Photo/IllutrationMany new adults clad in “furisode” long-sleeved kimono participate in a coming-of-age ceremony in Kyoto on Jan. 14. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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Even though 18-year-olds will be officially recognized as adults starting in 2022, kimono retailers don't want them crashing the nation's traditional coming-of-age ceremonies.

The merchants are concerned about a further "decline of kimono culture,” and demanding that the traditional ceremonies, called "seijinshiki" in Japan, be open only to 20-year-olds even after the legal adulthood age is lowered.

“Seijinshiki to celebrate new 20-year-old adults have been established for more than 70 years,” said Yoshifumi Nakazaki, deputy director-general of the secretariat of the Kyoto-based Japan Kimono League, which consists of 1,200 kimono fabrics shops and other businesses across Japan. “The structure of the ceremony--which has been familiar with Japanese citizens--does not need to be changed.”

The ceremony is believed to date to an event held in 1946 following the end of World War II in what is now Warabi city in Saitama Prefecture to encourage young adults.

Currently, seijinshiki are typically organized by a local municipality or steering committees comprising local governments and new adults.

The revisions to the Civil Law to lower the adulthood age passed the Diet in June 2018.

Legislation to allow 18-year-olds to become officially recognized as adults will take effect in April 2022, raising the possibility of coming-of-age ceremonies being held for 18-year-olds. The event currently takes place mainly in January for those aged 20.

The legal age for drinking and smoking, however, will remain unchanged at 20.

According to the central government, 80 percent of municipalities held coming-of-age ceremonies in January 2017.

Although no legal restrictions are imposed on seijinshiki, a sectional committee of related ministries and agencies is to release its recommendation on the date and purpose of the ceremonies by the end of fiscal 2019.

The Japan Kimono League began a campaign in late November for its member shop owners to send requests to local leaders, assembly speakers and education board chairs.

In the Kimono Summit in Kyoto in September, more than 400 officials in the kimono industry discussed how to deal with the issue of seijinshiki after the adulthood age is lowered.

They concluded that 18-year-olds “would participate in seijinshiki in high school uniforms, losing an opportunity to wear ‘furisode’ long-sleeved kimono,” and that organizing the ceremonies “immediately before college entrance exams is not realistic.”

Based on the conclusion, the Japan Kimono League decided to urge local governments to continue holding seijinshiki to celebrate young adults turning 20 in hopes of protecting and preserving kimono culture.

Kyoto city officials quickly responded to the moves of the kimono industry.

“Holding ceremonies for 20-year-olds in non-busy seasons will result in the promotion of traditional Japanese attire,” Kyoto Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa said at a regular news conference in September. “I want to take the initiative.”

While Kadokawa vowed to continue organizing seijinshiki for young adults aged 20 even after 2023, Warabi, Zushi in Kanagawa Prefecture and Takamatsu in Kagawa Prefecture have followed suit.

Kyoto officials also requested at a central government’s sectional meeting in November that the government recommend that seijinshiki target 20-year-olds.

“Eighteen-year-olds are busy making important choices in life over college exams and employment, and it is difficult for not only the young people but their families to celebrate in a quiet atmosphere,” one of the officials said.

Working with the kimono industry, Kyoto is staging a campaign to prevent the seijinshiki age from being lowered like the legal adulthood age.

NEW ADULTS WANT CONVENTIONAL SEIJINSHIKI

The results of a survey show many young people think only those aged 20 should be eligible for seijinshiki.

The Nippon Foundation in Tokyo, which provides support for young people, conducted an online study in December, covering 800 boys and girls aged between 17 and 19 throughout the country.

Asked who should participate in seijinshiki, 74 percent said “20-year-olds” should, while only 23.9 percent said seijinshiki should be held for young adults aged 18.

Most of those who support 20-year-old seijinshiki, or 62.8 percent, said 18-year-olds cannot participate “because it comes just before college entrance tests,” followed by 38.2 percent who said 18-year-olds “cannot smoke or drink to coincide with seijinshiki” and 33.6 percent who said 18-year-olds “do not have money for seijinshiki.”

Meanwhile, 62.8 percent of those in favor of 18-year-old seijinshiki said “the age of seijinshiki should be lowered to match the legal adulthood age,” accounting for the largest portion.

Nearly 40 percent of them said 20-year-old seijinshiki would “bring about confusion.”