Differing customs from three different countries…
As you all know, in Japan, there is “成人の日” or “Coming of Age Day”, which happens every January and at the same time for all people turning 20 that year. Also, as you know, everyone (especially the girls) get dressed up in kimonos and the boys get dressed up in either a kimono or suit. This is often followed by a party where they celebrate, and can all legally drink for the first time (though most have already had plenty of chances to drink in secret before).
With that said, I thought I would talk about coming of age days in my native New Zealand and Thailand where I now reside. So, let’s start with New Zealand…
As Kiwis, we can legally drink at age 18, and drive at age 16, but our coming of age day is when we turn 21 years old. We do not celebrate it all on the same day like in Japan, but on or around our actual birthdays. Basically it is usually a big party, and the celebrant and all their friends and family usually end up getting quite drunk.
For the person turning 21, they are often expected to drink a yard glass of beer which is seen in the picture below. The glass is approximately 1 meter in length, shaped with a bulb at the bottom and a widening shaft, which constitutes most of the height. Because the glass is so long and in any case does not usually have a stable flat base, it is hung on the wall when not in use. It contains between three to four pints of beer (about two liters). In any case it is difficult to drink because of the length and because most of the beer is in the bulb down the bottom. In general it is a good thing if you can successfully finish the whole glass without spilling it or becoming too full to drinking more.
In Thailand, only the boys have a coming of age day, and this happens when they are about 19 or 20, depending on their birthday and when Buddhist monks say it is lucky to be ordained as a monk for three weeks.
The young man spends the day before drinking with family and friends, then the next morning gets his head shaved ready to go to the temple where he will stay for three weeks to meditate and contemplate his life going forward. He gets loaded on the back of a truck with an umbrella held over him, and all the local villagers and his family and friends walk next to the truck drinking and dancing and of course passing beers and spirits around.
Once he has been delivered to the temple, everyone goes on party and celebrate with his family. I had the chance to attend one of these parties up in northeast Thailand last weekend near the Cambodian border.
Some photos are below.
As you can see these three countries have very different ways of celebrating a young person’s coming of age day, but perhaps the universal thing is that at all of these events, alcohol seems to be a big part of the celebrations.
座右の銘は「Always try new things, and never be afraid to step outside my comfort zone.」