The coming of age ceremony is one of Japan’s traditional custom that I got to experience this year on 9th January 2017, in the outskirts of Tokyo – Saitama. This ceremony is held annually nationwide in order to celebrate ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ who have reached the adult age of 20. In Japan, becoming 20 years old is quite a big deal as the legal age for many things here is 20 – for example, drinking alcohol, going to pubs, signing contracts etc. For many foreigners who come to Japan under the legal age, it is rather difficult to do many things that you would normally be able to do back home at age 18. I felt this struggle as I had to get parental consent in order to sign a phone contract – which was difficult to get considering that I came to Japan on my own. Therefore, becoming 20 in Japan gave me a slight breeze of freedom.
Moving on to the ceremony itself. Having lived here in Japan for over a year, its safe to say I’ve established some sort of student residency status, hence, i got invited to this ceremony by my local municiple office. The letter that was sent to me was full of Japanese and as I am still learning the language, I could only read the main points which highlighted the event details. There was no indication as to what to wear or bring. So being the clueless person that i am, i had to do my own research on to what to wear and bring – that is the beautiful but extremely expensive and excruciating to wear Furisode (The Furisode is a Kimono with very long ‘swinging’ sleeves worn on very formal occasions and is often made of expensive fabric material) that ranges from between JPY¥25,000~100,000+ (about USD$250~1000+) just for a 1 day rent.
I also realised that Furisodes are normally booked in advance of up to 1 year prior to the event itself – and as i did not know or think that i would be attending this ceremony, i had not made any bookings in advance. But luckily, after days of searching, i found a cheap kimono rental place that allowed me to reserve just 4 days before the ceremony for the lower end price of ¥35,000. Of course, the fabric colour wasn’t as vibrant as high end kimonos – but it was the experience that counted.
As I am living in a rather countryside Saitama prefecture – 30mins away from Tokyo, the ceremony i attended may not be as extravagant and grand as central Tokyo, but the crowd was still there. During the ceremony, a bunch of speeches took place – half the time i was too busy concentrating on the pain and weight of the tight Furisode Obi belt, so i had not listened to the whole thing, but it was basically congratulating everyone and everything. We were also given a congratulatory gift to bring home, and when i went home to open it – it was a digital clock. Yes, a digital clock… Probably to let us realise the importance of time?? But as i said, it was held in the countryside, so the gifts in central tokyo might’ve been much better.
This was an experience that everybody only gets to go through once (
as we all age), so even though i spent a bomb on just renting a Furisode for 4 hours, I was glad to have went through this ordeal of being a typical bankrupt student. :’)