Many young women were left in the lurch when a Japanese kimono retail and rental business halted its operations just before Coming-of-Age Day on Jan. 8, preventing them from picking up garments they had planned to wear at ceremonies.
Comments that victims posted online underscored their plight.
"I went to get dressed up in the rental kimono I had reserved, but there was no one there," one post said. "I couldn't attend my coming-of-age ceremony," another comment read.
I tried to think all the way back to my coming-of-age ceremony, but for the life of me, I couldn't remember what I wore. After some pondering, I finally realized, "That's right, I was in Tokyo waiting for another chance to take a university entrance exam, and so I couldn't attend the ceremony in my hometown."
If I had attended the ceremony, I wonder what I would have worn. When I was young, I was the kind of person who didn't want to do the same thing as others, and I get the feeling I would have made it a point to wear ordinary clothes.
Quite a few years ago, I was talking with a group of students at the university where I worked before their graduation ceremony, when one female student divulged, "I can't go to the graduation ceremony."
"Why not?" I inquired.
"I don't have the money to rent a hakama," she replied, referring to the traditional long skirt or skirt-like trousers that are often worn over a kimono at formal events in Japan.
It was true that at graduation ceremonies, many female students wore hakama with their kimonos, and they would set their hair in a completely different style from normal. One time I asked someone, "Did you do that yourself?" and they laughed at me. "No way," they replied, "I went to the hair salon at 6 in the morning and had it done."
When female students who normally wear jeans don a kimono and hakama, looking a little nervous, it's a refreshing sight and they shine in those outfits. Having said that, there are no rules about the type of clothes a person has to wear at graduation. Many male students wear navy blue suits or other such attire, while others wear jumpers that are a little less formal.
When the student told me she would be absent from the ceremony because she couldn't borrow a hakama, I asked her, "What would you wear when going out somewhere different to enjoy yourself?"
"I guess I'd wear the dress I bought with the money from my part-time job," she ventured.
"Well please attend and wear that," I said. "The best item is the one that you bought, thinking it suits you. We'll take a photo together."
"What about you?" she asked. "Are you going in a normal suit? In that case, I'll attend." She then broke into a smile.
I think the feeling young people have, of wanting to dress up on a special occasion, is wonderful. But people don't need to feel they have to dress the same. There are no differences in a person's radiance that depend on whether they have money or not.
This year, we have again approached the university graduation season. Hakama are fine but it would also be good to have female students wear suits or their favorite shirts at ceremonies. I'm looking forward to taking photos with everyone again this year, too. (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)