Coming-of-Age Day: New Adults Must Pave Way in Era of Declining Population

As an individual adult, what do you aspire to in these uncertain times? On this day of celebration, it is hoped that young people are envisioning what their future will be like.

Today is Coming-of-Age Day. The age of adulthood was lowered to 18 from 20 in 2022, and this year 1.06 million people born in 2005 became new adults.

The nation’s population recorded a natural decrease for the first time in 2005. This year’s new adults will be at the forefront of a society with a declining population. They must be ready and take responsibility for paving the way for a new era.

Most local governments hold Coming-of-Age ceremonies for 20-year-olds, as they did in the past, because it is difficult for 18-year-olds who are preparing to take university entrance exams or engaged in job-hunting to attend the ceremonies. One idea would be for local governments and schools to devise ways to raise 18-year-olds’ awareness as new adults.

At the end of last year, Keiai University Yokaichiba High School in Sosa, Chiba Prefecture, held its own Coming-of-Age ceremony for 18-year-olds with its third-year students playing a central role. “I thought for us to become adults, we needed an opportunity to embrace our resolve,” said Manato Hayashi, who led the ceremony’s organizing committee and made a pledge at the event.

These new adults grew up in an environment where using smartphones and social media from an early age is normal. Many of them must have had their activities restricted during their adolescence due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with a result that being online is a central part of their lives.

They may experience setbacks in the real world at some point in the future. Society as a whole must support them so that they can make the most of mistakes they may make.

According to the “Awareness Survey of 18-Year-Olds” released by the Nippon Foundation last year, the most frequently cited reason for choosing an occupation was making a significant contribution to society.

Such awareness is probably reflected in the recent increase in student clubs at universities across Japan that are aimed at learning how to apply social issues such as decarbonization and poverty alleviation to business. It is hoped that students will broaden their perspectives from small questions to the global level and take action.

In the meantime, it is becoming increasingly important for them to learn about their responsibilities as adults.

In recent years, 18- and 19-year-olds have notably become increasingly involved in consumer troubles. Some have gotten addicted to going to host clubs that engage in unscrupulous business practices and racked up debts, while others participated in criminal activities through applying for shady part-time jobs. As adults, they must know that they are responsible for protecting themselves.

Caution is also imperative regarding the use of generative artificial intelligence. Since fake images can be easily created and spread, there are concerns about such dangers as copyright infringement.

Among young people, there is a strong tendency to emphasize “time performance,” meaning they demand answers instantly. However, the casual use of AI may undermine the ability to think for oneself.

Society is changing rapidly. Thinking for oneself and having the willingness to take on challenges without being bound by precedent are essential for young people. The hope is that they will bring together their young power and face forward into the future.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 8, 2024)