"Seijin no hi" or Coming of Age Day celebrates the eligibility of 20 year olds to vote, drink alcohol and buy cigarettes.

On January 10, 2000, over a million Japanese who turned 20 years of age in the last year, flocked to auditoriums and halls across the country to listen to local dignitaries, mostly middle-aged men, congratulate them quite solemly on reaching "adulthood".

Across the street from "Miyako Messe", the convention centre in our neighbourhood where a Coming of Age Day ceremony was held, political parties vainly attempted to get the attention of potential voters by deafening them with incomprehensible political speeches. Clad in kimono or sharp designer suits and attached to their cellphones, Kyoto's 20 year olds were more interested in chatting to friends and having their photo taken than thinking seriously about their responsibilities as voters.

Essentially remaining as a rite of passage in modern Japanese society, Coming of Age Day keeps the kimono companies and beauty salons in business for at least another year. As for the cellphone companies, whilst they aren't doing badly at all financially, they fear this day as the multitude of calls between 20 year olds usually causes chaos with crashed telecommunication systems and phone lines that are jammed for hours.