One of the most important days in the life of any Japanese is the Seijin no hi (成人の日), the coming of age day and the ceremony that marks a Japanese person’s entrance into adulthood. While last year’s ceremony here in Tokyo was marked by a massive (at least by Tokyo standards) snowstorm, this year we had much better weather. I took these photos at Tokyo’s grand Meiji Shrine (明治神宮) as the young beauties were coming to pay their respect at the shrine. We certainly had nothing like this in Europe when I grew up!
For most young women the day starts early in the morning as they prepare their kimono, the make up and their hair settings. It can take a couple of hours to get ready and people often book their hair salon months ahead. Little old ladies up and down the country is recruited en masse to help the young ladies put on their kimono. Even normal everyday kimono are daunting for today’s young and these elaborate setups are impossible to achieve on your own, even for the very few twenty year olds that have gone to the trouble of learning how to do it.
It is great to see these young people and their parents brimming with pride! There are few young men dressing up in kimono as well, but they are so few I almost never manage to get any good photos of them. This year I think I saw two, at the Meiji shrine. Not all young people wear kimono though, there are quite a few people who are happy with a sombre black suit and a few people who make a point of wearing outrageous costumes sure to irritate their elders, all in the manner of youth in all countries, during all times. These young women in the photos however, are most probably the pride of their families!
This year the Seijin no hi, the coming of age day took place on Monday the 13th. That Monday is always a public holiday dedicated to celebrating the young people turning 20 and thus “coming of age”. In the old days this ceremony was reserved to highest nobility, but gradually it filtered down through the social classes and for the last 40-50 years it has been more common than not to celebrate it even among ordinary people. Even then it is easy to see how much the economic situation has changed as you look at photos of the parents of the people coming of age this year. The dressing, accessories and hairstyles has really evolved even since the beginning of this century.
I took these photos at Tokyo’s largest shrine, the Meiji Jingu in Shibya Ward. It was a relatively warm sunny winter day, completely different from last year’s coming of age day, when an unexpected snow storm put a halt to most festivities in the city. The young women (and some men) that I saw at the shrine were all in high spirits and looked fantastic. It feels slightly unreal to be surrounded by dozens of these beauties!
Yesterday was a national holiday, the Seijin no hi, which roughly translates as the coming of age day. It is a day to celebrate all the people that turn twenty during the year, and thus turn into fully fledged adults. In Tokyo it also happened to be the day of one of the biggest snow storms for many many years! Tokyo was thick with snow and on any street you happened to pass you would see cars that were stuck in the sticky snow or cars that were unable to go uphill. I and a couple of other random people who walked past one minivan that was hopelessly stuck managed to get it moving after about 15 minutes of pushing and heaving. Great fun, but not very typical of Tokyo winter weather. Usually you see thousands of beautifully dressed young people but despite spending the day outside I did not see more than a handful, as several train lines had stopped running all subway lines were delayed more or less throughout the day. Here are two beauties that I managed to stop and ask to take a picture of! Normally it isn’t this easy to get people to pose, but I think they realized how special the situation was! As a bonus, the last photo is of a taxi who after struggling for 10 minutes trying to go up the slight incline of a hill decided to turn around and go back instead, it took 3 people the better part of half an hour to get the taxi away! Luckily there was very little traffic on the streets today.