or 18th birthdays, and is glad to “take part in this milestone.”
Lynn Kawaratani, acting associate director of Pitt’s Asian Studies Center, said those participating in the ceremony won't be attempting to drink while in America, as the legal drinking age is 21 in the U.S., but said the event is still an important day for the students.
She added that the event was a great opportunity to teach Americans about Japanese culture and to provide a welcoming environment to international students. “This is building a bridge between two cultures,” said Kawaratani.