Samurai Dave: The Roving Ronin Report

Rambling Narrative of Travels, Thoughts, and Embellishments

Reduce Global Warming – Tell Ghost Stories!

In Old Japan, the summertime was the time for ghost stories. Japanese summers tend to be hot and humid and ghost stories are a form of old fashion all natural air conditioning.

Given our problems with Global Warming and Global Recession, perhaps turning off our air conditioners and telling ghost stories might have to ease the burden of both.

Here I tell (as best as I can) the story of a curse kimono that caused death to its owners and is believed to be the source of one of the worst fires Tokyo suffered from in its early history.

The story can be found in Ghostly Japan by Lafcadio Hearn.

August 17, 2009 Posted by | culture, folklore, furisode, Ghost Stories, Ghosts, global warming, japan, japanese culture, kimono, Lafcadio Hearn, Storytelling, tokyo, video | 1 Comment

Seijin-no-Hi Pictorial Montage Video

The following video is a pictorial montage of Seijin-no-Hi from 2006-2008 taken at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo. The shrine holds an archery ritual which is pictured here known as Momote Shiki in honor of the new adults.The music is by The Sushi Cabaret Club, a band based in Nagoya, Japan:
The Sushi Cabaret Club

January 21, 2008 Posted by | Archery, beautiful girls, Blogroll, Coming of Age Day, culture, event, furisode, japan, kimono, life, meiji shrine, momote shiki, montage, photographs, seijin-no-hi, tokyo, tradition, traditional art, travel, video, vlog, youtube | Leave a comment

Kimono Girls on Japan’s Coming of Age Day – a Dying Tradition?

Japan’s Coming of Age Day
Kimono-Clad Girls a dying tradition?

Kimono-Clad Girls at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo on Coming of Age Day
D.Weber
D.Weber

It was the second Monday of January and once again Japan’s new adults were out and about enjoying their new-found adulthood on the national holiday of Seijin-no-Hi: Coming of Age Day. Many young women sported their decorative kimono with the long-sleeves called furisode. While most young men wore suits, there were a few here and there that wore the formal male kimono known as a hakama.

Japan especially likes marking the ages of its populace and Seijin-no-Hi is no exception. In November, the little ones are all decked out in pretty kimono. Girls ages 3 and 7 and boys aged 5 are honored every year on the Shinto holiday, Shichi-Go-San. Another national holiday is Keiro-no-Hi in September which is respect for elders day.

As for Seijin-no-Hi, the national holiday is only a little over half-a-century old having started in 1948. Now the focus is mainly on the young women in their stunning kimono while the boys get second billing. In the past, however, the emphasis was on the boys. Young men had two coming of age celebrations in which they would change their names. At 12 and 16 they would individually go through their own private special ceremonies. For samurai households, this was a big deal with much pomp and ceremony.

As I usually do every Seijin-no-Hi, I went to Tokyo’s Meiji Shrine which serves as a magnet for kimono-clad girls and avid photographers. Meiji Shrine’s courtyard was packed with people. Disappointingly most of them were visitors and photo-hunting photographers. Occasionally, the dull visage of the monotonous fashion of the throng would be broken up with the arrival of brilliantly colored kimono-clad girls either alone or in small groups. A declining population, rising kimono prices, and a growing disinterest in traditional culture has led to fewer sightings of Seijin-no-Hi’s main attraction.

D.Weber

The price of kimono has risen sharply over the years especially handmade ones. A number of the furisode kimono worn on Seijin-no-Hi are family hand-me-downs, rented, or pre-made from China. The overall cost can be quite staggering. A full-fledged new furisode can be as much as $10,000. And the accompanying beauty make-over with hair styling can run up to a thousand dollars. The appointments have be made months in advance.

Kimono-Clad Girls become celebrities for one day
D.Weber

Why all the hassle and expense?

D.Weber

“For the parents it is their desire. From the day a girl is born they have the desire to dress her in furisode when she becomes 20 in the seijin shiki, take her picture, and send it to relatives as custom requires. In some cases, the mother herself also wore a furisode she received from her mother in her seijin shiki…

D.Weber

“If they have the possibility of dressing their daughter in a Y1,000,000 kimono it is proof that they have worked hard all their lives and can afford it. It is the result of their life work…But the girls do not always understand their parents’ feelings and they say they would prefer a car.”

(from A Companion to the Anthropology of Japan – Fashioning Cultural Identity: Body and Dress by Ofra Goldstein-Gidoni)

Kimono-Clad Girls entering Meiji Shrine
D.Weber

A growing percentage of young women are opting for evening gowns which while still expensive are far less expensive than the furisode and more practical.

D.Weber

At Meiji Shrine, two girls attracted their fair share of attention by their bold mixing of traditional fashion with modern goth chic. For footwear, they eschewed the normal sandals and tabi socks for trendy boots. One of them sported a red heart shaped bag while the other had a death’s head dangling from hers. One of them had braided hair and the other’s hair was short with a streak of red running through it.

A bold mixture of modern and traditional
D.Weber

In this reporter’s humble opinion, I hope that the tradition of wearing the furisode kimono continues. Evening gowns are a dime a dozen throughout the world but the wearing of the furisode kimono is a unique Japanese phenomenon.

D.Weber
Hopefully not the last of the Coming of Age Kimono-Clad girls

January 21, 2008 Posted by | Blogroll, Coming of Age Day, culture, event, furisode, japan, kimono, life, Meiji, meiji shrine, photographs, seijin-no-hi, tokyo, tradition, traditional art, travel | 7 Comments

Low Attendance for Seijin-no-Hi: Japan’s Coming of Age Day

Following up last year’s story on Japan’s Coming of Age Day: Seijin-no-Hi, I went back to Meiji Shrine this year to see newest adults celebrating their entrance into adulthood.


A Gaggle of Giggling Girls

Once again the streets of Japan were filled (or slightly filled as the records show this year) with girls celebrating their coming into adulthood wearing traditional long-sleeved kimono known as furisode.

Age 20 is the legal adult age in Japan and over 50 years ago a national holiday known as Seijin-no-Hi (“Coming of Age Day”) was established to give these new adults a day to celebrate.


Basking in her one-day celebrityhood

This is the day especially for young women to shine and achieve celebrity-like status in their gorgeous furisode kimono. Temples and shrines are mobbed with kimono-clad girls posing away while fervid photographers snap away.

This year’s Coming of Age Day however marks one of the lowest turn outs since 1987. The Baby Boom generation had it’s highest number of 20 year olds in 1970 with 2.46 million and their children registered 2.04 million in 1994.

The overall figure of today’s 20 year olds is a grim 1.09% of the entire population. This year’s low numbers has rekindled the brooding fear of a top-heavy population of the elderly over a smaller population of youth.

With more and more baby boomers getting prepared for retirement, there is a legitimate fear of labor shortages in the near future. The Japanese government has so far been relunctant to ease immigration policies which would help to fill growing labor gaps.

In contrast to the grim foreboding future of a youth-less Japanese society and the nightmare to right-wingers of growing foriegn labor, the number of marriages and births has gone up in recent times prompting hope.

All this gloom seemingly did not faze the new adults. They were too busy getting their pictures taken, riding the rides at Disneyland, and simply enjoying their special day.

January 10, 2007 Posted by | Blogroll, cute, festival, japan, kimono, seijin-no-hi, tokyo, travel | 3 Comments

KKK – Kimono Klad Kuties: Japan’s Coming of Age Day

user posted image
Three kimono clad girls celebrate their Coming of Age

Every second Monday of January, the streets of Japan are overrun with gaggles of giggling girls running — or rather hobbling about — in gorgeously decorated kimonos. They are celebrating their coming of age — their rite of passage into adulthood with all of its wonders and horrors of drinking, smoking, and voting though many have probably been indulging in the former two activities for quite sometime.

user posted image
Old and new come together as a Kimono-clad girl checks her cellphone

In the U.S., a person is recognized as a legal adult at 18, however, not completely. Whereas an American 18 year-old can help to decide the fate of their country by choosing it’s next leader, be legally tried in a court of law as an adult, and even kill another human being with a rusty spoon in authorized combat, somehow they lack the maturity to choose whether or not to purchase an alcoholic beverage at a convenient store. That level of maturity cannot be reached until 21, after three years of voting, litigation, and combat.

user posted image
A young woman registering at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo

Japan’s Coming of Age day is known as Seijin-no-Hi and it is a national holiday. It was first established in 1948, which, incidentally, was the same year when Emperor Hirohito made his first public birthday appearance. Originally, Seijin-no-Hi was scheduled on Jan. 15, but in 1999 it was moved to the second Monday of January.

user posted image
Surrounded by photographers

On Seijin-no-Hi, girls will wear a special type of kimono known as a furisode. A furisode has long sleeves, which represents the girls’ unmarried state. Older married women wear short sleeve kimonos. Around their waist is tied a wide belt known as an obi. The obi of young women are often more decorative than those of older women and is tied a certain way. The obi is generally the most expensive part of a kimono with second hand ones running in the hundreds and even thousands of dollars. A full furisode kimono can cost as much as a new car. Some families might rent one or pass one from mother to daughter.

user posted image
Free sake for new adults and visitors

Very few girls will go without one on this special day. Seijin-no-Hi is their day to shine, after all. Suddenly, they become celebrities in their own right as numerous people snap photo after photo of these gorgeously-attired girls.

user posted image
A young man wearing a formal kimono

The boys mainly dress in western business suits, but some adhere to old customs and will wear a formal male kimono known as a hakama. A haori jacket is sometimes worn over the hakama to give it more of a formal appearance.

user posted image
Archers pass by a girl in a kimono

Seijin Shiki is the ceremony that many 20-year-olds attend where they will listen to certain elders, such as the local mayor, wax on about the joys and responsibilities of adulthood. Many of the new adults will go to shrines to pray for their future. Meiji Shrine is a popular spot for these new adults. Kimono-clad girls and aspiring photographers throng the shrine’s complex.

user posted image
Shinto Priest prepared to fire a whistling arrow to signify the beginning of the archery ritual

In honor of these young adults, the shrine priests of Meiji hold a Momote shiki — an archery ritual. The ritual begins with two white-clad priests firing blunt arrows that whistle as they speed to the target. In samurai times such whistling arrows were fired to signify the beginning of a battle. In Shinto archery rituals, whistling arrows are used to call upon the attention of the gods. After the priests, rows of archers in colorful robes shoot two arrows a piece at a target. Although the event is held in commemoration for the newly recognized adults, I only saw one kimono girl in attendance. Most were too busy having their picture taken and enjoying their day.

user posted image
A Row of Colorfully-attired Archers prepare to fire

After the ceremonies, the archery rituals, and lectures, as night fell the new adults rushed off with their friends to go to parties or to bars in order to celebrate the purchasing of their first legal alcohol drink.

user posted image
Having a bite to eat

Seijin no Hi Low Attendance

Kimono Clad Girls a Dying Tradition?

January 10, 2007 Posted by | Archery, Blogroll, festival, japan, kimono, life, seijin-no-hi, tokyo, travel | 4 Comments