The Iconic Kimono – Japan’s Traditional Robe

Hello, this is Ayamegu(@ayakami_meguru).I will write about kimonos this time.
Kimono are traditional Japanese robes that have been worn for centuries. Kimono are T-shaped, straight-lined robes worn so that the hem falls to the ankle, with attached collars and long, wide sleeves. They are wrapped around the body and secured in place by sashes called obi.

Kimono remain an enduring symbol of Japanese culture and tradition. While they originated as everyday wear, kimono are now often worn for special events and ceremonies. Their elegant designs and fabrics make them popular cultural artifacts.

1. History and Significance of Kimono

The precursor to the kimono was born during Japan’s Heian period (794-1185 AD). Called “kosode”, these early prototypes featured basic T-shaped design. Kosode later evolved into the shape recognized today as kimono.

During the Edo period (1603-1868), kimono became widely adopted by all classes and genders of Japanese society. Wealthy women wore ornate, colorful kimono in silk, while the merchant class wore more subdued kimono.

Kimono are deeply meaningful in Japanese culture. Their colors, patterns, and motifs have symbolic significance. For example, cranes represent longevity, pines represent steadfastness, and cherry blossoms represent the transience of life.

Kimono acquired social significance in the way they are worn. Collars are folded left over right for married women and right over left for unmarried women. Sleeve length, ribbon tying, and fold angles also indicate age and status.

While western clothing became more common in Japan by the late 19th century, kimono are still treasured as culturally significant. They remain popular for events like Coming of Age Day, weddings, tea ceremonies, and summer festivals.

2. Main Types of Kimono

There are many varieties of kimono that serve different purposes. Here are some of the main types:

Yukata – Casual, cotton summer kimono. Often worn to festivals and firework displays.

Furisode – Long-sleeved kimono for unmarried women. Very colorful, with vivid large patterns.

Houmongi – “Visiting wear” kimono for married women. More formal, with small, repeat patterns.

Komon – Casual “everyday” kimono with small, repeated patterns. Can be worn by married/unmarried women.

Iromuji – Solid color kimono for married and unmarried women. Very formal and reserved looking.

Hikizuri – Long, trailing formal kimono for geisha and maiko. Brilliant colors and designs.

Susohiki – Long “trail” kimono for dancers, brides. Dramatic sight when walking.

Uchikake – Highly decorated outer kimono worn by brides over their shiromuku.

There are also many types for men, children, and specific events. Kimono range greatly in formality, purpose, and symbolic meaning expressed through aesthetics.

3. Appreciating and Wearing Kimono Properly

To properly wear kimono:

  • Select kimono, undergarments, obi, and accessories suited for the occasion
  • Dress in layers, ensuring the collars fold correctly
  • Wrap left side of kimono over the right, securing with obi knotted in back
  • Mind the neckline, sleeve length, and hem according to wearer’s age/status
  • Walk slowly and gracefully to maintain the kimono’s dignified appearance

To appreciate kimono culture:

  • Visit museums like the Kyoto Costume Institute to see rare kimono
  • Attend festivals and events where kimono are widely worn
  • Take part in kimono wearing experiences offered in Japan
  • Learn about kimono history, motifs, and textile artistry
  • Follow kimono retailers, collectors, and enthusiasts on social media

Kimono are more than just beautiful robes – they offer deep insight into Japanese history, culture, and aesthetics. Learning to properly wear and appreciate them is a enriching cultural experience.

References: Kyoto Costume Institute:

Japan National Tourism Organization: