Coming of Age in Japan- Seijin no Hi

I don`t recall the details of my coming of age other than it was welcomed in an intoxicated stupor. Here I remained for several years following just to ensure I was acting like an adult, or the ones in my family anyway. Reaching the legal drinking age of 21 was the sole arbiter of adulthood where I was raised. The Japanese, on the other hand, celebrate coming of age- at 20- with more pomp and circumstance, and primp, to be enjoyed in various venues.

The second Monday of every January is Coming of Age Day, Adult Day, or Seijin no Hi. Fellows, this is an ideal time to visit Japan if your interest leans toward the ladies as all female 20 year old`s don a stunning kimono and totter around town for the Coming of Age ceremonies held in shrines and city halls.

I chose my go-to shrine, Meiji, to see the procession.

Unlike the American version of the kimono made out of polyester with a tie belt and bought at Kmart, these are heavy silk with several layers of varying designs. Cinched by the obi belt wound around the waist several dozen times in order to keep everything tucked tight. The equivalent of bound feet only in a full body version.

These elegant girls made me feel like an elephant trumpeting around the shrine grounds hair, clothing and camera all akimbo.

Does she know a rabid animal is wrapped around her neck attacking its own tail?

Notice the stark white tabi socks with the kimono. I thought Nike tres original when the split toe shoes debuted several years ago. Not so avant-garde as it appeared but I now know the Asian inspired fabric was an homage to the shoes` origins.

I spotted one guy out of the entire crowd. The male kimonos all look similar- if not the same- as the one below. Or that`s what I`m claiming, as he was the only one I saw. I did see a Facebook picture of a friend`s similarly kimono`d son. I`ve seen it twice, therefore, it must be so.

The girls shuffled toward the shrine on the gravel paved entrance assisted by moms and boyfriends. Facing a fire while wearing a kimono would be truly terrifying. Between the socks, the zori sandals and several layers of tightly bound kimono, no one gets anywhere quickly. No wonder the ladies happily shed it once Western clothing was introduced.

These girls are giddy because they are now officially able to wear the adult version of the kimono with shorter sleeves.

Meiji Shrine changed it`s ema (wooden plaques where prayers are written to be hung in the shrine) to reflect the year of the dragon. The old version is at the top of this page. Just thought you might be interested as it strays from my point.

Many chose to celebrate at Disney Tokyo for some odd reason. Mickey and Pluto were definitely not on my invitee list when I turned 21. Miss Piggy? She would have been a good addition.

The Tokyo Times, Kyodo

This is a brilliant marketing ploy by Disney at it gives the crowds something to enjoy while waiting 3 hours per ride.

Next up- a couple more New Year`s traditions.

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31 Responses to Coming of Age in Japan- Seijin no Hi

  1. jacquelincangro says:

    Is this like the debutante balls in the US? Are they “coming out”? (Coming out of what I always wanted to know.)

    Those kimonos are beautiful, like works of art.


    • Not really. The debutante balls and Sweet 16`s are mainly for the economically advantaged. Coming of Age Day is a National Holiday and is celebrated by all 20 yr olds.

      But you`re right. Perhaps it`s time you made your long awaited debut J!


    • Tori Nelson says:

      As a Southerner, the debutante thing was my first impression. Not that I was invited to the white-gloved affair. My “coming of age” involved whorish makeup and canned beer at a biker bar. Let it never be said I am not a refined lady 🙂


  2. Those of us in recovery lament that society’s young people still associate alcohol use as part of coming of age. Putting poison in our body is no celebration.


    • I so agree with you. My Ob going through my family history when I was pregnant
      ” Any heart disease?” No
      “Cancer” No
      The other 50 followed. He said, “You`re going to live forever” to which I replied- “You never asked me about alcoholism” which kills us all off around 50….


  3. Who knew there was such an event. Jackie is right. The kimonos are amazing.

    By the way, I just finished reading a book you might enjoy, if you haven’t already. It’s called “Tune In Tokyo: The Gaijin Diaries,” by Tim Anderson–about two years spent in Japan teacing English. VERY FUNNY!



  4. I couldn’t really see a male in a brightly coloured and/or flowery kimono could you? It would remind to much of a guy wearing a woman’s dressing gown!


  5. Dana says:

    Those young women look gorgeous! It seems like Coming of Age Day presents many prime photo opportunities, but I hear you on not wanting to usher in adulthood with Mickey Mouse.

    I’ve never been a drinker, so friends of mine literally had to kidnap me to a bar on my 18th birthday, pouting and whining the whole time. They had intended to get me drunk but could only buy the Crankiest Teenager a solitary cocktail after hours of prodding and pleading. I was the biggest party pooper on my own Coming of Age Day. Had they taken me out for 80s Night Dancing with a cool cuppa water, though, it would have been a different story entirely! 🙂


  6. the young girls and their kimonos are beautiful!! what a wonderful tradition! When I was in 1st grade, I had a best friend who was japanese.One of my most vivid childhood memories was dressing up in a kimono and wishing I could be japanese! well, as it turns out, Im still not but I sure do love kimonos.


    • I never had any idea just what works of art they can be until moving here. I`ve just never seen silk like this. I had a Korean friend whose mother was a GREAT cook so of course I wished my mother was Korean.


  7. “These elegant girls made me feel like an elephant trumpeting around the shrine grounds hair, clothing and camera all akimbo.” +1 ^.-


  8. I’m in love and sorry for this with the Elephant – one in particular his name? Elefanten! ^^


  9. tokyobling says:

    Lovely photos, I wish I had your courage and energy! This year I’ve been too exhausted from work to do much photography. Which reminds me of my new year’s resolution: Find rich wife, become a house-husband, start enjoying life again. If I see the inside of one more meeting room I’m going to explode! (^-^)


  10. Michi says:

    Wow, I love learning about coming of age traditions! I’d totally be one of the kimono’d gals at Tokyo Disney. Thankfully it’s not too warm in Japan this time of year?


  11. Rurousha says:

    Hallo! I discovered your blog purely by chance this morning, and I’ve just whiled away a pleasant hour reading through your posts. The ones about you sister’s visit made me grin. My First Ever Family Member Visit is coming up in March. I’ve made and discarded approximately 307 itineraries.

    Anyway, back to this topic. Have you ever worn a kimono? Backache guaranteed, claustrophobia very possible …


    • Hi Rurousha- thanks for stopping in! Are you in Japan? I now have my tour down pat- even customizable by age and gender. I`ve not worn a kimono but it is something that I have on my list. I want to see how I look with stuffing- since you are supposed to appear flat from the side. Flattening out my butt will take a lot of stuffing….


      • Rurousha says:

        Yup, I’ve been living in Tokyo for several years. (Originally from South Africa. Never did have a sense of direction.)

        They stuff approximately 3 futon and 6 pillows underneath the obi, and then they squeeze in a duvet. You’ll need to take lots of photos, otherwise nobody will ever believe you. I’m already looking forward to reading your post about it. 😉


  12. Emily, I am so glad the blog was highlighted so I could find it. It brings back amazing memories of my first experience (in my twenties) of an expat living in Nagoya, Japan. How I wish blogging existed back then (which makes me sound ancient). Now I’m an expat again, only this time I’m a mom, and we live in an English-speaking country — not quite the outsider-experience of living in Japan. I’m so looking forward to reading more of your blog!


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