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成人式/せいじんしき/Seijin-shiki/Coming of age ceremony

What is 成人式/せいじんしき/seijinshiki?

The age of becoming an adult varies from country to country. In many of the Western countries, it’s either 18 or 21. In Japan, the age of becoming an adult is 20 and there is a ceremony to celebrate those newly became adults. Once you become formally an adult in Japan, you can drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, and play gamble. They used to be given voting right at this age, but it has changed to 18 years old in 2016. The second Monday of January is a national holiday called 成人の日/せいじんのひ/Seijin no hi/the day of the coming age and 成人式 (coming of age ceremony) is held on that day.

What do people do?

On the second Monday of January, each municipality holds a coming-of-age ceremony for new adults. The coming-of-age ceremony is usually held at public halls. But in some areas, the ceremony is held at a hotel, and places that have their own unique building use them as a ceremony venue. For example, Urayasu city in Chiba prefecture uses Tokyo Disneyland, and Narita city which is also in Chiba prefecture uses Narita International Airport. In general, people attend the coming-of-age ceremony in their home town. It also serves as a reunion where people can see their old friends from primary and secondary school after a long time. A coming-of-age ceremony is a ceremonial event where representatives of the new adults announce their goals and the mayor congratulates them. After the ceremony, many people go out to get drinks with their friends.

What do people wear?

Men usually wear suits for the coming-of-age ceremony. Some people also wear kimono and haori hakama. Few people have their own kimonos and in usual cases, people rent haori hakama for men at a kimono rental store. The fee is around 20,000 yen (140 GBP) and is relatively cheap. In the ceremony, women in their kimono stand out more and people pay less attention to men’s clothing. So, sometimes there are few men wearing unique clothing that looks like cosplay.

For the ceremony, women prepare a 着物/きもの/kimono called a 振袖/ふりそで/furisode. Kimonos are the traditional Japanese garment. Furisode is characterized by its long sleeves, which make it one of the most gorgeous kimonos. It’s only worn by unmarried women and it’s is considered to be the most prestigious formal attire for unmarried women today. Nowadays, wearing furisode for the coming-of-age ceremony has the meaning of purifying oneself at the start of life. It also has the meaning of getting rid of bad luck and attracting good luck. The pattern of the kimono also has various meanings, prayers and wishes. However, modern Japanese people are not so conscious of the traditional meanings and choose their kimono based just on the impression. On the day of the coming-of-age ceremony, women go to a beauty salon to get dressed and get hair done. Some people get tired of wearing tight obi because they are not used to wear kimono. On the day of the coming-of-age ceremony, you can see gorgeous women in furisode here and there in the town. Many people buy furisode, while others just rent them. A cheap set can be bought on the Internet for as little as 30,000 yen (210 GBP), while a complete set at a kimono shop can cost as little as 100,000 yen (700 GBP). High-end furisode can cost up to several million yen (over 7000 GBP). When renting, the price varies depending on the quality kimono. You can rent a kimono for about 100,000 yen (700 GBP) to 200,000 yen (1400 GBP), but if you are not particular about the price, you can find a kimono for as little as 50,000 yen (350 GBP). Before or on the day of the coming-of-age ceremony, people go to a photo studio to have a commemorative photo taken of them in their furisode. Even after the coming-of-age ceremony is over, women can wear their furisode to someone's wedding because it’s formal attire for unmarried women.

Unfortunately, the coming of age ceremony was cancelled in many places this year because of Coronavirus pandemic. But when the pandemic is over and you got a chance to visit Japan in early January, you will be able to see people in Kimono and suits celebrating their coming age of adult.

Momoka Yamaguchi

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