With the April 2022 enforcement of the revised Civil Code and the lowering of the age of majority from 20 to 18, Kitakyushu City, Fukuoka Prefecture, has changed the name of its “Coming-of-Age Ceremony” to the new “Commemorative Ceremony for 20-Year-Olds. Although the name has changed, the young people who gather at the venue wearing flashy costumes remain the same.
There was a time when the coming-of-age ceremony was a wild affair, with “family cars” driving up to the venue and fights between local delinquent teams, but in recent years such troubles have almost completely disappeared. Compared to five years ago, when the author first visited the area to cover the event, the number of riot police and police vehicles has drastically decreased.
The delinquents have become quieter since their flashy costumes first attracted attention. I haven’t seen biker gangs for years. I guess they think that the coming-of-age ceremony is not a place for rioting or obstructing, but rather a stage for spending money and time on costumes and hair styles.
In recent years, not only the Japanese media but also foreign media have come to cover the event. Miyabi, a costume rental store in Kokurakita Ward, has been handling the flashy costumes for these newcomers. We interviewed Mr. Masashi Ikeda of Miyabi, who is no stranger to local young people.
In 2003, the “flamboyant costumes” project began with the wish of two newcomers to adulthood.
Two boys came to the store saying, ‘I will celebrate my coming-of-age ceremony next year. At that time, it was normal for men to come to the store two to three months before the coming-of-age ceremony to choose a costume, but they came to the store one year before and said, ‘I want to wear a two-tone gold and silver costume for my coming-of-age ceremony. At that time, we only had ready-made costumes in gold and silver, but they said, “I don’t want to wear this. I want something more flashy,’ to which I lightly replied, ‘I’ll look for it. But then they started bringing in 5,000 yen or 10,000 yen every month as a costume fee, so I knew they were serious (laughs). I felt strongly that I wanted to meet their request, so I decided to make the most flamboyant gold and silver hakama ever from fabric. This was the beginning of the flashy costumes we call ‘Kin-san and Gin-san.
Back in 2003, participants in Kitakyushu City’s coming-of-age ceremony wore subdued colored suits. Kim-san and Gin-san’s costumes stood out very much. Masashi was relieved to hear that they were pleased, but soon after, an increasing number of young people began to visit Miyabi, saying they wanted to attend the coming-of-age ceremony in more flamboyant costumes than Kim and Gin.
As he listened to their requests, the costumes for the coming-of-age ceremony became more and more flashy.
I used to work on bridal costumes for weddings. I also did hair and makeup. I’ve always thought, ‘It’s a wedding, so I want to fulfill all the many requests. Coming-of-age ceremonies are also once-in-a-lifetime life milestones. It is also a festival. I want to make sure that no matter how difficult the request is, I can make it happen. So I designed and made new fabrics, accessories, and masks with the same patterns as the costumes. In the process, I came up with the style that we have today.
Masashi says that the reason Kitakyushu City’s coming-of-age ceremony has become so extravagant has to do with the fact that the city was the first in Japan to hold a coming-of-age ceremony at a theme park for a private party.
Kitakyushu City has been holding its coming-of-age ceremony at Space World (a large theme park that once existed in Yahatahigashi Ward, Kitakyushu City) since 1991. That was 10 years before Urayasu City in Chiba Prefecture began renting out Disneyland. The fact that the coming-of-age ceremony was held at a theme park in Kitakyushu City (a large theme park that once existed in Yawatanto Ward, Kitakyushu City) predates Urayasu City in Chiba Prefecture, which rented out Disneyland for the ceremony by 10 years.
Currently, the event is held at the Media Dome in Kokurakita Ward, and the level of flamboyance is increasing every year. Some of the newcomers have been determined since they were high school students to “definitely wear Miyabi costumes for the coming-of-age ceremony! and many of them visit the store with money from their part-time jobs. The price for the costume alone starts at 300,000 yen. In many cases, the price exceeds 1 million yen if hair sets, various decorations, banners, flags, etc. are included.
However, in the past two years, the number of orders has decreased dramatically due to the impact of Corona.
For 2020, we have prepared 1,400 to 1,500 pairs of costumes,” he said. In 2020, we had 1,400 to 1,500 costumes, but in 2021 the number was reduced by half, and in 2022 it was further reduced to about 500 costumes. This year, we had much more customers return, and we shipped 800 pairs and dressed about 200 pairs at the store.
On the day of the coming-of-age ceremony, the shop will dress 200 couples from around 3:00 a.m. “We have 20 dressing instructors on standby. Twenty dressing instructors are on standby, each dressing 10 people. The men, who are particular about their hairstyles, spend 4 to 5 hours setting their hair and dying it rainbow colors in addition to dressing. When asked at the event, many of the newcomers said they had not slept a wink.
Eighty percent of the clients come to Miyabi for their first consultation between January and March, after their coming-of-age ceremony, and continue to come back several times until the end of the year to discuss their needs, make arrangements, and make various preparations.
We receive daily inquiries via LINE since December, such as, “Do you have this hakama? We will start receiving inquiries every day via LINE.
How flashy will it be? With an eye on a full recovery from Corona, Miyabi has already begun planning next year’s coming-of-age ceremony.
Interview and text by： Kumiko Kato Photographs by： Hiroto Kato