On Monday January 11th we passed a highly anticipated day for all those in Japan who recently reached the milestone age of twenty. Everyone who celebrated their twentieth birthday between April 2nd last year and April 1st this year are congratulated on their ascent to adulthood, in a traditional holiday known as Sejin no Hi (Coming of Age Day).
Coming of Age Day happens across the country, and is an event which young people in Japan look forward to with a mix of excitement and nervousness. It’s a time when society finally recognises your age group as being fully functioning adults (if there is such a thing). The government might deal with the paperwork that allows twenty year olds to smoke, drink and get married without their parents’ consent, but culturally this is when adulthood begins.
Taking time to recognise the change from child to adult is nothing new in Japan, with the first ceremony technically dating way back to 714 CE. The tradition has persisted in some form since then, but the current style has been popular since 1948.
Like other traditional celebrations in Japan, the Coming of Age Ceremony (Senjin Shiki) normally involves intricate outfits and plenty of photos. Nowadays young men who attend events often prefer to wear western style suits, but you’ll still see the occasional attendee wearing Hakama, a kind of wide, trouser-like garment which goes over your kimono. It used to be worn by Samurai, which is definitely cool.
Women attending the ceremony might begin the day with a photoshoot before the actual event kicks off. It’s worth dressing up in twice in your Coming of Age Day outfit, since the rental cost for these specially made clothes can be pricy. A furisode is the popular choice of outfit for young women, a type of kimono with particularly long sleeves. Scarfs made of fluffy fake fur are also fashionable and turn up in photos frequently. Zōri sandals are also worn, traditional footwear which were actually the inspiration for flip-flops.
Putting everything together to prepare for the Coming of Age Ceremony is no easy task, and the furisode is too tricky to put on without help. That means it’s a huge day for beauty salons and kimono retailers, creating an early morning rush that must be exhausting.
Things are a little different this year. Many areas in Japan are about to dip back into states of emergency and the online ceremonies being held may not be able to fill the gap properly for disappointed twenty year olds. It’s a blow for the Kimino rental shops as well, for whom this holiday is a high point of the year.
Maybe Japan will be able to keep delaying things until we finally reach the other side of the pandemic, and we’ll be able to combine everything we’ve missed. Holding the Coming of Age Celebrations at the Tokyo Olympics would be a dream come true right?
Image source: Wikicommons