Monday, 10 January 2011

Seijin Day

Today was Seijin Day in Japan (Coming-of-age Day, for those turning 20 in the year). It's an unexpected national holiday after just finishing the new year holidays. With my travelling back to England for Christmas and New Year, this year's holiday was even more unexpected than usual for me. I'd forgotten about it completely. When someone first mentioned seijin (成人) I thought for a moment that they meant "alien" which is also seijin (星人) in Japanese. With its fewer sounds, same-sound words are frequent in the Japanese language, but often pass the Japanese by unless they are actually thinking of puns (which is a comedic and poetic pastime). Japanese is definitely a visual and contextual language compared to English

Having forgotten, I didn't go out to photograph anybody this year. In 2009 I went to the local town hall, where people gather for a ceremony. The woman above exclaimed, "Ah, gaijin!" and turned to pose for the shot above. It's hard to mingle unobtrusively in a Japanese crowd. A couple of weeks later a shop assistant at the local Tsutaya DVD store some kilometres from the town hall asked if I was a photographer: she said she recognised me from outside the town hall on Seijin Day.

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