Thursday, January 13, 2011

Late Coming of Age

Last Monday was Coming of Age Day, a national holiday celebrating the entrance to adulthood of those who become 20, the age of majority in Japan.

As usual, TV news and variety programs interviewed many of those attending the coming of age ceremonies held across the country, asking them predictable questions about what they intended to do as newly full-fledged adult members of society, about their aspirations and dreams, and the like. Along with many positive, optimistic, even idealistic comments, there were plenty of anxious or outright pessimistic ones, as might be expected in the current grim economic conditions. One that really attracted my notice, however, was "I wish I'd (been born early enough to have) experienced the bubble".

Japan's economic bubble was pretty much over in the early years of the '90s, with the last vestiges gone by around '95. Economists would probably argue that that's too late, and it probably is from an economic point of view. There were still quite a few people behaving as if things were better than they were, though, dancing on the fantail of a sinking ship, until about then.

That young man would have entered kindergarten about the time that the last notes had been played and the last steps danced, when the bubble had unarguably burst, and I feel sorry for him. I feel sorry for his parents, too; their son was conceived at a time when relatively few people even noticed that the ship was taking on water, when it looked to many people as if the carefree party cruise was still going to continue for a long time, if not forever. Those parents probably expected a much brighter future for their son, and for themselves.

Having heard, from his parents, from others of their generation, from the media, and from movies and dramas, of the heady bubble days, that young man is understandably envious, and disappointed.

I don't blame him. I was lucky enough to experience that bubbly era, and I had a great time. He missed a lot by coming of age too late.

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