The process of ‘coming of age’, or passing from childhood to adulthood, is celebrated in various guises throughout the world, and has been in some way since the beginning of time. For example, boys in prehistoric times were forced to go through a ‘rite of passage’ which often involved the task of slaying an animal or some other physical achievement that could only be performed by a man, indicating their graduation to adulthood.
Many cultures around the world still mark this progression, though it’s less frequent to challenge the child physically, and the event is more commonly marked by a celebration of some kind – like Bar Mitzvah’s in the Jewish community, Confirmations for Christians, or even simply throwing a party to celebrate the legal age that they can vote, get married, and purchase alcohol.
Japan formally and uniformly recognize the progression to adulthood (called Seijin no Hi in Japanese) of all citizens of the country who’ve turned 20 during the previous 12 months with a national holiday held on the second Monday of January. The day is marked with festivities and various ceremonies at city offices in the morning throughout the country, called seijin shinki. Similar to a graduation ceremony, guest speakers will address and welcome the fresh crop of adults into society as adults and present each man and woman with a small present.
The day is also a chance for the newly accredited adults to dress up. Although most of the young men plump for a sharp suit instead of kimono for the occasion, young women tend to wear a furisode, an elegant version of the traditional kimono with elongated sleeves and elaborate, intricate designs complete with a white fluffy shawl draped over their shoulders to protect them from the January cold.
The furisode (which literally translates to ‘hanging sleeve’) could be considered the Japanese version of a debutante gown that a girl may wear to prom in the USA, and is the last chance a young Japanese woman will have to dress to such a lavish extent until their wedding day. As a result of their uniqueness and beauty, furisode are usually suitably expensive, costing upwards of US$10,000 each.
The newly recognized adults don’t miss the opportunity to make the most of the special occasion, and women will often spend time before the ceremony at the salon having their hair and make-up beautifully crafted into works of art for the extensive post-ceremony pictures and equally essential party afterwards – a part of becoming an adult that we can all identify with!
If you’d like to find out more about Japan, their unique culture and tours to the Land of The Rising Sun, feel free to contact us at [email protected] and we’d be happy to share our expert knowledge!