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Japan's Coming of Age Day

In Japan, a youth becomes an adult at the age of 20.

Since 1948, this passage is celebrated on Jan 15th each year, a national holiday known as Coming of Age Day (or Seijin-no-Hi in Japanese).

On this day, everyone who has turned 20 in the past year will dress in a kimono or suit, visit a shrine to pray for a prosperous adulthood, and attend official receptions.

Mostly, though, it's an excuse to visit with old friends -  a kind of high school reunion for many.

In 1999, we happened to be in Kyoto during this celebration, so we headed to the nearest shrine (Heian Jingu), and then followed the crowds to the where they were all congregating.

The first thing we noticed is that every one was having a lot of fun with this.

I just imagine my reaction, if someone said, "Okay, you need to dress up in clothes designed 300 years ago, go out in the freezing cold to church, pray awhile, then go to a government hall and stand around for awhile, comparing clothes".

I would not be smiling like this, I guarantee.

Of course, in Western society, I don't get to dress like a samurai. Maybe that's the key...

The second thing we noticed is that there seemed to be a hair styling competition going on - and everyone lost.

Just kidding...
Some scored high for creativity.
Some scored high for degree of difficulty.

And some got points for sheer guts.

Okay, not everyone was practicing flower arrangement on their head.
But everyone was having fun.
Including me. I can't remember the last time I saw so much fur, silk, and pointy hair. My last Bon Jovi concert, maybe.

Surprisingly, (and a little disappointingly) unlike many Japanese events, this one didn't appear to be fueled by sake - though I'm pretty sure a couple barrels got opened during the evening.

No, this celebration was fueled by spirit, energy, and youth - a potent enough cocktail on it's own.

And that's a cocktail I was happy to steal a few sips from, while I could.