From April 1, Japan's civil code was modified to lower the age of adulthood from 20 to 18 years. This marked the first change since 1896.
Since these new adults will now be able to engage in more activities without requiring parental consent, Weekly Playboy (April 25) wondered if this make them more vulnerable to various types of swindlers. Or for that matter, be recruited by porn film producers.
"The change in the law's Article 4, which states that a person reaching the age of 18 will have become an adult, will apply to some 2.2 million individuals between the ages of 18 and 20," explained attorney Shinzo Nakamura, author of the recently published pamphlet "Eighteen year-olds targeted!? Eighteen questions and answers for 18-year-olds to protect themselves from consumer fraud."
One of the first questions to arise was, what will local governments do regarding the annual coming-of-age holiday, which is observed on the second Monday each January?
"For next year's event, it looks like three times the regular number of young people will be attending," said a civil servant at a municipality in Kanagawa Prefecture. "That's providing we invite all those who reached the ages of 18 through 20 during this year."
Still, old customs die hard. When a total of 985 municipal offices in Japan were surveyed regarding future ceremonies, an overwhelming majority, 94.8%, replied that they would stick to the existing practice, feting only those who had reached age 20.
As many 18 year-olds are likely to be in their third year of high school, and occupied as they are likely to be with preparations for their university entrance examinations, an event in mid-January is likely to result in a surge of no-shows.
Attorney Nakamura recalled that up to the start of the Meiji Period in 1868, many parts of the country observed a traditional ceremony called gempuku, which marked the transition from childhood to adulthood, with the assumption of adult responsibilities. This was usually held upon reaching the ages of 13 to 15.
"In the 1860s, the age of adulthood in the U.S. and European countries commonly ranged from 21 to 25 years," Nakamura added. "The Meiji government began military conscription of males from age 20, which is why the civil code adopted 20 as the age of adulthood."
Finally in May 2007, 18-year-olds in Japan were accorded the right to vote.
"The government felt that the discrepancy needed to be addressed," explained Nakamura. "Examining the data from 187 countries and regions, it was found that 141 countries recognized 18 as the age of adulthood. So Japan realized that it should align itself with the rest of the world."
Since these new adults will be legally empowered to sign contracts and undertake employment without parental consent, people will be watching to see if more fall victim to swindlers.
Finally four pages in, the article takes up another issue that seems to be of serious concern: Once the protective "dikes" safeguarding 18- and 19-year-olds have been removed, will these teens lose the protection of current laws against child prostitution, child pornography and being hired to appear in adult videos?
At least one NPO, called "PAPS," which bills itself as an "organization for pornography and sexual exploitation survivors," is proactively working to ban recruiters from "scouting" young women still enrolled in high school.
The AV industry itself, worried over negative publicity, is also concerned. On March 25, an umbrella organization dealing with ethics in the adult video industry circulated a notice to producers "strongly advising" that they continue to employ performers age 20 and above.
"The notice voiced strong opposition to concluding contracts with those under age 20, particularly those were still enrolled in educational institutions," a source in the video business told the magazine.
"Unfortunately, indie AV producers aren't likely to feel bound by such constraints," the source added. "There's clearly a danger that they may even focus on this age group, as a target for their recruitment."© Japan Today