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Speed Tribes come of age, Yanki style

Outlandish costumes on Kitakyushu's Seijinshiki no hi coming of age day from SoraNews24

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.

Outlandish costumes on Kitakyushu's Seijinshiki no hi coming of age day from SoraNews24
It’s not at all surprising to see the ladies doing it up in grand style

But in Kitakyushu, it’s the young men who steal the show.

Outlandish costumes on Kitakyushu's Seijinshiki no hi coming of age day from SoraNews24
Gold brocade hakama? Check. Fake fur trimmed robes? Check. Not your grandfather’s hairstyle? Check, check, check!

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…

Outlandish costumes on Kitakyushu's Seijinshiki no hi coming of age day from SoraNews24
First: the head fur

A lot of them have the kind of extravagant pompadours only sported by…

Members of Japanese motorcycle gang from Japan Bullet
Bōsōzoku, Japan’s motorcycle speed tribes.

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)

Members of Japanese motorcycle gang from Japanese Fashion Wiki
As you can see, subtlety isn’t really the point — between the bōsuzōku and the professional gangsters, I’d be surprised if they didn’t account for about 95% of the gold embroidery business in Japan
Outlandish costumes on Kitakyushu's Seijinshiki no hi coming of age day from SoraNews24
Once you know that (literally) over-the-top hair is a badge of belonging to the kind of club that usually decks themselves out in gold-embroidered satin jackets, the glittery hakama, the matching personalized fans and the serious rally banners make a lot more sense

But are these guys really members of local speed tribes, or are they just dressing up in wigs and gold embroidery for fun?

Outlandish costumes on Kitakyushu's Seijinshiki no hi coming of age day from SoraNews24
Let’s zoom in on this guy—I think you’ll agree that beneath the special occasion “rising sun” dye job, that looks like his real hair. Which had to be grown out and cut in that shape, and takes hella skill (plus industrial-strength hair products) to mold it into that righteous gravity-defying wave

It is, of course, possible that they all decided to grow their hair and take Elvis lessons for this big milestone, but…

Outlandish costumes on Kitakyushu's Seijinshiki no hi coming of age day from SoraNews24
This photo might suggest otherwise. The members of this club all have hair that is pompadour-ready, but their parents prevailed upon them to look “normal” for the once-in-a-lifetime coming-of-age day photo to send to the grandparents
Outlandish costumes on Kitakyushu's Seijinshiki no hi coming of age day from SoraNews24
And when I searched online for the name of this group (it’s on both their banners)…
…I found a Twitter account under the club’s name, and spotted a few familiar-looking faces
Outlandish costumes on Kitakyushu's Seijinshiki no hi coming of age day from SoraNews24
Some of the young women belong to these clubs too, with their own banners, personalized fans, and extravagant bleached hair

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!

There are lots more photos (and killer VIDEO) in the SoraNews24 piece where I got most of these photos. More photo thanks to the Japanese Fashion Wiki and Japan Bullet for the others.

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

Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, produces the monthly newsletter Japanagram, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had

Jonelle Patrick View All

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!

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