For the first time, our dedicated reporter on Kitakyushu’s most pompadour-packed procession gets to dress just like one of the revelers in question.

Youth is such fleeting joy, isn’t it? While in my native UK you can be recognized as an adult as early as 18 or even 16 years old, in Japan the officially recognized time when you “come of age” is your 20th birthday. It’s such a celebrated life event that on the second Monday of January, everyone who turned 20 in the past year turns up at their local or prefectural city office to commemorate it with each other.

In many big cities you might notice this auspicious occasion by the sharply dressed young men and women, who wear suits or traditional dress (gorgeous, long-sleeved furisode kimono for the girls; traditional wide-legged hakama for the boys). The city of Kitakyushu in Fukuoka, however, is renowned for taking it up a notch. Several notches. An excess of notches, even.

▼ Newly matured Yankee adults prowl the streets of Kitakyushu

Yes, the youth of Kitakyushu greet their adulthood with gilded rickshaws, Presley-style pomps and color-coordinated outfits. Our dedicated reporter Masanuki Sunakoma has attended the event multiple times now to cover it for SoraNews24, and found himself wondering:

Just where the heck do those amazing outfits come from?

The answer is just one store: a historic costume shop just a seven to eight minute walk from the Kitakyushu Media Dome station. Every year thousands of youths give the store their patronage and rent out traditional outfits cut from flashy, gaudy cloth; but the tradition started in 2003, with just two youngsters making a very unusual request.

▼ The fabled store itself, Miyabi

▼ Inside the store are magazines, filled with past designs

The pair requested to be clad in gold and silver from head to toe, and the shop’s manager was happy to oblige them, kitting them out in flashy threads even with barely any advance warning. The incredible response the two got set the imaginations of fellow new adults ablaze, and inspired them to come to the store for their own costumes. Now Miyabi is talked about like a legend; the magical shop where you can be transformed into a splendorous effigy of your own youth…and Masanuki decided that the legend would continue that very day, with him.

▼ Masanuki, roughly 20 years past the expiration date, prepares for his Coming of Age outfit

Though Masanuki’s order to the shop was simple (“Just do whatever you like”) he couldn’t help adding a little request of his own. He wanted to walk down the street with the confidence of one who’d recently turned 20, with enough presence to part crowds on the street.

▼ Thankfully Miyabi had enough makeup to cake onto Masanuki to make this dream come true.

The makeup and hair styling process was over with in the blink of a thickly-rimmed eye. After sweeping Masanuki’s hair back, he was festooned with a luscious peak of blonde hair that surged forward, just like an impudent noble from the British Regency. With his golden locks, onyx-lined eyes and amethyst-tinted lips, he was the spitting image…

…of a monster.

Lord Frieza?

“How is it?” asked the manager, but Masanuki was barely given time to answer before he was whisked off to be costumed. He was quickly dressed in a robe that summoned up the images of untamed fires and raging heat.

▼ This shot also shows off the back of his Rockhopper penguin hairdo.

All that fiery color could be a nod to how you shouldn’t let the fire of your youth expire…? Masanuki thought it clashed quite drastically with his ghostly face, but that too lent an eerie boost to his image. This look was getting out of control!

Okay, one thing was for sure: Masanuki would definitely part crowds dressed like this. However, rather than impressing them with his cutting edge fashion, the bright clothes just made him feel more washed out… Like he was a portrait titled “Despairs of the Elderly”. That wasn’t the goal at all!

The shop assistant, to her credit, didn’t say what she was clearly thinking (“you look dreadful”). She said instead, “right now you’re the man who’s closest to Nirvana in all of Kitakyushu”, and she said it with such passion that even Masanuki almost believed her for a second. But no, he couldn’t leave the store like this. The people would part in the street, yes, but only to let the police through to arrest him. Would his career at SoraNews24 survive an arrest? He didn’t want to find out.

▼ “No, officer, I swear I just turned 20…”

The store itself doesn’t actively recommend the clothes to young people, as it turns out: it’s the young people themselves who come en masse to the store, clamoring for big hair and vivid clothing. The staff of Miyabi work to grant those wishes in the hope that these new adults can say goodbye to their youth without any regrets.

▼ Ms. Miyabi herself, who helped Masanuki transform

This way, even if you were never the sort of person to do daring things or wear flashy costumes… hey, on your last day of your youth, you can go all out.

▼ Boxes piled high to send to a new generation of dreamers in 2019

▼ Many of the girls’ dresses are flashier and expose more skin than traditional Coming of Age gear

▼ A beautiful rainbow of potential fabrics to choose from

Masanuki’s monstrous transformation taught him one thing: there’s really no limit to what the artisans at Miyabi can do to a human body. With this knowledge he’s filled with even more excitement – and yes, a healthy dose of trepidation – for next year’s Coming of Age Day. And fear not, anyone wishing to flex their fashion outside of Fukuoka: there’s plenty of precedent for ostentatious costumes in other parts of Japan!

Images © SoraNews24
Related: Miyabi Homepage

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