The second Monday in January is Seijin no hi (Coming of Age Day). On this day, all 20-year-olds across Japan celebrate the fact that they are officially and legally a part of the adult community. Coming of Age Day is celebrated only once a year so it includes all those who turned 20 since the previous Seijin no hi. On this day, the streets are filled with lovely young girls in beautiful furusode kimono rushing on their way to their first social events as adults. Of course, the boys also celebrate their entry into adulthood, but they are far less noticeable in their standard black suits.
Furusode are a particular style of kimono worn only by single women. Furisode are distinguishable by their long sleeves, which average between 39 and 42 inches in length and reach nearly to the ground. The name furisode literally translates as swinging (furi) sleeves (sode) and the image of such sleeves is associated with youth and beauty. Furisode are also among the most decorative and brightly colored kimono, as befitting a young woman. Often the fans, flowers and other motifs are accented with rich embroidery and the wide obi belt is tied in an elaborately ruffled knot. With so many layers required to complete the look, kimono are quite warm, so even in January only a little fur stole is needed to protect against the winter chill.
In an earlier time, a young woman would be photographed in her new furusode and the picture circulated to arrange a suitable marriage. After marriage, she’ll no longer wear kimono with such long flowing sleeves or such elaborately tied obi. The styles for married women are much simpler.
Coming of Age Day also marks the end of the official New Year’s celebrations. Decorations have come down and most people have settled back into their work routines. Though the pace is winding down, there are a few last shinnenkai gatherings still going on. In fact, I have three more New Year’s parties scheduled for next weekend.