As it happens, as I write this, today, the second Monday of January, is Coming of Age Day in Japan, where young women are supposed to dress up in kimonos, and where young men either dress in kimonos or in Western-style suits, and celebrate the fact that they have reached the age of twenty within the previous year, which is when someone comes of age in Japanese culture. Those who retain their residency in their home municipalities and are interested in the ceremony listen to speeches and receive small presents, and then often celebrate by drinking parties afterward. Although there is evidence of the ceremony being celebrated in Japan for over a thousand years, the widespread nature of the ceremony dates to the period just after World War II when it was established as a civil holiday, changing in date in 2000 as part of Japan’s “Happy Monday System” to lead to more three-day weekends. Despite these efforts, the celebration has become less popular in recent years as many Japanese young people no longer feel like adults at 20 and so feel uncomfortable celebrating their coming of age, since they do not feel as if they have arrived yet. This, combined with Japan’s low birth rate and shrinking proportion of young people, has made the ceremony smaller and smaller year after year .
Yesterday night, as I was getting ready for bed and trying to finish reading a book on the philosophy of the Legend of Zelda , I found out that David Bowie had died after a lengthy battle with cancer. I immediately went to listen to my favorite song of his, a somewhat melancholy reflection on aging that he had released in 1999, shortly after I became an adult, “Thursday’s Child.” My reasons for liking this song, and for thinking it appropriate to his own death, are somewhat complicated. Having been born on a Thursday, I have related to the driven nature of the child discussed in the poem that says, “Thursday’s child has far to go.” According to his VH1 Storytellers concert, David Bowie had been inspired by singer Eartha Kitt, who called her biography Thursday’s Child about her own driven ways. The song by Bowie expresses, in an adult contemporary song that was originally intended for a video game soundtrack, a desire to come to peace with the past, to come to terms with aging, and to recognizing the futility of most of what he was driven to do as he looked back on nearly three decades of performing.
This morning, as I drove to work after dropping off some books at the library, I turned the corner from Scholl’s Ferry onto 175th at the boundary between the rapidly building up city limits of Beaverton and the more open farmland and pastureland on the outside of those limits , when I found myself immediately stopped by a construction crew involved in paving and expanding the road, as it passes by a new high school that is being built on the south slopes of Cooper Mountain. It is somewhat unusual to think that the peaceful and sedate drive I often choose for myself to relax in the morning is coming of age as a part of the suburban area where I live, and so the green grass will be replaced by concrete sidewalks and buildings and portable classrooms for the education of the teenagers who live in the new subdivisions around, and perhaps to relieve the overcrowding in existing schools. Who knows what the school will be named, or whether those students attending it will ever wonder about the rural areas that are not so far away from their suburban neighborhoods, or whether the improvements made to the intersection that I take on the way to work will be able to counteract the increased traffic from a school being built where a pasture used to be.
In the novel Mansfield Park, Jane Austen writes about the oppressed Fanny Price, whose horrifying child background with a leering alcoholic father gives her an edge that appears prudish to many people and whose native self-restraint is often confused for priggishness. Part of the witty bite of the novel is the fact that a great deal of attention, and a great deal of the reason for the propelling of the novel’s plot insofar as it relates to its heroine, springs from the question of whether she is or is not “out.” It was not mere calendar age that made someone eligible to be a dance partner for a young man with marriage on his mind, but the fact that she had been formally presented as being available. Despite being what we would consider an adult, Fanny’s debut was somewhat late because her foster family had simply never considered her marriage prospects to be of interest, and yet once she was considered to be out by her peers, she became the subject of idle gallantry and a great deal of social pressure. Sometimes adulthood isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. As soon as we leave the longings to be free from the confines of childhood, we are held responsible for settling down and starting a family, and if we should be particularly unfortunate in those sorts of endeavors, we draw a great deal of hostile scrutiny. Just this Sabbath, for example, I spoke to a young woman who was visibly longing to be considered an adult, something that is only a few months off for her. May she find the experience more enjoyable than it has been for some of us. All too often we come of age without ever having felt that we have arrived, or that the change of life provides the sort of opportunities that we desire to fulfill our dreams and longings.
 See, for example:
 This is a common problem: