Tassels In the Snow: Coming of Age in Japan

 Snow in Tokyo

Snow in Tokyo

On the second Monday of January, Japan celebrates Coming of Age Day to congratulate those who have reached the age of 20 years old. Here, our photographer reflects on his experience witnessing this day during his first trip to Japan. 

   It was the winter of 2013 when I got the chance to head to Japan to study abroad for four months. To be living halfway around the world immersed in a completely different culture fascinated me. I arrived about 5 days before classes started, just enough time to get acquainted with Tokyo and explore before the rigors of my schoolwork began. 

The day before classes started it began to snow, a sight not often seen in Tokyo. Little did I know that Tokyo would be receiving its largest snowstorm in 7 years, and on a national holiday, no less.

   Japan’s Coming of Age Day is held annually on the second Monday of January, and celebrates those who have entered the age of adulthood (which in Japan is 20 years old). Festivities are held all across Japan to congratulate those who have reached the age of maturity. Many women celebrate by wearing furisode (振袖) a style of kimono known for its particularly long sleeves.

    It was on this particular snowy day that my friends and I decided to brave the storm and wander through Tokyo. We traversed through snow and slush, marveling at all the brightly colored kimonos clashing against the stark white of the snow. It was truly a beautiful sight. I recall that none of the girls were very much phased by the fact that the snow kept buffeting against their umbrellas, or that their sandaled feet were soaked from the slush. In fact, I remember them treating the situation as a humorous, unavoidable situation, laughing as their umbrellas turned inside-out, or one of their friends stepped in a particularly deep puddle.

    I ended that day a little braver than I had been that morning, but wanting nothing more than to be inside the heated train car headed back to my dorm. Just before the train arrived, though, I noticed a small tassel on the ground, partially covered in snow. Realizing it was probably a piece of one of the girl’s kimonos, I picked it up and looked for the owner, but quickly realized that it was impossible to discern exactly who it belonged to. Defeated, I put the tassel in my bag, keeping it as a memento of that cold, snowy day in January.

 Chris with the tassel he kept as a memento of the snowy day. 

Chris with the tassel he kept as a memento of the snowy day. 

WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY CHRIS SETTY