My son turns fifteen this year, and in accordance with a Japanese custom I’d never heard of before, he’ll be participating in a school ceremony called risshi-shiki, the Ceremony of Attending Manhood (also called Genpuku or Genbuku). It’s a revival of an old tradition that goes back a millennium or so in which boys who had reached the minimum age of adulthood had their hair cut in the fashion of adults for the first time, and after that point they could be called to go to war and kill with a sword. In these modern times, it’s become a ceremony where boys (and girls) stand up in front of their teachers and other students and declare their goals, what they want to do with their lives in the future. My son goes to a special experimental immersion school in which 50% of the classes are taught in English, so he has to give his speech twice, once in English and once in Japanese.
When I was fifteen and attending school in America, I never gave a thought about where my life would take me — I was too busy playing AD&D and M.U.L.E. on my Atari 8-bit computer. Do you think this is a good way to get young people to think more seriously about the future?
A rissho-shiki ceremony is an opportunity to reflect on your personal goals.