The Latin American quinceañera, the Filipino debut, and the American sparkly sweet sixteen; different cultures around the world have multitudes of traditions to signify their children transforming into young adults. In Japan, Seijin Shiki occurs on the second Monday of the year and celebrates the coming of adulthood – and all the things that come along with adulthood such as being able to legally smoke, drive and drink. Seijin Shiki officially came into occurrence after World War II, but has been celebrated since 714 AD. It takes place on the same day for all individuals turning 20 years old within the school year (which starts in April and ends in March). The next Seijin Shiki on January 8th, 2018 will be celebrating those born in 1997.
An important element of the ceremony includes the dress worn; a furisode is the beautiful ceremonial kimono worn by girls. There are studios in Japan that help facilitate dressing girls in the furisode, applying makeup, and taking pictures. Commonly, pictures are taken before the ceremony. The furisode is embedded with its own history and love since it is often passed down from mother to daughter in a family. Haruka Ichikawa, who had pictures taken for her Seijin Shiki over the summer, described to us the tedious process of how a furisode is worn. “My aunt wore this 20 something years ago”, she said while flipping through pictures from her photoshoot. She added, "Even back then it cost $10,000!"
The garment itself is quite heavy and has a seemingly never-ending amount of layers. The first layer is a thin cotton undergarment. Then towels are placed near the collarbone and shoulder area to create a flat surface. The pink floral layer (which a peek of can be seen near her neck), comes next and covers her torso and sleeves. Then the green layer (of which only a little is seen near the edge of the furisode) also only covers the upper body. Finally the decorative red layer is worn on top. These furisodes are typically meant to be one size fits all so any extra length is taken up by folding the kimono near the waist. The belting is also comprised of four different layers. First thin strips of cloth are tied around to cinch in at the waist and create a base for the green layer. The green layer is only half the length and is mostly hidden under the adorned sash. Then an enormous bow in the back that is “so tight and so heavy” completes the look. The footwear is socks and sandals – but very different from the American version of the look. The socks are known as “Tabi” and have two holes, one for the big toe and one for the other four. The flip flops are called “Zori” and are made of wood or plastic and are often painted in different colors to match the furisode.
Being a Japanese American, Haruka noted the differences between the way she celebrates Seijin Shiki as opposed to how a young adult in Japan would. Had she been living in Japan, her city and high school would have hosted a celebration and friends and family of those her age would have partied in grandeur. However, Haruka is pleased that she could at least have her pictures taken in Japan. And regardless of where she may live, she is glad her culture “has something like this." In her words, "It’s like a step to feeling you’re finally becoming an adult.”
Special thanks to Haruka Ichikawa for providing her Seijin Shiki photoshoot images.
About the Author: Manooshree Patel
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