Reika Nemoto, 20, models a Hakama on Thursday, Jan. 17, during the Coming of Age Ceremony Program at Everett Community College in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Reika Nemoto, 20, models a Hakama on Thursday, Jan. 17, during the Coming of Age Ceremony Program at Everett Community College in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

In Japan, adulthood starts at 20 — and it’s a national holiday

Students celebrated Coming of Age Day in a ceremony at Everett Community College.

EVERETT — Turning 20 is a big deal in Japan.

It’s the legal age to start adulting — smoking, drinking and gambling — and taking control of your life.

Coming of Age Day is a national Japanese holiday for 20-year-olds as a welcome to adulthood. On the second Monday of January, people gather at city halls and community centers for ceremonies followed by parties with family and friends.

The tradition was honored last week at Everett Community College.

It included a pep talk by Takayuki Ishikawa, with the Consulate-General of Japan in Seattle.

Ishikawa told the students that although they are now expected to be self-sufficient and responsible, they can make mistakes and profit from them, quoting Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

“After your mistakes you can be successful in whatever you do,” Ishikawa said.

He mentioned a difference between 20 here and in Japan — drinking beer. “You have to wait one more year. There are so many great breweries here,” Ishikawa said.

Takayuki Ishikawa, with the Consulate-General of Japan in Seattle, hands certificates to participants of the Coming of Age ceremony at Everett Community College. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Takayuki Ishikawa, with the Consulate-General of Japan in Seattle, hands certificates to participants of the Coming of Age ceremony at Everett Community College. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Other international students were invited to join the campus ceremony at Nippon Business Institute & Japanese Programs.

“Everybody was welcome,” said Miki Aspree, program center director. “The main thing is for people to enjoy the day and experience it.”

About 50 people attended the event, which had Japanese snacks, raffle prizes and a kimono demonstration.

Some of the 11 students who received coming of age certificates shared their aspirations, which included writing novels, doing research and continuing to work at a car dealership while going to school.

Several who took part were not 20. Most were not from Japan. No matter. Coming of age is universal.

“I’m going through a phase of what feels like adulthood. It is a hard phase. I’m so stressed with all the responsibilities I have now,” said Zarith Mohammad, 20, a biochemistry major from Malaysia. “It feels so weird transitioning from being a teenager to an adult.”

Shoka Ludden, left, helps Reika Nemoto, right, re-pin part of her headpiece before the Coming of Age ceremony at Everett Community College. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Shoka Ludden, left, helps Reika Nemoto, right, re-pin part of her headpiece before the Coming of Age ceremony at Everett Community College. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Kimonos and other formal attire are a big part of Coming of Age Day ceremonies in Japan, especially for women. The day is for people who turn 20 from April 2 of the previous year through April 1 of the current year, which coincides with the Japanese school year.

Aki Shimizu, 19, a communications major, plans to travel to her Japanese prefecture next year for the special day.

“I am so excited,” she said. “We can meet old friends. I can meet my elementary school friends and we can have a party.”

She is already preparing. “I’m on a diet,” she said, laughing.

Reika Nemoto is an English language student at Edmonds Community College. “I turned 20 in December, but I couldn’t go back to Japan,” she said.

If she were in Japan, she would be going to Coming of Age Day parties — and drinking a beer with friends, she said. Here she’ll be hitting the books.

“Tomorrow I have a test,” she said.

Andrea Brown: abrown@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown.

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