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Young Adults Celebrate Coming-of-Age Day at TDL

Tuesday, Jan. 9th, 2007

Adulthood Day Turnout Hovers Near Record Low

The fewest Japanese youths in nearly two decades marked their transition into adulthood Monday on Coming-of-Age Day, amid growing concerns about Japan's low birthrate and rising elderly population.

Coming-of-Age Day, a public holiday, honors youths who turn 20 between April 2 the previous year and April 1 this year, the age of adulthood, at which they can vote and drink alcohol.

About 1.39 million Japanese -- some 720,000 men and 670,000 women -- reached that milestone in 2006, about 30,000 more than the smallest group on record did in 1987, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said in a recent statement.

Hundreds of thousands of new adults took part in ceremonies marking the event at city halls, temples and other public venues nationwide, including Tokyo Disneyland.

The day has long been an occasion for revelers to don rarely worn formal attire, typically colorful kimono for women and suits or tuxedos for men.

As a percentage of the population, the 2006 group was the smallest on record, at 1.09 percent of Japan's 127.3 million people, the ministry said.

The figures reflect gloomy population data, which have sparked fears of a labor shortage, eroded tax base and strains on the pension system as fewer taxpayers support Japan's increasing elderly population.

1970 set the record for 20-year-olds -- 2.46 million -- as baby boomers turned adults, followed by 2.07 million for 1994 as their kids did likewise.

1986, the year the newest crop of adults was born, was marked by such news events as the loss of the U.S. space shuttle Challenger, the deadly Chernobyl nuclear plant accident, the kidnapping of a Mitsui & Co. branch manager in Manila and the launch of the first edition of the longtime hit video game "Dragon Quest."

At Tokyo Disneyland, where the Urayasu Municipal Government in Chiba Prefecture held its official ceremony, about 1,200 people, or about 76 percent of the new adults living in the city, took part. Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters celebrated the occasion with them.

"It was fun. I think it was the most famous Coming-of-Age ceremony in Japan," college student Kaori Sumino said.

In Handa, Aichi Prefecture, participants in the the city's Coming-of-Age Day ceremony shouted while Mayor Izo Sakakibara was about to give a speech, according to city officials. The mayor told them to be quiet.

After the ceremony ended, two groups of male participants started fighting in a parking lot near the ceremony venue. Police questioned five people about the fight.

-- Source: Associated Press, Kyodo via The Japan Times

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