Do You Know About Genpuku?

Genpuku is (or, more properly, was) a traditional Japanese coming-of-age ceremony for male members of the samurai class.

The timing of the ceremony varied, at the discretion of a samurai boy’s father or the male relative in charge of his training, but it typically took place when a boy was between the ages of 12 and 17. When a samurai youth had attained the requisite skills and maturity to accept the responsibilities of adulthood, he was taken to the shrine of his family’s patron kami (a Japanese term for gods or divinities) where the ceremony was performed.

13B Samurai (1800s) LOC

After genpuku, a boy was allowed to wear the clothing, hairstyle, and swords of an adult samurai. His family also gave him an adult name, which he would use for the rest of his life.

In modern Japan, genpuku has been replaced by other forms of coming-of-age rituals, some of which take place in high school and others around the age of 20. These modern rituals focus on the declaration of goals and assumption of adult responsibilities, though they lack the deadly significance of the earlier form.

Once a samurai youth completed genpuku he was an adult for all purposes – not only work and marriage, but also war.

*Image of elder samurai observing younger samurai obtained from the free collection, U.S. Library of Congress, no known use restrictions.

Are you familiar with other coming of age ceremonies, in Japan or elsewhere? Which do you find most interesting? I’d love to hear in the comments!