A guide to the Seijin-shiki (the coming of age ceremony)

You might already be familiar with the Seijin-shiki 成人式 - Japan’s coming of age ceremony. Traditionally, the 2nd Monday of January becomes a public holiday in Japan to celebrate those that are turning 20 or have turned 20. This year, those that are born between April 1995-March 1996 celebrate becoming legal in Japan. What most non-Japanese students don’t know is how to TRADITIONALLY celebrate this prestigious ceremony, so we give you the dissected guide to the SEIJIN-SHIKI. 

  1. Why so special?

For many countries, turning legal is a big event.  In Australia where I grew up, many 18-year-olds celebrate turning the age of consent by getting absolutely smashed. However, Japan takes a more traditional approach, contrary to other countries around the world. Japan celebrates coming of age as a vital step upon entering adulthood. Turning 20 (hatachi- a special term for being 20) signalizes independence, maturity and one’s ability to fulfill the ‘adult’ responsibilities. It is a day to recognize your own transition of life and to acknowledge those that supported your journey for the past 20 years.

  1. How do you celebrate it?
  1. Jimoto

The Seijin-shiki is usually organized by the city council at the local school or the city hall. You receive an invitation from your local council to attend the celebration assembly. This is why many students from places other than Tokyo goes back to their home town (Jimoto) during this period. 

The celebration assembly, the Seijin-shiki, organizes a special speaker that originates from the same town to acknowledge the coming of age. The Seijin-shiki committee organizes flowers and photo sessions to celebrate the coming of age.

  1. Shrine or temple according to your religion.

The day traditionally starts with the hatachi clan visting a shrine or temple according to your religion or the closest one. This is to thank your past 20 years and to thank for the years to come. Many attend this with friends before going to the city organized Seijin-shiki.

  1. The after party reunion

Because the Seijin-shiki is held at the local town, most people that attend are locals that went to nearby schools.  It’s a semi-reunion at the city organized ceremony but many people schedule a big primary school, middle school and high school reunion to catch up with those that hardly ever come back to their Jimoto. It’s a cliché manga setting to reencounter your first primary school crush at the Seijin-shiki reunion!  You might find your friend with a beau after returning from the coming of age ceremony!

  1. What to wear? The celebration is flamboyant with the 20 year olds dressing up in traditional attire- furisode (振り袖)  kimono for girls and (hakama) 袴or a suit for boys.

GIRLS 

Fashion is everything for girls, and especially for Seijin-shiki! The kimono choosing process is like prom for girls in Japan.  The hair, the make up, nails, bag, shoes and of course, the KIMONO.

KIMONO

There are many types of kimonos but the coming of age celebration is with the Furisode silhouette. The kimono sleeves are long, drapy and signify youth.Many girls rent, borrow or buys their Kimono.  Renting is popular option to choose your ideal Kimono colour and pattern with out the extreme investment. BUT be careful to get organized at least half a year before to reserve your ideal to wear on the day of Seijin-Shiki. Borrowing from family members is very sentimental and means a lot to the mothers. (The extra push over the edge to tears for mothers to see their child in what they wore at the same age).

With kimono, a fur shawl (whether it be fake or real) that also symbolizes youth and the coming of age.

HAIR, MAKE UP and NAILS

The hair, make and nails are often done by professionals. The traditional hair arrangement is impossible to do at home even with all the time needed. The professionals complete the traditional vibe of the attire with intricate twists and turns in the

hair that is carefully decorated my Japanese-embroider hair accessories or fresh flowers.

Make up and nails are usually kept simple and modest to highlight the extravagant Kimono.  Nail and Hair salons usually offer a Seijin-shiki value pack that includes everything!

(Thanks Nicolette Romano of SILS for your amazing Seijin-shiki photos!) 

BOYS

Boys commonly wear a hakama chosen by the parents or him. In Okinawa and parts of Kansai, the boys tend to organize a out fit theme amongst friends. The popular theme in Okinawa is the Yankee- wearing the gakuran to the celebration. In Tokyo and many other places without this tradition, suits are also a common easy option. Maybe wear a colorful tie to show that you’re not a salary man might be a good idea! 

You must wear the geta, the wooden equivalent to a flip flop. It may look similar but the comfort is well… questionable. Band-Aids are a must bring for sure.