Friday, January 21, 2005

Seijinshiki: Coming of Age in Japan

Seijinshiki at Yasaka Jinja, Kyoto.

Seijinshiki, the Japanese Coming of Age Ceremony, is a national holiday (and every tourist`s dream,) celebrated every January 10 or 15. Everyone who has turned 20 years old during the past year officially becomes an adult, which means they can vote, smoke, drink, and generally wreak even more havoc than before--only leagally! Along with the bestowal of these new rights come the responsibilities adulthood...Whatever those are!

Coming of Age rituals have been carried out since the seventh century. Genpuku, for boys between the ages of thirteen and sixteen, and mogi, for girls between twelve and sixteen, marked the adolescent`s rebirth as a responsible member of the society, at which time the they were allowed to grow their hair long and formally adopt adult hair and clothing styles.

Today, both young men and women dress up to attend the celebrations held in their hometown and visit shrines. Many young men wear western style suits, but if you`re lucky, you might see one in a formal black kimono with five mon (family crests), hakama, and haori (samarai style!). The girls rock furisode kimono, which literally means, "swinging sleeves." According to popular myth, young women would swing their sleeves to attract young men's attention (sounds better than having to shake your arse).

Brightly colored with auspicous Japanese designs like cherry or plum blossoms, butterflies, maple leaves and rivers, these kimono can cost thousands of dollars (not to mention the hundreds of dollars they spend to get their hair and makeup done). Kimono are so expensive that many people choose to rent them instead. My friend's little sister just rented one for $1000.

Back in the day, pictures taken of women wearing their kimono at Seijinshiki were shown to eligible bachelors hoping to get lucky with an arranged marriage. Ah yes, the good ol' days!

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