One for every reason & season

One for every reason & season

Grand in colours, simple in style, traditional in usage, this garment of Japan


Kimonos have always interested me. Much like the saris, kimonos spell elegance. Being the national attire of Japan, they are an inseparable part of Japanese culture. With their vibrant colours and eye-catching designs, kimonos are wraparounds held together by sashes known as obi. While both men and women wear them, the styles are different. So are the colours and designs.

When I first went to Japan, I expected all Japanese to be wearing kimonos, and only kimonos. My brush with Japanese movies had me thinking so. But, that was not the case. I saw natives in Western clothes. That was when I learned that kimonos are worn only on special occasions. Much like our silk saris and dhotis.

My first close encounter with kimonos, which means ‘thing to wear’ in Japanese, was during the famous Japanese tea ceremony.

Sensing my interest in them, my host graciously enlightened me on the same. Kimono is worn in several layers, and the art of wearing it is generally passed on from one generation to another. They are also taught in schools now.

Dressing up in a kimono begins with the wearing of white socks, followed by a top and a wraparound skirt, and then an under-kimono secured in place with a belt known as datemaki, and finally the kimono is tied with an obi. It’s always worn in such a way that the left covers the right. For, the right covering the left is only for the dressing up of a corpse.

Different types of kimonos are worn by women, each standing for the occasion and marital status. However, it is a must while attending classes on traditional Japanese arts including the ikebana and the tea ceremony.

While single women wear colourful, long-sleeved kimonos known as furisode, brides wear embroidered white kimonos called shiromuku or uchikake, and the grooms, silk kimonos in black. The coming-of-age ceremony sees young girls wearing grand ones, while funerals see people wearing plain black kimonos.

Traditionally, they were made of hemp or linen, but now they are made of all kinds of materials including cotton, silk, polyester and satin. However, silk kimonos are much in demand owing to the grand look and feel of the fabric. Made in a standard size from one single bolt of fabric, they have four strips, with two for the body and two for the sleeves. They are also mostly hand-sewn.

The obi also comes in various styles, fukuro, nagoya, hitoe, heko, maru... While men’s obi are narrow, short, and mostly plain, women’s obi are wide, long, and elaborately designed. The way the obi is tied is also an art.

The types of knots are rooted in different occasions and kimono types. Unmarried girls sport decorative knots, while married and older women sport simple ones.

Because of their design, style and importance, obis are sometimes more expensive than the traditional attire.