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Genpuku (元服?) or genbuku was an historical Japanese coming-of-age ceremony, dating back to the 7th or 8th century. The etymology of the word is atypical; in this case gen (元?) means "head" and fuku (服?) means "wearing". The ceremony is also known as kakan (加冠?), uikōburi (初冠?), kanrei (冠礼?), shufuku (首服?), and hatsu-motoyui (初元結?).
To mark the entry to adult life, boys between the ages of about 11 and 17 (typically of about age 12) were taken to the shrines of their patron kami. There they were presented with their first adult clothes, and their boys' hairstyles (角髪 mizura?) were changed to the adult style. They were also given new adult names (烏帽子名 eboshi-na?) or Courtesy Name (字 Azana). In the period between early childhood and the genpuku, boys were classified as wakashū. In later periods the typical age of the genpuku shifted towards the later teens; because of fears that male prostitutes and boys in nanshoku relationships were being prevented from becoming adults in order to prolong their sexual availability, a 1685 ordinance required all boys to go through genpuku by age 25.
In Heian times, the ceremony was restricted to the sons of noble and samurai families. During the Muromachi era, it gradually spread to include men of lower ranks. After going through genpuku, youths were expected to do adult labor, and for samurai-class men, they acquired full warrior status and were expected to fight in open battle. In addition, youths gained the right to marry, and to officiate at shrine ceremonies.
In modern Japan, these ceremonies have been replaced by annual coming-of-age ceremonies for 20-year-olds of both sexes called seijin shiki, or by a ceremony held in school for students who have turned 15 years of age called a risshi-shiki (立志式), literally "standing hope ceremony" in which children stand in front of the school and declare their goals for the future.
In premodern Japan age 11, age 17, etc. corresponded (to a degree) respectively to age 10, age 16, etc. in the West and modern, Westernized Japan.
- De Vos, George (1973). Socialization for Achievement: Essays on the Cultural Psychology of the Japanese. University of California Press. pp. 314–315.
- Leupp, Gary P. (1997). Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan. University of California Press. pp. 34, note 24. ISBN 0-520-20900-1.