In Japan, the 20th year of a person’s life is the “coming of age” year. This is where teenagers officially enter the world of adulthood, to become more responsible citizens. Marked by a joyous and colorful celebration held every year in January, teenagers flock to Kyoto for the event called Toshiya.
According to history, the Toshiya festival started in 1606 when a Samurai gave a demonstration of his kyudo skills, shooting 100 arrows in rapid succession in the entire length of the Sanjusangen-do temple and hitting the target 51 times. Today, it is an annual contest with events that resembled archery marathons. The modern competition is now called Ohmato Taikai, where 20-year-old contestants are to hit their targets set 60 meters away. The celebration falls only two weeks after the New Year just before the national Coming of Age holiday.
Boys and girls enter the temple gates wearing exquisitely designed kimonos accompanied by their parents. The sight is often breathtaking, showcasing elegance and strength, two aspects which, up until today, remain an important part of Japanese tradition and folklore.