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Brightly colored brocade kimono with elegant shiny threads characterized the 2016 Coming of Age Day (Seijin no Hi) in Ome, Japan.  The ceremony is held on the second Monday of January, each year, to mark the beginning of adulthood for 20-year-olds in Japan.  Held at local government offices, the purpose of the ceremony is to honor these young adults.  Speeches are usually given and participants reminded of the responsibilities and privileges of adulthood and receive small gifts. At 20 years of age, these new adults can legally drive, vote, smoke and drink.

Women participants were wearing s special kind of a kimono with long sleeves called “furisode.”  Furisode can only be worn by unmarried women.  This Kimono may be purchased for them by a grandmother, or often times (because they are so expensive), rented.  Many women we saw also wore (fake) fur scarfs, usually white, but occasionally black or other color. Footwear was typically a thong-like sandal called “zori.” One of the young ladies had dressed like a geisha and wore “geta” footwear, which is similar to a zori, but elevated on a platform about 6 inches with a rounded bottom.  I think it would take much practice to learn how to walk in those.  Hours of preparation are required for the women to have their hair done (complete with ornaments), makeup applied and kimono put on.  Kimono by itself takes over an hour to put on and usually requires the help of at least one other person.  The elaborate obi ties (obi is the belt like item that goes around the body and is tied in the back) were very impressive.  Some were very traditional and others looked pretty complicated.  One of the obi ties incorporated 2 obis and another used brightly colored mizuhiki wire to form a bow.

Many of the men work dark suits and ties, while a smaller number wore a men’s kimono called hakama.  But most of the hakama were not the traditional flat, dark colors, but brightly colored ones.

The mood was festive and lighthearted as these honorees greeted, photographed and chatted with friends and family members.  It reminded me of post graduation gathering after a high school or college commencement.

Some of the honorees were enjoying a few of their new found freedoms – several were smoking and one passed around a huge bottle of sake, sharing with anyone who wanted to imbibe.  After about an hour the police began slowly and rather inconspicuously dispersing the crowd. Many participants gather at their high school afterward for sake and beer drinking.  Others may go to a shrine with their families and still others may go home.  From what I am told, no matter what the destination, sake and beer are usually involved!IMG_0730IMG_0766IMG_0737IMG_0744IMG_0732IMG_0758IMG_0750

Ah, to be young…