Today, the second Monday in January, was a national holiday here in Japan - Coming of Age Day, where everyone turning twenty in this school year has a celebration. Since this is my year, Peter suggested that I participate, and Hitomi made all of the necessary arrangements (thank you!!).
We had the kimono chosen and rented (since they can cost as much as $20 000 many people rent theirs!), the hair consultation finished, etc. ahead of time, so today was just a matter of getting ready and then going to the ceremony. Getting ready was a 2+ hour process at the salon just down the street from our house. It's very small place, but they had at least four of us in today getting ready to go to the ceremony. We each had a team of two or three people working on hair, makeup, and kimono dressing, and they had the times staggered so we were in different areas at different times - it was quite the assembly line!
We started off by getting my hair done - hot rollers to start, and then it was pulled back into an updo with many curled parts to the bun woven together kind of. They used the red flowered decorations to add interest and colour to it, I really liked it! Then makeup - it's a bit worrying having someone else use a pair of eyelash curlers on you! The hair and makeup portion of the proceedings took just over an hour, and the kimono took another hour almost I think, it seemed to take ages anyway, its very complicated!
(there's some scary black filler stuff in there, you can just see it peaking out of a couple of the buns)
We went upstairs for the kimono dressing part, with the master dresser (you get certified in it), and her assistant. The first thing was to put on the under socks and then the white socks with the separation for your big toe (so you can wear the sandals over it eventually). The ones I wore had some kind of stretch fabric mixed into the cotton, which makes them easier to get into apparently. I also ended up with a 100% cotton pair, but haven't tried them...
After the socks, you put on a shortish white cotton 'undergarment' that is like one of those shirts with the hole in the side to slide fabric through and tie - a shift type arrangement I guess. Next, they taped my pump to my back (there was really no good place for it, but not much space in the kimono to eat, either so it was OK!), and then put a thin hand towel also taped there, so that you wouldn't be able to see the curve of my spine. Then they mummified me in layers of cotton, and tied me altogether with a few strips of cotton. Next, there was a pink layer, which was quite fancy in it's own right, and had the long sleeves and everything. Then came the top, blue layer, which was cinched and fluffed and smoothed until she was satisfied with it, before they moved on to the sashes, or obi.
(under layer, with some of the cotton batting and wrapping going on, also note the double layered socks)
This (the sashes) was another three layers, including several other layers of cotton to do me up TIGHT! It was some serious corset action! More pads and shaping devices were required at this stage, and then finally they were satisfied! It looked very dramatic! It was funny because another kimono dressing lady came over and had a bit of a power struggle with the person putting on my kimono because she wanted to tie the (top red) sash a little bit differently, and they couldn't decide who was going to do it. Ironically, that's the only bit that didn't make it through the entire day intact!
(clearly not a two handed task!)
Anyway, a white shawl, small golden purse, and golden sandals completed the look, and we were ready to go.
(Ready to go! With two thirds of my team, the woman on the left did most of my hair, makeup and dressing)
We walked back to the house to collect the car, and then drove to CC Lemon Hall, right beside the Shibuya Kuyaksho. Here there were hundreds of other kimono'ed girls milling around outside, and when we got inside, it was very colorful with everyone in their kimonos! They are all so gorgeous and unique! The boys were in suits except for a small handful (I actually only saw one in a kimono).
(car was not so easy to maneuver in and out of when I couldn't bend my midsection, had taller than normal hair, and didn't want my back to touch the seat back!)
There were many officials at the ceremony, who gave several speeches (the mayor, senators, etc. of Shibuya). They said that twenty years ago, 5000 people turned 20 in Shibuya that year, and this year, it is only 1700 (even with the token foreigner to pad the numbers!) That's a BIG drop! Three new adults also read essays they had submitted to the city prior to the celebrations, and the Shibuya Youth Orchestra played a few numbers.
(milling around before going in - very colourful!!)
('hmmm which one of these is not like the other ones?')
No one in the audience was too interested in the speeches, but they didn't last too long, maybe an hour. It was interesting, because there were sign language interpreters, but it didn't help me too much, because JSL is very different to ASL! We left during the intermission, electing to miss out on the J-Pop concert in favour of meeting Scottie and his girlfriend Tae at the shrine. It was great to see them, thanks for coming to say hi!
(Tae, Me, Scottie)
We drove around the block to Meiji Jingu which was very busy!! There were a lot of people there left over from oshougatsu (sp?), and also for the holiday today. It is a beautiful shrine, and one of the main ones in Tokyo - there are many parts to it, and it is surrounded by 175 acres of forest, so it is very peaceful (well I'd imagine it would be if there weren't throngs of 19 year olds all over the place!).
First we stopped to cleanse our hands and mouths with special water, and then continued into the shrine. Hitomi and I tossed coins into a box and said a prayer, wrote our wishes for the new year on a piece of wood and hung them with the thousands of others, picked a number and got a fortune to match it (I picked number four, and my fourtune told me to make sure I didn't rely on my talent alone for success). I also bought an arrow which will ward off bad luck through the year.
(washing hands and mouth)
(writing prayers for the future on a piece of wood)
(are we done with the photos yet?)
Of course, we took lots of photos of me with and without everyone else, but it was really funny because I kept getting swarmed by the paparazzi! As soon as one or two (mostly Japanese) people would take a picture of me, another ten would flock around me and take photos from all angles, it was pretty funny and happened several times! A few of them asked if it was OK, but most just went for it, and they seemed to become more confident as a result of seeing others do it, so they kind of came in these big clumps. I guess it isn't every day that you see a gaijin in a kimono down at the shrine!
(who's that wacky gaijin? Better get a photo!)
After we had done all there was to do at the shrine, Peter, Hitomi and I went to nearby Takeshita dori for a late lunch/early dinner at the Wolfgang Puck Cafe. I had a BLTA sandwich that was delicious, if a little challenging to eat in the kimono, both because I was paranoid about getting something on it, and because it was like eating in a corset - no room for the food!
After dinner, we walked back to the car (which was interesting to get in and out of! *actually any sitting was hard because I didn't want to squish the big bow in the back!*) and then headed home at around 6:30. We took some final photos before we had to take the kimono off, and then Hitomi unwrapped me, and Peter got busy uploading the photos to flickr so I could post them now.
It was quite a day! I'm glad we did it - I didn't do my graduation, and there isn't anything like this at all in Canada, so it was a great experience! Getting into a full kimono like this isn't common for anyone in Japan, really, so it was a very special and unique thing to get to do! I was a bit worried about feeling like I was interloping, but it was totally fine I think,- everyone we talked to was very friendly, and all of those people taking photos seemed to think it was an OK thing to be doing, so that's good!
(borrowed friends! Not quite sure what they would have thought when Hitomi asked if they'd let me stand in the picture with them!)
Anyway, after all that, some of us gratefully got into sweats before watching some TiVo'ed Apprentice:LA, and Grease; You're the One that I want. Just incase you don't think you've seen enough of this day, Peter has 250+ shots of the day from all stages of getting ready, to the ceremony, to the shrine, to dinner, to detail shots of the obi, etc., posted here.
A good day was had by all!