Girls’ Courtesan Kimonos Cause Coming of Age Controversy

Three girls dressed in 'oiran-style' kimonos for their coming of age ceremony.

Three girls dressed in ‘oiran-style’ kimonos for their coming of age ceremony.

In Japan, the second Monday in January is a holiday known as ‘Seijin no hi’, or ‘Coming of Age Day’, when those who have reached the age of 20 in the past year celebrate the completion of their transition into adulthood with ‘seijin shiki’ [coming of age ceremonies]. Although the ceremony is usually held at a local government office, for many girls, preparing their hair and clothes for the event is of utmost importance. Usually, girls will wear a ‘furisode’ kimono, a style with long falling sleeves, that should only be worn by young, unmarried women. It often features bright floral patterns that represent the blossoming of youth.

This year, some girls from Shizuoka Prefecture have caused an online controversy by wearing furisode in an ‘oiran-style’, as popularised in some fashion magazines. The oiran were the high-class courtesans of Edo Japan, many of whom achieved celebrity during their lifetimes. Still, as the women were effectively prostitutes, netizens have reacted negatively to this new style, feeling it is inappropriate for a coming of age ceremony. As a result, the unsuspecting oiran-style girls are now at the centre of an online controversy.

Netizens Have Their Doubts About ‘Oiran-Style’ Furisode At Coming Of Age Ceremonies

On the January 15 broadcast of ‘Mezamashi TV’ (Fuji TV), girls who attended their coming of age ceremony in off the shoulder ‘oiran style’ furisode kimonos were featured, but Twitter users had their doubts.

In the same programme, young people attending coming of age ceremonies that were being held in the heavy snow in places around Tokyo was also broadcast. As a ‘fashion check’ of this year’s furisode kimonos, girls who had backcombed up-dos decorated with huge flowers and who wore platform zori were shown on the programme, but what particularly stood out was a group of oiran-style ‘gyaru’ [gals] with both shoulders exposed and their kimonos undone.

One girl who was interviewed, said, ‘It’s like an oiran style. I’m soooo cold, but I saw it in magazines and stuff and I fell in love with it.

One of the oiran girls from Shizuoka being interviewed. The captions read: 'What is your dream?' 'To be rich.'

One of the oiran girls from Shizuoka being interviewed. The captions read: ‘What is your dream?’ ‘To be rich.’

The interviewer then asks: 'How rich?'. She replies, 'So rich that I could buy Shizuoka.'

The interviewer then asks: ‘How rich?’. She replies, ‘So rich that I could buy Shizuoka.’

A representative magazine which featured this oiran-style furisode kimono is the ‘mook’ [magazine/book] ‘Kimono ageha’, published by the ‘gyaru’ fashion magazine ‘‘Koakuma ageha’‘ [literally 'little demon butterfly']

On the ‘Kimono ageha’ website (kimonoageha.com) it states, ‘Your once-in-a-lifetime coming of age ceremony. Colour the memories of that precious day with a sparkle. With styles like oiran, cosplay, or royal legends, from the modern to the ancient, leave the cutest Sweet Angel furisode in the universe to us!’

The 2013 edition of the magazine-book 'Kimono ageha'.

The 2013 edition of the magazine-book ‘Kimono ageha’.

But many Twitter users felt uncomfortable with these ‘oiran-style’ furisode that were created by gyaru magazines, saying:’To wear an ‘oiran-style’ kimono for a coming of age ceremony is weird, no matter which way you look at it ww. I wonder if anyone around them stopped to look at them. If I did that to myself, my parents would cry for sure’; ‘I guess they don’t really know what kind of work the oiran did. I’d be way to embarrassed if my first steps as an adult were taken like this’; ‘I can understand if it was for the commemoration picture or whatever, but to do this in public is just a disgrace. It’s not that the oiran-style is bad, but they really should think about TPO [time, place, occasion]‘.

On the same day, at a coming of age ceremony in Tokyo’s Shibuya ward, the singer Kyary Pamyu Pamyu appeared, and gained attention for showing off a pink furisode kimono that featured unicorns and planets, but even Kyary, who has gathered support for her unique fashion, seemed normal in comparison to the oiran-style furisode girls.

Comments from 2ch.net:

ハムスター名無し:

They just look cold

ハムスター名無し:

Wow, twenty year olds these days look pretty aged…she looks way older.

ハムスターちゃんねる:

Strong smell of kyaba kura [hostess clubs] coming off those girls.

ハムスターちゃんねる:

Before long they’ll be having their coming of age ceremonies in their underwear.

ハムスター名無し:

I guess that this kind of idiot won’t even regret it if they look back on the photographs in years to come…

ハムスター名無し:

She has the skin of a woman in her late thirties…..whatever. Yup, doesn’t matter.

ハムスター名無し:

I acknowledge their guts for baring their shoulders in that much snow.

ハムスターちゃんねる:

Their poor parents…

ハムスター名無し:

If this is an adult, then they’re so retarded they should be thrown into a facility.

ハムスター名無し:

This is the perfect Japanese woman, Yamato Nadeshiko (・ω・)

ハムスター名無し:

Do they actually know what an oiran is? If they had that kind of knowledge, then they definitely would be going out looking like that.

ハムスターちゃんねる:

This is Shizuoka. It’s totally in the middle of nowhere. Though I’ve never seen girls baring their shoulders, I have actually seen a girl with her hair dyed dark green, all backcombed up like that, with rhinestones and white ribbons in it. Her furisode was black with red flowers scattered on it, so I really thought that she looked so much like a Christmas tree.

ハムスター名無し:

Apologise! Look, just apologise to the oiran!!!

ハムスター名無し:

Well, I think that fashion is an individual thing, and that it doesn’t matter what you wear, but to say such as stupid thing in public, well, you really know where these girls’ hometown is.

ハムスターちゃんねる:

Would have been better if an actual beauty had done this…

ハムスターちゃんねる:

This is the result of having lived for twenty years.

ハムスター名無し:

Hmmm, they haven’t grown up yet, have they?

ハムスター名無し:

Sorry to break it to you, but oiran were the highest class of prostitute. This is just so disrespectful to the oiran w. No matter how you look at these girls, they’re from the lowest class.

ハムスター名無し:

Damn….Japan is fucked

ハムスター名無し:

So she’s a mother who brought along her child, right?

ハムスター名無し:

I saw her on the street but I thought she was a hostess.

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  • sam

    To see a Girl natural face is so hard these days. Petty much all cover by makeup.

    • Kate

      Japanese girls seem to wear realllllllllllllly thick makeup especially on the eyes, most korean women don’t wear the real thick makeup especially on the eyes. Makeup trends are different in different areas. Where I live many women wear little or no makeup (I wear makeup about twice a week). To me heavy makeup looks awful and its the reason those 20 yr olds look late 30 yr olds. Most women look better without makeup.

      I think their dresses look good, they aren’t silly looking just cold looking.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ricardo.buijsman Ricardo Buijsman

      it’s because of the Coming of Age Day^^ otherwise they don’t put that much on, if you are in the country side of japan most of the time they just put a day cream on or non^^(general speaking)

    • god

      they must be really ugly underneath it all

      • Kate

        The one being interviewed with the red flowers doesn’t even really look asian to me, I could easily mistake her as white to be honest.

        • maybeabanana

          Looking pretty but old :/. Plastic surgery and mix blood maybe?

          • Kate

            I’m pretty there aren’t different kinds of blood, blood is pretty much blood. And half asians/whites are prettier then that girl typically, they have a look that pladtic surgery can’t quit copy.

    • basicx

      Not just make up. That girl in the photo obviously had her eyes and nose done. And probably in other areas like her lips.

  • Cleo

    the kimono neckline and the thick obi sash were simply modifications to the traditional chinese costume because the thicker squatter Japanese females could not pull off that sash nor the high neckline

  • linette lee

    I always want to learn how to do make up. Like how to wear fake eyelashes. I don’t know how. Those fake lashes hurt my eyes. I couldn’t wear them at all.

    • http://www.facebook.com/inahson Yaminah Jamison

      Well there’s two types: the individual eyelash you put on one by one and the the one that comes in a whole row. I think the latter might be easier because you don’t have to glue on each and every individual one but the former can also just enhance without going overboard. I’ll say go get them done at a salon if you’re scared of poking your eyes. (I tried to do the individual one for my mom… just….. yeah. Ain’t work out)

      • linette lee

        yeah, I remember when I was in college, I decided to try the fake lashes. I used the ones you put one by one. One of the small lash came off and stuck to my eye. I was freaking out. hahahaha….lol Never again.

        I also tried those colored contact lenses. I have brown eyes and I tried the blue colored contacts on me. They are so weird. I will never try them again.

        I am always so amazed what women are willing to do or go through to look pretty. It’s hard work and sometime suffering.

        • http://www.facebook.com/inahson Yaminah Jamison

          Yeah but also in a way, society and ‘standards of beauty’ doesn’t really help, especially for females. Seems you have to win a guy with looks for the most part… But I couldn’t do it. I wear what I feel like wearing and don’t get made up for anyone. I couldn’t do it, it’s tooo much money first of all and just stressful! I’ll deal with the plain look life.

          I wanna try color contacts but would rather get prescription ones but… maybe one day will try fake ones. I want green eyes since green is my favorite color. But yeah maybe you wanna try the other lashes then.

          • linette lee

            I agree. Women (or men) shouldn’t be pressured to fit into the society standard of beauty, because beauty comes in all size and shape. As long as you are healthy you keep yourself fit and clean and well groomed. That’s beauty. People need to love their body and take good care of their body. Appreciate what their parents have given them. But of course I am not against people who were born with some form of deformity getting surgical correction.

          • http://www.facebook.com/inahson Yaminah Jamison

            Well I can’t fully agree to all that you said. I do believe there’s nothing wrong with changing something you personally don’t like about yourself, especially if you had no choice in the making. Just… some go overboard with it. Everyone is different and some feel like getting that one specific feature change will really boost their confidence and actually like themselves.. and we can’t deny that hasn’t happened to people. Just want people to do it for themselves rather than for someone else. People complain about everything.. .at least those fixing themselves up are doing something about it if they feel as though they simply can’t just deal. I respect that because I’m someone who will never like myself lol. Surgery wouldn’t make me feel better, not even makeup (I don’t like makeup.. the most I’ll wear is eyeliner) But me, myself, don’t want to try and make myself fit into society’s mold… but my views are a lot more complex than that, which will lead to a depressing topic lol.

            But also, being blunt…. we’re all beautiful.. we’re all ugly. Everyone has the right to their subjective opinions.

          • linette lee

            …………..People complain about everything.. .at least those fixing themselves up are doing something about it if they feel as though they simply can’t just deal………………

            But the problem is as human being we can never be satisfied no matter what we have. As human being we will always want more. Nothing is ever good enough. I can tell you a million things I don’t like about my features, but because the way I was raised and the society I grew up in I was taught to appreciate and have self esteem. I will never change anything permanently even if I am not satisfy. As long as I am not deformed. I think a society should teach kids appreciate their own beauty and beauty comes in all size and shape.

          • http://www.facebook.com/inahson Yaminah Jamison

            And I respect that just… there’s gonna be others who weren’t raised that way (not saying it’s right or wrong) but we can’t expect everyone to have similar views on stuff so… I respect them and feel they should do what they truly want to do with themselves. It’s their life after all. I know I won’t go through any surgery but… I have no self esteem, don’t really care for getting any and just meh. But that’s only just me ^^

          • linette lee

            “You are sooooo beautiful………to me…..can’t you see?????” Joe cocker.

            That’s a good song to sing to your kids. >.<

          • http://www.facebook.com/inahson Yaminah Jamison

            Yeah lol but I do believe we shouldn’t buff people up with such optimism because the world isn’t an optimistic place. We also gotta understand we’re not gonna be liked everywhere.

            (I use to sing that song to my mom all the time when I wanted something >_> )

  • Anonymous

    they look so old.. especially for asians at 20..?

    • Ogre

      It’s a combination of five inch thick makeup foundations, fake lashes, really dark thick mascaras, and a healthy dose of over done plastic surgeries (despite the lies that Japanese don’t do plastic surgery).

  • Brett

    “Coming of age day” sounds like a perverts dream. What is this holiday and why do girls have to wrap themselves up, or uwrap themselves, like Christmas gifts on this day?

    • besudesu

      Ah, Brett. Actually, you know it is a bit perverted sometimes, particularly when members of certain girl groups come of age, finally. But in general it’s just a ceremony to celebrate becoming an adult and it’s been happening for centuries.

      • dk2020

        Sounds alot like a quinceanera for Mexican girls on their 15th birthday, a debut for Filipino girls on their 18th birthday, and a sweet 16 for girls in the US ..

        • besudesu

          Yeah it’s a similar thing, I guess. But seijin-no-hi (coming of age day) is for guys, too. They just make a lot less fuss, although some do wear hakama or kimonos for men. It’s almost like prom, but minus the ‘prom-date’ bit — a lot of people have parties after the ceremony (20 is the legal age for drinking and smoking in Japan…)

    • http://www.facebook.com/tee.kei.73 Tee Kei

      “Sounds alot like a quinceanera for Mexican girls on their 15th birthday, a debut for Filipino girls on their 18th birthday, and a sweet 16 for girls in the US” This is exactly it actually leave it Sh!the@ds like asiaphiles like Brett to bash on azns tho

      • Brett

        I wasn’t bashing anything, bozo. The translation to English makes it sound like a pervert’s dream. I understand English may not be your first language, so try not jumping to conclusions.

      • dk2020

        Brett is not an Asiaphile .. he’s actually a good dude with a Korean wife and kid living in Korea I respect him doing his thing .. an Asiaphile usually goes on sex tours and don’t try to settle down .. big difference.

        • Brett

          Lol thx dk. Whenever you make your way out here, let me know and I’ll buy you a beer.

          • dk2020

            Fasho Brett, I’m trying to visit Korea and the Phils this summer, you know you’re one of the only kBangers I listen to and I value your opinion. we can laugh at all this stupid internet drama. LOL smh ..

          • Kate

            Ill be in Korea in March but I don’t know for how long. My husband was offered a contractor job in Australia with a buddy and there is a high possibility (all depending on visas) that we end up in australia. If I’m still in korea during the summer ill meet up with you too for a beer too ^_^

          • dk2020

            Yeah Australia does have better weather than Korea and I’ve heard many good things about OZ despite the occasional racial problems, that would be dope if we had a kBang meet in Korea in this summer. First round is on me!

  • https://www.facebook.com/dinie.akhemu Gerhana

    like the girls from the floating world? (floating world… hm… ) it does make you wonder how it was like a long time ago. Is it a place wrapped in mystery and theatrical like those depicted in books and movies? and now what has it evolved to?
    interesting that the Japanese poeticize carnal pleasure… from ukiyo painting it changes to erotic comic book. The difference may be that the floating world are only available to those with money and it is exclusive to those who can afford it, like buying an alive art piece that entertain you by… music, dancing… and more…Now it has become more accessible to the masses,by changing it into magazine and sex video… minus the art aspect…the foreplay… which is the most important. Most wants it fast, they cant wait… its like eating fast food…. it fills you up but its never something you would take time to enjoy…

  • dk2020

    Well I think what everybody is trippin on is when a woman comes of age does that mean sex? No, usually it doesn’t even though I’ve heard kimonos were made specifically to easily disrobe for sex, I dunno because I’ve never worn a kimono and I think it’s just rumors .. It’s no secret that sexual repression is part of Japanese culture which I think contributes and explains some of the extreme perversion in sex fantasies ie public sex, bukkake, and some misogyny .. Korea has sexual repression too.

    On the other end of the spectrum in Cambodia where the parents build love huts for their teenage kids expecting them to have sex ..its pretty interesting the results, where the girls feel like they are in control of their sexuality and there is hardly any rape .. this was on National Geographic’s Taboo series ..

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4VzFNfQTAAc

    • besudesu

      I think that the kimono thing may be a myth…they’re difficult to get on and difficult to get off if worn properly. It’s interesting because sexual repression was not necessarily part of traditional Japanese culture, it’s a fairly modern invention in Japan. The oiran are kind of a testament to that, actually.

  • banjinojoshin

    I have to say, this is definitely the Japanese version of “ratchet”.

  • Lulu

    This is considered slutty?

    Girls in North America wears skimpier prom dresses in highschool!

    I consider myself conservative in that my skirt line never goes above knees, but I have wore lower necklines than this! I’ve seen Japanese girls in shorts shorts and mini-skirts – are the shoulders and chest considered more obscene? Or is it just the style (wore by courtesan)?

    Someone below mentioned hanfu…there are a lot of hanfu, look up “tang dynasty”, a square cut that can drop so low it’s just above nipples! This was wore by all kinds of women, including the Emperor Wu Zetian (of course, Wu used to be a courtesan before she bedhopped up to Emperor level…).

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