Ritual – Japan

Coming-of-Age Ritual

Japanese Coming-of-Age for Girls

Dana said in her Japanese family, when a girl begins menstruating, red beans and rice are prepared and eaten to celebrate her transition into womanhood. She said this is a widespread Japanese tradition, and that her family has been doing this “forever.”

The red beans stain the rice a pink color, which Dana said might be symbolic. Everyone in the family has to have a bit of it. When asked what she thought about this ritual, she said, “It’s really awkward.” Some people in her family who aren’t as traditional, her Aunt for example, use peas instead of red beans.

This kind of blatant recognition of womanhood is not prevalent in American society. There are no widespread rituals in response to a girl’s transition into womanhood. In fact, it is kept very quiet. I assume in Japan, the transition of girls into women is a much bigger and more serious celebration, and isn’t at all “awkward.”

In other cultures, it is common to recognize this transition—Jewish bat mitzvahs, for example. In the United States, the topic of menstruation and new womanhood is sensitive—almost taboo. Perhaps this American influence on the Japanese ritual is what makes it “awkward.”