January 11th, 2010
10:16 AM GMT
Tokyo, Japan - Today is a joyous national holiday in Japan known as the Coming of Age Day. The day marks the time when girls and boys become women and men.
Young people celebrate Coming of Age Day in Tokyo.
All over Tokyo, young women who are turning 20 this fiscal year are decked out in the fanciest, brightest, and most expensive kimonos you’ll ever see. Young men show up in the sharpest (and likely their first) black suit. The women are adorned with all the stylings of youth: huge hair, flowers, furs and silk. You have to forgive them if they’ve gone a bit over the top — you only become an adult once in Japan.
At the Shibuya ward office, 1450 people arrived at the important Coming of Age Day this January 11, 2010. Compare that number to years past, and you get a glimpse into one of Japan’s most pressing economic problems.
Five years ago, Shibuya ward had 1,917 people turn 20. Ten years ago, that number was 2,462. Twenty years ago, it was 4,380. That’s a steady decline in 20 years, down almost 70 percent. The number of young people is declining, not just in Shibuya, but all over Japan.
The birth rate in Japan is 1.37, among the lowest in the world. Japanese women, in survey after survey, report they’re holding back from having children because of the lack of daycare, inequity of domestic duties in marriage, career concerns and the high cost of living in Japan.
At the same time, the number of elderly is growing. By 2050, Japan’s government predicts 40 percent of its population will be over the age of 65. It’s a crippling population problem which analysts say will make this current recession and recovery look like a brief hiccup.
Japan celebrates its young today. But the joy diminishes every year.
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