HOUSTON

Japan’s Coming of Age Day had the fewest number of new adults since 1968

In Japan, turning 20 is cause for a national holiday. Since 1948, the country has held Coming of Age Day to celebrate when 20-year-olds gain the right to vote, as well as buy cigarettes and alcohol.

But this year, Japan’s demographic problems cast a shadow on the festivities with the smallest coming-of-age cohort since the government began tracking birth data in 1968—only 1.2 million Japanese were born in 1993 and turned 20 in time to celebrate the holiday, down from a peak of 2.46 million in 1970.

The numbers reflect one of Japan’s biggest challenges: its elderly population is outpacing the number of young people. As of Dec. 1, there were an estimated 6.18 million people between the ages of 20 and 24, but 7.66 million between 70 and 74.

And so the faces of young men and women who presented themselves in suits, kimonos, and other garish outfits at ceremonies throughout the country on Jan. 13 were just another reminder of how quickly youth fades.

Kanon Nagasato, 20, holds a cigarette after a ceremony celebrating Coming of Age Day at an amusement park in Tokyo January 13, 2014. According to a government announcement, about 1,210,000 men and women who were born in 1993 reached coming of age this year and the number is 10,000 less people than last year. The figure is the smallest number since the government started counting in 1968. REUTERS/Yuya Shino (JAPAN - Tags: SOCIETY)
At age 20, Japanese men and women are legally allowed to smoke. (Reuters/Yuya Shino)
Japanese women in kimonos ride a train after a ceremony celebrating Coming of Age Day at an amusement park in Tokyo January 13, 2014. According to a government announcement, about 1,210,000 men and women who were born in 1993 reached coming of age this year and the number is 10,000 less people than last year. The figure is the smallest number since the government started counting in 1968. REUTERS/Yuya Shino (JAPAN - Tags: SOCIETY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
​​​ (Reuters/Yuya Shino)
HIMEJI, JAPAN - JANUARY 13:  Japanese 20-year-old men dressed in traditional clothes pose for a photo during the Coming of Age Day ceremony at Cultural Hall on January 13, 2014 in Himeji, Japan. The Coming of Age Day is a Japanese holiday to congratulate and encourage young people who have reached the age 20 as maturity in Japan, when they are legally permitted to smoke, drink alcohol and vote.  (Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)
(Getty Images/Buddhika Weerasinghe)
Japanese women in kimonos ride a train after a ceremony celebrating Coming of Age Day at an amusement park in Tokyo January 13, 2014. According to a government announcement, about 1,210,000 men and women who were born in 1993 reached coming of age this year and the number is 10,000 less people than last year. The figure is the smallest number since the government started counting in 1968.  REUTERS/Yuya Shino (JAPAN - Tags: SOCIETY) - RTX17C6D
(Reuters/Yuya Shino)
HIMEJI, JAPAN - JANUARY 13:  20-year-old Japanese women dressed in traditional clothes attend the Coming of Age Day ceremony at Cultural Hall on January 13, 2014 in Himeji, Japan. The Coming of Age Day is a Japanese holiday to congratulate and encourage young people who have reached the age 20 as maturity in Japan, when they are legally permitted to smoke, drink alcohol and vote.  (Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)
(Getty Images/Buddhika Weerasinghe)
HIMEJI, JAPAN - JANUARY 13:  Japanese 20-year-old man dressed in traditional clothes poses for a photo during the Coming of Age Day ceremony at Cultural Hall on January 13, 2014 in Himeji, Japan. The Coming of Age Day is a Japanese holiday to congratulate and encourage young people who have reached the age 20 as maturity in Japan, when they are legally permitted to smoke, drink alcohol and vote.  (Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)
(Getty Images/Buddhika Weerasinghe)
A Japanese woman in kimono attends a ceremony celebrating Coming of Age Day in heavy snowfall at Toshimaen amusement park in Tokyo January 14, 2013. Youths across Japan are honoured with special coming-of-age ceremonies when they reach the age of 20. Tokyo saw its first snowfall this season on Monday. Transportation has been affected by the weather with some flights to and from the capital's Haneda airport being cancelled, parts of the expressways have temporarily closed and local train services have been delayed. REUTERS/Yuya Shino (JAPAN - Tags: SOCIETY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY ENVIRONMENT)
(Reuters/Yuya Shino)
HIMEJI, JAPAN - JANUARY 13:  Japanese 20-year-old men dressed in traditional clothes pose for a photo during the Coming of Age Day ceremony at Cultural Hall on January 13, 2014 in Himeji, Japan. The Coming of Age Day is a Japanese holiday to congratulate and encourage young people who have reached the age 20 as maturity in Japan, when they are legally permitted to smoke, drink alcohol and vote.  (Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)
(Getty Images/Buddhika Weerasinghe)
Japanese women in kimonos walk to attend a ceremony celebrating Coming of Age Day in heavy snowfall at Toshimaen amusement park in Tokyo January 14, 2013. Youths across Japan are honoured with special coming-of-age ceremonies when they reach the age of 20. Tokyo saw its first snowfall this season on Monday. Transportation has been affected by the weather with some flights to and from the capital's Haneda airport being cancelled, parts of the expressways have temporarily closed and local train services have been delayed. REUTERS/Yuya Shino (JAPAN - Tags: ANNIVERSARY ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY)
(Reuters/Yuya Shino)
Japanese women dressed in kimonos, who will be 20-years-old this year, pose in front of the Cinderella Castle after attending a Coming of Age ceremony at Tokyo Disneyland at Urayasu, near Tokyo, Monday, Jan. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
​Tokyo Disneyland was a popular site for Coming of Age celebrations. (AP/Shizuo Kambayashi)
Kimono-clad members of Japan's most popular girl group AKB 48, Mayu Watanabe, front row second from left, Haruka Shimazaki, front row second from right, and member of NMB48 Sayaka Yamamoto, left ,and other AKB48, SKE48, NMB48 members who will be 20-years-old this year, pose for a photo after their coming-of-age ceremony at Kanda Myojin Shinto shrine in Tokyo, Monday, Jan. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)
Japanese pop groups celebrated Coming of Age Day. (AP/Koji Sasahara)
home our picks popular latest obsessions search