Rachel in Tokyo

This is a blog about an American law school student studying in Tokyo for the semester.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Jeremy the Kimono King

Kimono (Japanese: 着物, literally "something worn", i.e., "clothes") are the traditional garments of Japan. Originally the word kimono was used for all types of clothing, but it came to refer specifically to the full-length garment that is still worn by women, men, and children.

Kimono are T-shaped, straight-lined robes that fall to the ankle, with collars and full-length sleeves. The sleeves are commonly very wide at the wrist, perhaps a half meter. Traditionally, unmarried women wear kimono with extremely long sleeves that extend almost to the floor. The robe is wrapped around the body, always with the left side over the right, and secured by a wide belt tied in the back, called an obi. Kimono are traditionally worn with traditional footwear (especially geta, thonged wood-platform footwear; and zori, a type of thong-like footwear) and split-toe socks called tabi.

Here is my friend, Jeremy, who just bought his first Japanese Kimono. He is looks very stylish in his subdued color scheme. Jeremy speaks Japanese fluently, and now is fashioning his wardrobe after Japanese culture as well. You go, Jeremy! See Jeremy in front of the temple? Now he can sit among the other practicing Buddhists in his Kimono and will blend right in with the other worshippers!

There are styles of kimono for various occasions, ranging from extremely formal to very casual. The level of formality of women's kimono is determined by the shape (mostly the length of the sleeves), pattern and fabric, and also the colour. Men's kimono are usually one basic shape and are mainly worn in subdued colours. Formality is determined by the type and colour of accessories, the fabric, and the number or absence of kamon (family crests). Silk is the most desirable, and most formal, fabric. Cotton is more casual. These days there are polyester kimono as well; they are generally more casual.

Today, both men's and women's kimono are increasingly available in different sizes. With the tradition of kimono being made from a single bolt of cloth, larger sizes are difficult to find and very expensive to have made. Very tall or heavy people, such as sumo wrestlers, have kimono custom-made.

Kimono can be expensive. A woman's kimono may easily exceed US$10,000; a complete kimono outfit, with kimono, undergarments, obi, ties, socks, sandals and accessories, can exceed US$20,000. A single obi may cost several thousand dollars. In practice, however, most kimono owned by typical kimono hobbyists or by practitioners of traditional arts are far less expensive. Enterprising people make their own kimono and undergarments since they follow a standard pattern, or they "recycle" older kimono. Cheaper and machine-made fabrics substitute for the traditional hand-dyed silk. There is also a thriving business in second-hand kimono in Japan. Women's obi, however, remain an expensive item. Even second hand ones can cost hundreds of dollars, and they are difficult for inexperienced people to make. Men's obi, even those made from silk, tend to be much cheaper, because they are narrower and shorter than those worn by women.

In contrast to the woman's garment, men's kimono outfits are far simpler, typically consisting of a maximum of five pieces, not including socks and sandals.

In the modern era, the principal distinctions between men's kimono are in the fabric and the design. The typical kimono has a subdued, dark colour; black, dark blues and greens, and occasionally brown are common. Fabrics are usually matte. Some have a subtle pattern, and textured fabrics are common in more casual kimono. More casual kimono may be of slightly brighter colour, such as lighter purples, greens and blues. Sumo wrestlers have occasionally been known to wear quite bright colours such as fuchsia.

The most formal style of kimono is plain black with five kamon on the chest, shoulders and back. Slightly less formal is the three-kamon kimono. These are usually paired with white undergarments and accessories.

Almost any kimono outfit can be made more formal by wearing hakama and haori.


Blogger Humour and last laugh said...

picture and lots of informations on Japanese culture!

8:04 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home