6 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Kimonos

Japanese girl in kimono traditional dress walk in red bridge in Daigoji temple in autumn time, kyoto, Japan

During the festive season, our sister brand Ichiba in Westfield London will be selling pre-loved traditional Japanese kimonos, yukatas, and accessories! Kimonos have been worn for over 1000 years and are the national dress of Japan. It comes with a rich history and tradition and they are seen as a piece of artwork. 

Kimonos used to be worn as everyday clothing, however now are mainly for special events, such as graduations, funerals, and weddings. At Japan Centre, we pride ourselves in selling these beautiful garments which are so rich in history and culture. Find out more about kimonos with these 5 interesting facts that you probably didn’t know.

Kimonos Are Made Using One Single Piece of Fabric

A kimono is made up of eight rectangular strips which are all cut from one piece of fabric and any excess length is hemmed rather than cut off. Traditionally, kimonos had a special way of being washed, called arai-hari. This involved unstitching the entire kimono to separate all of the panels and then washing and drying them individually. It is then all sewn back together again. This ensures that the kimono is cleaned and not ruined in the process, as kimonos are made from delicate materials such as silk and some are even hand-painted. Kimonos usually involve 3 separate layers. The first layer is the nagajuban which is a light underlayer. The kimono is then worn on top, and securely fastened with a wide belt called an obi.

Yukata is the Summer Version of a Kimono

Yukata are casual summer kimonos normally made from cotton and worn to events such as festivals, fireworks events, and parties. Yukata are much easier to wear than a kimono as they are lighter and have fewer steps to wear. They are easier to maintain and look after and therefore it is a very popular garment to wear. Men also wear yukatas, but the design and style are different from women’s.

The Way Kimonos Are Worn Hold Meaning

Kimonos are worn for many different occasions and hold a lot of history to them. One big mistake which is easy to make is the way the kimono is wrapped around the body. The right side should always be worn first, with the left side on top. In England, men’s clothes are worn the opposite way of women’s, with the buttons on a shirt being on the right side, compared to left for women, but in Japan, the kimono is worn the same way round for both women and men. Only those who have passed away would wear the right side on top. For women, the sash ribbon is always worn on the back, and single and married women wore different types of kimonos so that someone could understand if they were married or not by looking at their kimono.

Kimonos Come With Many Accessories and Types

Kimonos come with many layers and accessories which make them even more beautiful. Starting with the first layer, the nagajuban is a light under layer worn beneath the kimono. The kimono is then worn on top, and sealed in place with an obi sash which is a thick belt around the waist. The obi is the centre of the kimono and can be simple but sometimes extravagant. Married women tend to wear simpler obi styles, while single women will wear complicated knots. Maiko or apprentice geisha are known to wear beautiful, trailing obi which follow behind them as they walk. Kimonos are then worn with geta or zori sandals which reveal the tabi socks underneath which have split toes. Women also decorate their hair with floral decorations called kanzashi.

The Pattern of Kimonos Holds a Lot of Symbolism.

The design of a kimono holds a lot of symbolism, from images to poems and stories depicted across the garments. A popular design of kimonos is with a crane. This bird holds a lot of significance in Japanese culture as it is believed to live for thousands of years and brings good fortune and is a symbol of longevity. 

The natural world is also a common motif across many kimono designs, with seasonal plants such as sakura for spring and maple leaves for autumn. Poems and stories are also common to see in kimonos, with famous art or classic literature inspiring the designs.

Kimonos are worn at many different events

Hatsumode is the first temple visit of the new year. Many visit Buddhist and Shinto shrines during the first few days of the new year, to make wishes and buy omamori charms. Men and women wear elaborate kimonos and follow the visit of the temples with sake and food.

Another famous event where people wear kimonos is Seijin no Hi or Coming of Age Day, which has been celebrated in Japan since at least 714 AD and takes place every year on the 2nd Monday of January. It is an event held to congratulate all those who turned 20 or are turning 20 between April 2 of the year before, and April 1 of the current year (the Japanese school year). 

Many women celebrate by wearing a furisode, a type of kimono where the sleeves are long. Men sometimes choose to wear dark coloured kimonos with hakama, but in more recent years wear formal western clothing such as a suit and tie. After the ceremony which is normally held at a community or school hall, the young adults celebrate by going to parties and drinking.

Kimonos have been a part of Japanese culture for over a millennia, and with that comes many different evolutions and styles, but the tradition and the significance of the kimono has not changed. Kimonos are an important part of Japanese culture and will be treasured for many years to come. 

Visit Ichiba in Westfield London during the festive season to try on and purchase pre-loved traditional Japanese kimonos, yukatas, and accessories, all the way from Japan, from 12pm until 6pm every Saturday in November and every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in December, excluding Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.

By Amelia

Japan Centre