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WIT Life #17: Coming of Age in an Insecure World

WITLife is a periodic series written by professional Interpreter/Translator/Writer Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken, 2000-03).  In her recent posts, she’s been watching the news in Japanese and sharing some of the interesting tidbits and trends together with her own observations.


Coming off the news that Toyota reported its first operating loss in 70 years, Japan’s other leading manufacturers are also falling victim to the high yen and global recession. Sony just announced that it will have its first profit loss in 14 years, despite the fact that it was in the black with profits of 200 billion yen in March of last year. For the business year through this March, it looks like Sony may post an operating loss of 100 billion yen ($1.1 billion). Toshiba also revealed that it will have its first operating loss in 7 years, due largely to slumping sales of its semiconductors.

However, in the midst of all this doom and gloom there was a bit of good cheer in Japan yesterday as nationwide more than 1.3 million 20-year olds celebrated Seijin no hi or Coming of Age Day. Seijinshiki (ceremonies) took place from Hokkaido to Okinawa, and this first generation of Heisei (1989~) seijin shared their hopes and fears with reporters. With a large percentage of college students, many expressed the desire to get through to graduation. Those in the work force expressed nervousness regarding the stability of their employment, but nonetheless enjoyed the festive mood surrounding them.

In Kyushu, a group composed of students from eight universities decided to celebrate their coming of age Polar Bear Club style, by jumping into the nearest body of water and offering cries of excitement and enthusiasm as they shivered. This ritual seemed to refresh the participants and serve as an unofficial baptism into the adult world. Minnasan, for the sake of yourselves and the future of your country, ganbatte kudasai!

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