Seijinshiki January 12th, 2009–Happy Birthday!
There are snow flurries as we leave the house this cold January morning. In less than 10 minutes we arrive at 1300-year old Kamigamo Shinto Shrine, 100 years older than Kyoto, itself. I don’t expect anyone to be out in kimono in such weather. We enter through the huge torii gate, down the long walkway towards the main wooden shrine buildings and, there they are! The snow flurries have stopped and some 150 youngsters are lined up and politely posing for a huge group picture. Today is Coming of Age Day. A national day off, when both schools and businesses close. This is the day when all Japanese turning twenty during 2009 officially became adults. They can now drink and vote. At this moment, tens of thousands of young men in suits and young women in hand painted yuzen, nishiki brocade, stencil dyed or embroidered silk kimono are adorning shrines all over the country. In Kyoto, we can see them in moving in groups, in all parts of the downtown district–laughing, taking each others’ pictures with cell phone cameras and collectively celebrating their 20th birthdays.