Every year in the city of Kitakyushu, Coming-of-Age Day is celebrated in over-the top style by 20-year-olds kitted out in outlandish versions of Japanese formalwear.
The second Monday in January (the holiday on which all Japanese twenty-year-olds become legal adults) is well known by kimono-spotters all over Japan as the best day all year to see young women dressed in the most lavish kimonos they’ll ever wear.
But in Kitakyushu, it’s the young men who steal the show.
It’s pretty obvious why photos of Kitakyshu’s Seijinshiki-no-hi festivities never fail to make the national news and dominate the socials—who could resist feasting their eyes on kids taking traditional outfits to the next level?
But look closer, and you’ll notice that they choose some very particular ways to bend the rules. I’ve always wondered why, so let’s dig deeper and find out why so many of them have hilariously big hair and beyond-glam outfits…
A lot of them have the kind of extravagant pompadours only sported by…
The Japanese version of motorcycle gangs started in the 1950s and displayed their commitment to their club by their unique fashion sense: Elvis-like pompadours and personalized jackets (usually emblazoned with nationalist slogans, their club’s insignia, and right-wing images like the pre-war rising sun flag)
But are these guys really members of local speed tribes, or are they just dressing up in wigs and gold embroidery for fun?
It is, of course, possible that they all decided to grow their hair and take Elvis lessons for this big milestone, but…
The speed tribes of Japan have been in decline for a couple of decades now, but like most fashion cults, there are still pockets of them throughout Japan where the culture lives on. Every year when I see the latest batch of coming-of-age-day photos, I’m strangely happy to discover that Kitakyushu is still one of them!
And if you’re looking for a little more entertainment set in Japan…
The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon
“A fascinating mix of history and mystery.” —Booklist
Writing mystery books set in Tokyo is mostly what I do, but I also blog about the odd stuff I see every day in Japan. I'm a graduate of Stanford University and the Sendagaya Japanese Institute in Tokyo, and a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime. When I'm not in Tokyo, I live in San Francisco. I also host a travel site called The Tokyo Guide I Wish I'd Had, so if you're headed to Japan and want to check out the places I take my friends when they're in town, take a look!