It’s a quiet day in the Uncovering Japan house today, as I’m still recovering from the eventful weekend. Between a 4th birthday party for my daughter and a day trip to Kurokawa Onsen (as per the birthday kid’s request), I am rather enjoying a mellow Monday.
But as it’s also Seijin no Hi (Coming of Age Day) today, I had to make the usual pilgrimage over to our local shrine to see the girls all decked out in their lovely kimono. Along with November’s Shichigosan holiday, this is one day a year that travelers are almost guaranteed the opportunity to see young Japanese in their traditional finery.
Here’s a bit of a rundown on Seijin no Hi, in case you missed my previous years’ posts. Twenty is considered “legal age” in Japan, and it is from this point on that a young adult can purchase alcohol, smoke and vote. Coming of Age ceremonies have been held in Japan for at least several centuries, but it wasn’t until 1876 that the Japanese government determined the legal age of adulthood to be twenty. Prior to that, boys were considered mature at 15, when they cropped their hair, and girls “peaked” earlier at the age of 13, at which point they would begin to blacken their teeth in the style so popular in the Edo era (1603-1868).
For young people, Seijin no Hi is almost like a bar mitzvah – dress up to the nines (for women, this can mean a long-sleeved furisode kimono; for men, a tailored suit or traditional hakama), get gifts from friends and relatives, and have a huge party with your friends.
Before the partying begins, however, you’ll often find the celebrants (mostly girls) visiting the local shrine with their families for photo opportunities. If you head to the shrine today, keep your eyes peeled for gorgeous furisode. These stunning kimono can only be worn by a woman between her coming of age day and her wedding, so it’s not at all common to come across someone wearing the furisode for a casual occasion.