Young people coming of age must move forward in times of hardship

Young adults are advised to move forward without flinching even in the middle of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Today, which is Coming-of-Age Day, should serve as a day for new adults to think about how to be involved in society and how to fulfill their own responsibilities.

The number of new adults born in 2001 totals an estimated 1.2 million, a record low since estimates began to be compiled in 1968.

On Coming-of-Age Day last year, many municipalities postponed or canceled their ceremonies due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this year, many municipalities seem to have held ceremonies by taking preventive measures.

The spread of the omicron variant is feared, so organizers and attendees must be sufficiently cautious.

Young people are entering the ranks of adulthood at this difficult time, but there will be no bright outlook if they only think negatively. It is also the power of young people that can open the way to the future.

In March 2020, university student Koki Ozora established the non-profit organization “Anata no Ibasho” (A Place for You) to provide consultation services to young people.

In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, many young people are struggling with friendships and jobs not going well. So far, 190,000 cases of people reporting troubles, saying things like “I want to die,” “I feel lonely,” and “I can’t sleep” have been received, and about 600 volunteers, including doctors and teachers, are providing consultations.

Ozora himself experienced loneliness and was unable to attend school for a long time, but he was helped by the care of a high school teacher. He said that the starting point for his activities was when he realized the significance of having a reliable source of advice.

“I want to create a society that is supportive of people who cannot speak up,” he said, and he has been meeting with Cabinet ministers and ruling and opposition party senior officials to promote the need to support young people.

It is also important to come up with a mechanism that more actively incorporates the opinions of young people.

In the city of Shinshiro, Aichi Prefecture, a “youth assembly” consisting of about 20 high school students and people in their 20s living in the city compiles improvement plans and proposes them to the city every year. It operates based on an ordinance enacted in 2015.

The youth assembly is positioned as an advisory body to the mayor. If a proposal is approved by the city assembly, a budget of up to ¥10 million is allocated. So far, the city said it has set up a self-study space in the library and created a tourist map for young people, among other actions.

Such efforts will not only contribute to the revitalization of the local area but could also provide an opportunity for young people to proactively participate in politics.

The age of adulthood will be lowered to 18 from 20 in April. It means young people aged 18 and 19 will be able to conduct activities such as obtaining credit cards without parental consent. It is important to carefully check the contents of such contracts and to take into consideration the responsibilities that come with being an adult.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Jan. 10, 2022.