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Japanese Ceremony Makeup Culture & Tips

Japanese Ceremony Makeup Culture & Tips

Japan is a very ceremonial and ritualistic society with many different customs pertaining to each ceremony and ritual, including makeup. Japan combines elements from many different religions and cultures to create something which is belonging entirely to the Japanese. For example, Japanese weddings might have a Shinto ceremony but a Western reception. Or Japanese school girls might go through their own Coming of Age Day ceremony only to go to Karaoke afterward. Regardless, this guide will walk you through different makeup for every occasion in traditional and modern Japanese ceremony society! Let’s learn about the ways Japanese women choose to celebrate these important moments in life!

Japan’s Coming of Age Day Ceremony Makeup

Age: 20
Date: January 15th



Coming of Age Day Ceremony, known as 成人の日 (Seijin no Hi) is held on the second Monday of January and is a day to honor the girls and boys who turned twenty years old in the previous year. It is a day to acknowledge that they have now passed into adulthood. At 20 years old Japanese are able to drink, enter clubs, smoke, gamble, sign leases, and apply for smartphones without the supervision of watchful parents. On this day, families and these new adults parade around their towns, attend ceremonies at ward offices or city hall, and then eat, go to amusement parks like Disney or Sanrio Puroland, or have private parties with family and friends.

Dress: Men wear a suit or tie, sometimes traditional hakama. Quite simple.
Women’s dress is the main feature of Seijin no Hi. Women wear a traditional kimono for young unmarried girls known as a furisode, meaning “swinging sleeves” due to the literal lengthy sleeves which are characteristic of this type of kimono. The furisode often comes with a fur wrap to go around the shoulders. Zori slippers with open-toe socks known as tabi are also included in the traditional wear.

Makeup: While it is safe to say that Seijin no Hi is not about makeup, many elderly Japanese are recently complaining about how the ceremony has become too modernized. This includes the 5 a.m. trips to the salon to get hair and makeup done for the day’s festivities where bright makeup and wild hair matches the eccentric patterns of their furisode. It’s also complained that young women are wearing their kimono too much like that of oiran, or Japanese courtesans who were sometimes considered prostitutes. Another trend has been for Gyaru or Ganguro to adapt their style to fit into Seijin no Hi. This can include decked out hair, long nails, impossibly long eyelash extensions, deep fake tans, and shortened kimono with high heels instead of slippers.

Regardless of your opinions on whether Seijin no Hi should adapt to the times or maintain traditional styles of dress and makeup, it might be enjoyable to watch the 20-year-olds get all dressed up next time the holiday comes around.

Japanese Graduation Ceremony Makeup

Japanese universities are very different from Western universities in the United States or in some parts of Europe. Japanese universities tend to have relaxed rules about the codes which students should follow and this also applies to the graduation ceremony dress code. One rule is that most universities don’t have dress codes. Still, in Japan, it is customary to wear Kimono for the graduation ceremony, despite the lack of written rule. Though we see the western academic dress in university graduation ceremony as well, It is quite popular for girls to wear set of kimono and hakama. This is because by wearing this traditional clothing, it implies that one is a well-educated individual… which you hopefully should be after attending three or four years of university.

A college graduate girl with traditional Hakama skirt and kimono clothes

Although parents and family do not usually attend the ceremony, gifts are sent to students, particularly girls, such as beautiful necklaces, expensive perfume, makeup, or something practical like an accessory for their smartphones. In a way, university graduation ceremonies in Japan are not especially highlighted events which give students a lot of freedom to express themselves through dress and makeup.

Dress: Women wear kimono, and/or hakama. Hakama are pants tied around the waist and fall to the ankles which one wears around a kimono. It is then called a Hakamashita. Rental can cost anywhere from 20000 upwards. Men typically wear black suits.

Makeup: The hair is usually worn up in tight or soft ringlets. Colorful flowers to match the kimono are pressed into the hair. Eye makeup includes bright colors and glitter to match the cheerful, colorful hakama. Fake eyelashes, soft blush, and a soft pink lip are also typical of graduation ceremony makeup.

Examples: Take a look at these Japan vlogs to get an idea of what Japanese university students wear!

Wedding Ceremony Makeup & Dress in Japan

Something very unexpected happened to me while living in Japan. I got married!

…Just kidding.

But I did get to pretend to be married multiple times. I was a dress model for a small dress company based in Shirokanedai, Tokyo. The company, Garden of Grace, was featured in multiple Japanese wedding dress magazines including Classy Wedding. This company makes gorgeous, absolutely stunning, Western-style wedding dresses for Chinese and Japanese clients. I got to be stuffed inside these dresses about one to two times a month for about eight months in total so it got me thinking about the interesting way in which Japan includes both Western and Japanese influences when it comes to the “big day” for a couple.

Garden of Grace – With Ana V

In Japan, there are several ways to become a married couple. You might opt for the traditional Shinto wedding, a Buddhist wedding, catholic wedding, or combine a Shinto wedding with a western-style reception. You might even have two wedding ceremonies to appease for the different religions within the combining families. As a side note, if you are gay, some cities such as Shibuya ward and Setagaya ward in Tokyo can dish out special partnership certificates, which apparently is almost the same as a legal marriage license.

Being married is highly personal, and elaborate subject matter which is deserving of its own blog so I hope that you can count this only as an introduction to the dress and Japanese ceremony makeup of Japanese weddings.

Traditional Shinto Weddings

Dress: The reasons behind attempting to look nice for a wedding go beyond impressing your friends or family. In Shinto Weddings, a couple will wear formal wear to honor not only the love they are pledging but also the gods who will certify your marriage. The bride wears a white, silk kimono called a Shiromuku. If you’ve ever seen photos of brides’ clothing, you might question the mysteriously large hood around her head. This is a Wataboshi or if it is paper, a Tsunokakushi which are said to guard against the horns of jealousy. Very important for any newlywed couple.

(Shinto Wedding Wataboshi)

Makeup: Japanese ceremonial makeup for Shinto weddings is minimal if any at all.

Buddhist Weddings

Note on Buddhist weddings: Buddhist wedding traditions in Japan have been slowly fading away, although they are still beautiful ceremonial occasions worthy of mention. Couples can arrange for the ceremony inside of a Zen Buddhist temple. The ceremony then involves chanting of sutras with Buddhist prayer beads and an exchange of vows in front of a Buddhist priest.

Buddist Wedding Dress: Formal Kimono
Similar to the Japanese ceremonies of Seijin no hi and university graduation, there are similar kinds of kimono which may be used during these times.

  • Shiromuku–same as in Shinto weddings, white, often made of silk with delicate patterns embroidered all throughout the fabric.
  • Iro-Uchikake–A kimono which is often bright colors such as reds, golds, purples, and orange colors. It is more festive which means that the bride will often change into this during the reception.
  • Hiki-furisode–The long sleeve, colorful kimono which is also seen in the Seijin no Hi ceremonies. The difference is that there is a small bridal train in the back of the furisode.

Makeup: If the bride is wearing a Shiromuku, very minimal makeup will be the recommended style. If the bride is in more colorful Iro-Uchikake or Hiki-furisode then the ceremony makeup will be brighter, with colorful eyeshadows matching the kimono. The hair will also include more floral or decorative adornments.

Catholic/Western Weddings

Ana V’s in the wedding dress!

Dress: Japan has some really amazing Western wedding dress designers. Tokyo born Yumi Katsura is world renowned but of course, other designers are famous in Japan as well such as Vera Wang, Casablanca Bridal, and Justin Alexander. Brides in Japan usually purchase or rent two dresses—a white wedding dress and an evening gown for an after-party.

Makeup: Bridal makeup tends to have heavy dark lids with long eyelashes, and a pink lip. There is so much attention to the dress that it tends to be the case where the face makeup should not stand out too much.

When I was dressing for the bridal photo shoots at Garden of Grace the Japanese ceremony makeup which they applied to my face included soft eyebrow makeup, only black mascara, highlighter on the cheekbones and under my eyes, and finally a lip tint of red or pink. At the photo shoots, they always place flowers or some kind of hair ornament into my hair.

To wrap up…

Japan is a very ritualistic society and this is only a small portion of what Japan celebrates with clearly defined ceremonies. The dresses, especially for women, are fantastic to research, choose, and wear. The Japanese ceremonial makeup tends to be simple and under exemplified but it is still worthy of mention. Japanese ceremonial makeup changes depending on the tradition but as with Western weddings, Seijin no Hiand university graduation ceremonies, the traditional humble Japanese makeup trends are being switched for more obvious makeup techniques such as a darkly lined eye with long lashes, highlights on the cheeks, bright eyeshadow, and pink or red lip tints. Regardless of the Japanese ceremonial makeup or dress, the most important aspect is how Japan makes sure to cherish these brief yet significant moments of life and it is honored through the care spent in the formal attire and Japanese ceremonial makeup worn at the events.

Written By Ana Vigueras
Edited by Hiro Kano


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