Monday, February 23, 2009

Coming of Age Day

Someone mentioned that I had missed the whole Seijinshiki "Coming of Age Day" in January. True. Leiya is still 19. She'll be 20 this year and one officially becomes an adult at age 20 in Japan. So next January's "Coming of Age Day" will be the big one for her.

Already I am weekly getting telephone salespeople and "junk mail" telling me that I'd better hurry up and decide what we're going to do about Seijinshiki. Actually I think they're right. If Leiya is going to do this then we need to start thinking about it pretty soon.

What does it mean to become an adult? Unfortunately in Japan it SEEMS to mean that 20 is the age that the kids are legally allowed to drink. There should be more to becoming an adult than just being given free reign to get drunk. Cities throughout Japan will hold a special ceremony with the mayor and city officials welcoming the young people into adulthood. True, the speeches may be a bit dry and reflect on the seriousness of the responsibilities adulthood holds but everyone attends the ceremonies and there the big party starts. Every year we see on TV where the kids/new adults have gone completely wild with their drinking parties (in the middle of their ceremonies!) and have to be taken away by the police! Adults? Some of those kids haven't even gotten past the wild animal stage!

The other thing about Seijinshiki is that more than thinking about adulthood, the kids are having a grand reunion with friends from jr. high school days. In jr. high all the kids attended the local jr. high. In high school they all scattered to different high schools in the surrounding cities. And some of the kids go on to college or start working or have families. Seijinshiki is the time for everyone to get together and see what everyone has become. Party time for sure and yes, a great excuse to drink and loosen up a bit for the first awkward reunions.

Seijinshiki is also a time for the young people to get dressed up. Almost all the girls will wear kimono as do some of the boys too. Their one and only time probably since they were 7 (another tradition in Japan) and their own wedding day. This is where we've got to be foresighted.

Kimonos for girls run about $2000 to rent. Yes, rent. For one day. Sometimes you can keep the kimono longer for photographing purposes but Seijinshiki is only a couple of hours long anyway. Most of the kids shed their kimonos so that they can party more. Kimono shops have racks and racks of rental kimonos and all the implements needed to make a stunning outfit, but everyone is going to rent them at the same time right? So if you want to get a "good" kimono you've got to make your reservations early. That's why 11 months in advance I'm being encouraged to make an appointment for Leiya.

Very few people can actually put on (themselves) or dress (someone else) in kimono. You need a professional kimono dresser to do a good job of making the kimono tight but comfortable and beautiful too. Obis (wide brocade belts) are intricately tied in wonderful shapes. Hair has to be set and styled and make-up has to be applied perfectly. And then for all this work, photos must be professionally taken to record the great event (and absolutely beautiful girl!) So you can see where some of the $2000 goes. And of course insurance fees in case, heaven forbid, the girl spills a cup of coffee in her lap!

So. What are we going to do? Tetsu says if Leiya wants to come back for Seijinshiki and get dressed in kimono then by all means let's do it. Cost? We'll start saving. (Should have started 5 years ago!) But she's not going to be able to come back ahead of time and try on kimonos and put one on reserve for next January. She's going to have to leave that job to me and she isn't too thrilled about that. When we start talking about it I say...

"So you're going to make a quick trip back in January for Seijinshiki and skip college classes?"

and Leiya says,

"Forget it. It's not that important. Just coming back to Japan will cost too much. I don't really need to wear a kimono..."

But this is the only chance to get dressed up. This is the only chance all her friends will get together. It really is a big day in a Japanese young person's life, and Leiya is still a Japanese young person though she has spent the past 4 years in the States.

What to do? What to do? When Leiya was 7 we did the whole kimono deal for "Seven-Five-Three Day" and I balked at the cost of that too, but I am so happy that we splurged for that! I'm sure if Leiya comes back and dresses in kimono that we'll always be happy we made the effort for her...

By the way. This is a picture of Leiya and her friend Makie when they were seven years old on "Seven-Five-Three Day." Leiya is in the purple kimono, Makie in the pink.

And THIS is Makie at age 20 for her own Seijinshiki. Sigh.. Now isn't that a BEAUTIFUL young adult!


woolywoman said...

Well, it sounds like one of those times in life that you only get once, so I think you are stuck renting kimono! I hope your daughter agrees- maybe the shop will let you take digital photos and email so that your daughter can help choose?

The Calico Cat said...

Wear her down, this sounds like one of those things that she will be disappointed that she missed out on...

Shasta said...

On 60 Minutes yesterday, they were talking to some college administrators who wanted to lower the drinking age from 21 to 18. They said enforcement was hard, and kids wouldn't call for help for alcohol poisoning if they would get in trouble.
We've had many traditions go by the wayside as the new generations (me and my daughter included) let them go. If it isn't important to her, I guess I would let it go, but if it is important to you, maybe you can let her know that.

be*mused jan said...

When I visited Japan in January, we ran into many young people in Kobe Station who were heading to the festivities on Seijinshiki. I posted some pictures that you might find of interest.

BrendaLou said...

yes, I think this is one of those times you just do it. But $2000 to RENT a kimono? Wow!

Colleen formerly of South Africa said...

Wow that is a beautiful tradition... I wonder are the kimonas cheaper to rent in the US...for her to bring with her???? I wondered if any of our Japanese Americans have this kind of tradition. Did you do it when you were here. Sorry for so many questions? I asked about renting in the Us as our friend rented a kilt for my husband much cheaper here than it would have been in Scotland. I do love the picture of the girls when they were little. Lovely. I stole your When oh When name.... have almost finished the center of the quilt. Woohoo!