Change hardships of pandemic into energy for future

Young people who went through their sensitive late teens amid the novel coronavirus pandemic have joined the ranks of adulthood. It is hoped they will turn their painful experiences into energy to open up future paths.

Today is Coming-of-Age Day. With the enactment of the revised Civil Code in April last year, the age of adulthood was lowered to 18 from 20, and a total of 3.41 million people who were aged 18-20 last year became new adults.

Once people become adults, they can sign various contracts of their own volition, without their parents’ consent. They are given the right to vote and can be chosen to serve as lay judges. As members of society, they must be responsible and self-aware, and this is probably a major difference from their previous days.

However, these new adults have been forced to endure a great deal over the three years since the pandemic broke out. With many school events canceled, they could not even do club activities and take trips satisfactorily. With online interaction becoming the norm, there were few opportunities for them to interact with others in person.

They must not have had enough opportunities to mature by experiencing many failures in their interactions with others. Some people may even be confused, having reached the age of adulthood sooner than others before them.

Many local governments hold traditional coming-of-age events to celebrate people becoming 20 years old. This is because many 18-year-olds are preparing for university entrance exams or job hunting, making it difficult for them to attend ceremonies.

Against this backdrop, the Misato municipal government in Miyazaki Prefecture held a ceremony for each age group between 18 and 20. At the Jan. 3 ceremony for 19-year-olds, Ayumi Kamimura, who represented the attendees, expressed her resolution saying, “I’m anxious about suddenly being thrust into the world of adults, but I’m determined to boldly and steadily step forward.”

The generations that have already reached adulthood and which stand at the forefront of society should try to understand the feelings of young people who were at the mercy of an unfamiliar infectious disease and welcome them with warmth.

New adult Ryosuke Kozawa, 18, has already established an aerial photography company using drones in Aichi Prefecture and has produced numerous music videos for celebrities and advertisements for companies. Last autumn, he rented a room under his own name for the first time to set up a base in Tokyo.

“I feel like I’ve become a member of adult society,” Kozawa said. “I’ve braced myself, thinking I’ll have to do more reliable work as a professional.”

There must be many people who still do not have a clear vision of their future. It is hoped they will take time to face themselves and find out what they want to do and what they can do.

Looking around the world, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is still underway. Young generations like those celebrating Coming-of-Age Day in Japan are also caught up in the ravages of war. Young people in Japan should also ponder how to safeguard peace.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 9, 2023)