From Spain’s quinceanera, when females turn 15, to the United States’ sweet sixteen parties, cultures around the world celebrate when children come of age. In Japan, the magic age is 20. You are finally recognized as an adult and allowed to drink alcohol and smoke tobacco. (The Japanese voting age was lowered from 20 to 18 in June 2016).

The Seijinshiki 成人式, or coming of age ceremony, was originally performed by the Imperial family, and its history can be traced back to 1909. It is said that today’s Seijinshiki is based on Seinensai, the Youth Festival in Warabi City, Saitama which began in 1946.

Seijinshiki is held every year on the second Monday of January by local governments. Everyone returns from university to their hometowns, and gather in a ceremony hall or a gymnasium wearing traditional style kimonos known as furisode 振り袖 and hakama 袴.

Many people rent their kimonos. It can cost from 50,000 to 300,000 yen. And to buy one of these ceremonial kimonos can cost anywhere from 200,000 to over 1,000,000 yen to buy depending on the quality. It’s very expensive, but they’re also later worn for weddings and other important ceremonies.

What do people do during a Seijinshiki?

During the ceremony, twenty-year-olds listen to speeches from the town’s mayor and other important figures. It’s akin to other formal ceremonies and can be a bit boring, but the highlight comes afterwards.

Everyone changes from their kimonos into a dress or suit and gathers again for their junior high school and high school reunions. There are cases where someone gets taken away in an ambulance because it’s their first time drinking. But on the bright side it’s a great chance to talk with old friends and maybe even people you didn’t get along with back in school.

Seijinshikis are pretty similar all across Japan, but the ceremony in Kitakyushu city, Fukuoka is well-known for being a bit different.

January 2019 Kita Kyushu’s Coming of Age Ceremony

From 1993 to 2013 it was held in a theme park called Space World. Unfortunately, it closed in 2018. Having the formal ceremony in a theme park is already a bit unusual, but it’s the dress that’s gotten so much attention.

Some people wear the traditional kimonos of course, but lots of people wear very gaudy clothes and dye their hair, coordinating with their school’s colors.

With permission from @aym.grm

With permission from @aym.grm

Nowadays you can see lots of people wearing insane clothes and styling their hair not only in Kitakyushu, but also some other cities around Kitakyushu, and even in Okinawa. Osaka is famous for its love of all things ostentatious, but Kitakyushu isn’t. Nobody knows why this happened in Kitakyushu.

What do the locals think?

These costumes aren’t so popular among some people, mainly older folks, who like traditions, but their parents are proud of their child and think the costumes are so cool.

Kai, 25, Kitakyushu

I neither dislike nor like the costumes, but it's getting to be a kind of tradition now, and it's very famous in Japan. I think it's okay as long as people don't behave badly and give bad impressions.

Tei, 30, Kitakyushu

I'm personally not a fan of these costumes. I don't think it's beautiful. But I think it's better than wearing a dress or suit. Whatever the design is, they preserve the tradition at least. I think that's cool. I wish people wore kimonos more often.

Yukimi, 29, Kitakyushu

Kitakyushu is infamous for Yakuza and hooligans. People from other prefectures say that the dialect sounds scary and aggressive. But many of these young students work hard to rent the pricey costumes while attending school or get a loan by themselves. They don't want to rely on their parents to celebrate themselves being an adult.

In 2019, one of the rental shops made a booth where you can write a letter to your parents. Over 100 20-year-olds wrote heartwarming letters to home with messages such as “Thank you for raising me,” and “You’ve helped me grow so much.” They may look crazy and seem like hooligans but they are actually very polite and devoted new adults, or shinseijin 新成人. And what’s wrong with having a little fun as an adult anyway?

By - Mujo.