Japan’s 20 Year Old Girls’ Seijin-No-Hi Celebration & Furisode Kimonos

wafuku – noun: traditional Japanese clothing

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Each year in Japan there is a celebration called Seijin-No-Hi (sometimes seen as seijinsiki), now usually held on the second Monday of January. No matter where you are in Japan on this date you will see many girls, dressed in their traditional kimono, out and about celebrating Seijin no hi. The celebrations are organized by the local government of their place of residence. Styles of these ceremonies are different from region to region. Many of these young women have their hair and make up done by a professional and have a photographer take a commemorative photo, just as we might when dressed for a university degree ceremony.

Seijin-no-hi is a coming of age ceremony for girls who have reached the age of 20. At this age, they are considered adult and can legally vote, smoke, drink etc. It is meant to be an auspicious event to celebrate and encourage people who realise that they have become adults and have made up their minds to live their lives independently.

In Japan, the 20 year old women dress in beautiful furisode kimonos for that day. Furisode is pronounced foo-ri-so-day, with no stress on any of the syllables. Furisode kimonos are very ornate and have exceedingly deep sleeves. The beautiful furisode is usually bought for them by their parents, at a cost of thousands of UK pounds for a silk one, plus as much again for the obi, obi accessories and such. Nowadays they sometimes just hire the outfit for the day. The Japanese have a saying that translates as, ‘have three girls and be broke’.

Girls used to be taught by their mothers how to on put their kimono and obi, which is a time consuming and difficult task, but this tradition has largely died out, so they usually now go to classes to learn how to put it all on and how to carry themselves when wearing it or have a dresser to help them on the day.

Below you can see examples of current fashions in obi knots for wear with furisodes, nagoya obis in a variety of bow knots. You may also notice the little stoles many wear around their shoulders, another popular fashion just now. The stoles are often fur fabric or, particularly popular, floaty marabou feather. Although kimonos have changed relatively little over the centuries, there are, like everywhere, fashions that come and go. This can be a style of print, a weave of silk, a way of tying an obi, a particular kimono accessory etc

Furisodes are astoundingly beautiful kimonos when on but they also make spectacular display items, either on an ikou (special kimono display stand) or on a wall, hung from a kimono hanger or bamboo rod, back view with the fronts pulled out and pinned to the wall or clipped (like in the next photo, below) to the sleeves. The furisode comes in three different sleeve lengths: oburisode(full; 105 cm), chuburisode (medium; 90 cm), and kofurisode (short; 75 cm). The ones shown here are all oburisode, the deepest sleeved furisodes.

Below are some examples of the furisode kimonos on my site. Where you may see a break in the pattern at the back, this area is hidden when on, by the waist fold and obi.

This first one has wonderful, stylised cranes and ume (plum blossom) on it

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This pink one has pretty clouds floating across it, a very popular motif in Japan.

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The pale yellow one below has trailing flowers and lovely, gold, kinkoma couched embroidery detailing.

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The green floral one below also has gold detailing. The photo doesn’t do it justice, it is exquisite when on.

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The furisode below is a pretty, soft green colour, with wonderful flower sprays in shades of pink, white, blue and green.

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This next furisode kimono is a more modern one, also on my website. It has magnificent peacocks on it, with rainbow tails, and is highlighted with sparkling rhinestones

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Finally, the furisode below, one of my favourites, has a dramatic design of tabane noshi and flower baskets, with pretty embroidered detail too. Tabane noshi is a decorative bundle of strips, originally narrow strips of dried abalone/mother-of-pearl bundled together in the middle; it was the ritual offering to God in Japanese Shinto religion. Tabane noshi is now also is used to refer to a bound bundle of any kind of ribbon strips. This motif is often seen in the masterpieces of furisode kimonos from the middle of the Edo era, created by various techniques. It remains a very popular motif in Japanese design.

When you think of the quantity of silk used to make these furisode, which are usually fully lined in silk too, and the fact that they are almost all hand printed and entirely hand tailored, it is hardly surprising that one will pay at least £3000 for the kimono alone.

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