20-year-olds contemplate an uncertain future shaped by the coronavirus pandemic and Japan’s skewed demographics
On the second Monday in January every year, Japan’s 20-year-olds put on their best kimono and suits, brave the winter chill and congregate at event halls across the country to celebrate their official passage into adulthood.
In happier times, Coming of Age Day is a time to reunite with old school friends from the same neighbourhood and take endless commemorative photos, knowing that a party invariably involving the legal consumption of alcohol will be just reward for sitting through dreary speeches by local dignitaries.
But for the latest cohort of Japanese men and women who have turned 20 in the past eight months – or will do so by 1 April – this year’s festivities will be tinged with anxiety, as they contemplate a future filled with uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic and Japan’s skewed demographics.
Mao Kato, who celebrated her 20th birthday last month, will be among those marking the occasion the traditional way, in a colourful furisode kimono she will wear at the Tokyo metropolitan government’s official seijin shiki, or coming-of-age ceremony.