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Mount Union Honors International Students With Traditional "Coming of Age" Celebration

January 22, 2007

Turning 20 years old may only be that last step before truly becoming an adult in the United States, but in Japan it is a milestone marking an individual's coming of age. Each year on the second Monday of January, regions all over Japan hold the Seijin-Shiki Coming of Age Celebration for young men and women who will be turning 20 years old from April 1 to March 31 of that year.

Pictured (L-R), Row One: Dawn Adams, Risa Hashizume, Evgeniy Smakhtin, Masateru Konno, Anna Tanaka and Sidra Gulzar. Row Two: Kaho Tosa, Sakiko Mizobata and Maria Ito

In honor of this cultural tradition, Mount Union College's Office of International Student Services held a Seijin-Shiki Celebration Sunday in the Hoover-Price Campus Center to honor 12 students whom did not have a chance to celebrate at home in Japan.

'For five or six years, this ceremony has been celebrated by the College, but this is the first time our office has organized the event,' said Dawn Adams, assistant director of international student services at Mount Union. 'We try to hold a cultural event once a month, and since Seijin-Shiki is in January, we felt this would be a perfect opportunity.' The celebration was open to all international students at Mount Union.

Sunday's ceremony featured a presentation on Seijin-Shiki along with photos from different celebrations all over Japan. Each of the 12 honorees was given a certificate and small gift from the College. 'The government gives each honoree in Japan a gift, so we wanted to keep with the tradition,' said Adams. The ceremony dates all the way back to the 7th century.

'It used to be held January 15, but it was changed over to the second Monday in January to have a long weekend,' said Dr. Naoko Oyabu-Mathis, associate professor of sociology at Mount Union who came from her native Japan to study at the College as an international student, graduating in 1980.

Many women celebrate this day by wearing a kimono, while the young men wear western style business suits. 'Kimonos are very expensive though,' said Oyabu-Mathis.
'The sash around the waist alone costs $1,000. But the parents want their children presented well.'

Since most are unable to put on a kimono by themselves due to the difficulties involved in putting one on, many young girls in Japan visit a beauty salon to help get dressed and to set their hair. 'It's also not uncommon to get photos taken on this day which are later used for arranged marriages,' Oyabu-Mathis said.

According to Oyabu-Mathis, the celebration is held in the city with special guest speakers, such as the mayor, to congratulate the young men and women and talk about the responsibilities of being an adult. 'After the celebration in the city, all the young men and women go out and celebrate with one another,' she added.

Next month on February 17, the Office of International Student Services will be taking students to the Asian Plaza in Cleveland. 'It is in celebration of the Asian Lunar New Year. We are really looking forward to it,' said Adams.

For more information on the Seijin-Shiki Celebration or upcoming events presented by Mount Union's Office of International Student Services, contact Dawn Adams at adamsda@mountunion.edu.

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