On the second Monday of every year, more than 1 million boys and girls turn into men and women in Japan. It is the Coming-of-Age Day, or Seijin-no-hi(成人の日). In Japan, kids turn into adults at the age of 20, which also coincides with the legal age for drinking and smoking. Interestingly, the legal age for driving is 18. My professor once told me how ironic it is that, you are legally allowed to drive and get involved in accidents, harming others at an earlier age than you are allowed to drink and smoke, which does harm to yourself. In other words, you are legally allowed to harm others earlier than you are allowed to harm yourself. How strange…

Coming-of-Age Day is a big milestone for all teenagers in Japan as they gather at their hometowns (jimoto), meeting up with their old schoolmates and neighbours. It is normally held in a huge hall, like a stadium or sometimes even a theme park. It is also a spiritual rite of passage as they look back on the past 19 years of their lives, and reflect upon their wrong-doings, turn over a new leaf and prepare for the new challenges ahead.

On this meaningful day, the girls would dress up in furisode (a type of kimono), whereas the guys would dress up in black suits (as always). In fact, a lot of money is spent on the furisode, and the entire set, including the hair, make-up and so on. The whole set could go up to 300,000 yen, though a second-hand furisode could be rented at around 100,000 yen.

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This is how the girls’ hair may look like on the Coming-of-Age ceremony. The ceremony is often followed by a drinking party/ reunion party of the old schoolmates, where these young adults would commit their first sins as adults, getting drunk and making a nuisance of themselves.

One question that is often asked, and a question that even Japanese themselves sometimes struggle to answer, let alone foreigners like us.

What is the difference between a furisode, a hakama, kimono and yukata?

Names of traditional Japanese costumes that we often hear, yet do not really know what they are.

Here is the answer to the confusion:

Firstly, a kimono is a complicated formal wear, whereas a yukata is the casual version. Yukatas are usually worn in summer as a casual wear, because of its good ventilation of air. On the other hand, kimono comprises of several clothing and is normally worn with the help of another person.

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Male and Female Yukatas.

There are several types of kimonos, the two main types being furisode(振袖) and tomesode(留袖). Furisode is worn by non-married girls, whereas married women wear tomesode.  The difference is in the length of the sleeves.

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The one on the left is a tomesode whereas the one on the right is a furisode.

A hakama is something that you wear over the kimono on special occasions like the graduation ceremony of universities or wedding ceremonies. It was traditionally worn by samurais because of its ease to maneuver around.

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Male and Female Hakama (the piece of clothing you add onto the kimono)

Talking about wedding ceremonies, shiromuku (白無垢)is another traditional costume worn by the brides on wedding ceremonies, but it is less commonly seen nowadays as many couples choose to hold their wedding ceremonies in churches.

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