Anthony Wood | Tokyo Headshot and Portrait Photographer

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Thoughts, experiences, and photos of life and work in Japan by Anthony Wood | American Headshot and Portrait Photographer based in Tokyo, Japan

Coming of Age in Tokyo

It's been a little while since I've managed to sit down and write another blog post. This past season has certainly been on the busier side of things. I've spent a considerable amount of time on the road driving to various corners of Japan to shoot traditional craft makers and then working through the large amount of post-processing work that came with it. I've added several images from these shoots to a new portfolio here.

I've also been doing a few seijinshiki-maedori (成人式前撮り) shoots, or what roughly translates to 'pre-coming-of-age-ceremony-photo-taking'. Kind of just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?

In Japan, the age at which a child legally becomes an adult is 20, and each year in January local governments around the country hold ceremonies to commemorate all of those who have in the previous year turned (or will soon be turning) 20 years of age.

It is quite common for those approaching adulthood to have a set of photos taken to memorialize this period of transition in their lives. The concept behind the photo shoot is not entirely different from the senior photos done by American high school students in their final year of high school.

For young women, these photos are almost always done while wearing a colorful kimono with extra long sleeves know as a furisode (振袖). For men, they wear either a kimono with hakama (袴) or a suit.

These shoots, at least as I do them, are a near full day experience. We start early in the morning with about an hour worth of hair and makeup. This is followed by another hour for the not quite simple process of getting dressed in a kimono. This part is done by a professional dresser since the average person does not have the ability or even the know-how to dress themselves in the traditional Japanese garment.

After this, we set out to a pre-determined area and spend some time walking around making use of whatever interesting locations, backdrops, and lighting we're able to find. We bring along the hair/makeup artist as well as the kimono dresser to make sure everything stays looking as it should as we move around. I bring along my wife who assists me with much of the process. Also, the subject's mother likes to be present and watch how things go.

As we move around in our little group, we do tend to get some attention from onlookers. There are always people stopping to watch, take photos (and videos) with their phones, and offer comments. The majority of these people probably see it for what it is, but others seem to think a celebrity is in their midst. We have overheard a comment where a man was saying that he had seen the young lady we were shooting somewhere on television before.

Around noon, we take a break and have lunch together. After this, when the more harsh sunlight of midday is easing, we head out to another location and do some more photos. It can be a long day, but it's still a lot of fun. Plus, we come away with photos that are quite different from the studio portraits that are commonly done for seijinshiki-maedori shoots.

The photos shared in this post are from a session done with a young lady in the area of Nezu Shrine in the Bunkyo ward of Tokyo, as well as in the traditional Japanese garden at Hamarikyu in the Chuo ward of Tokyo.