Sunday, January 16, 2011

Coming of age Day in Seika \ 成人の日

Although many countries and cultures have a coming of age tradition, the ways in which each celebrate are very different. Jewish children celebrate Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah, young Americans have their 21st birthday and all the revelry that goes with that, and in Japan there is Coming of Age Day. On January tenth, Coming of Age Ceremonies were held in every city, town and village in Japan, and people who turned twenty in past year gathered to celebrate the start of their new, adult lives.


I was lucky enough to get to go to part of Seika’s Coming of Age ceremony, which started with a performance from the Seika Girls and Boys Chorus. There were at least a hundred kids in the chorus, and though I thought that a chorus that big and that young couldn't be too easy on the ears, the kids could really sing, and all the 20 year olds seemed impressed too. Then Mayor Kimura and Seika Town Assembly President Sugiura each gave a speech welcoming the new adults, expressing hope that all those in attendance take the time to thank their parents and everyone else who helped them grow and learn. Group pictures were taken, and all of the participants went upstairs for free food and games, whereupon, not wanting to be the elephant in the room, I gracefully bowed out.

One of the most notable elements of Coming of Age Day is the dress that new adult women wear. Although young men normally dress in suits for the ceremony, the young women wear incredibly colorful furisode (a type of kimono with long sleeves), and often spend hours on their hair and make-up. Even if you don’t get to go to the actual ceremony, you’re still very likely to see young women wearing their furisode around town, and it’s always a surprise to walk onto a train and see a gaggle of young women decked out in elaborate gowns and gigantic hair. Although you see women in Kimono and Yukata at festivals and the like, the level of effort put into the Coming of Age Ceremony dresses is staggering, and expensive, with some young women spending thousands of dollars preparing the dress and make up.


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