Japanese

Japanese Traditional Clothing

Whenever people think about Japanese traditional clothing, they think about the kimono. However, there are other pieces of clothing the Japanese have passed down from their ancestors other than the kimono.  The word, kimono, actually makes a lot of sense in English. “ki” means “wearing,” and “mono” means thing.  We can’t break the word clothes down as easily as their word kimono.  It is clear that clothing or clothes comes from cloth, but just that much doesn’t say what we do with the cloth like the word kimono does.  Here are some traditional types of clothing worn in Japan, and there is more than just the kimono you always think of.

three geisha walking between buildings
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Yes, the first type is the traditional kimono.  It is made from satin brocade.  It is actually much longer than you realize. These types of kimonos are very expensive.  I have never actually owned one of these kind of kimonos because they are so expensive, but I have worn them.  When I was in Japan as a student, the Japanese loved to put kimonos on me.  It was quite a rigmarole because it has to be done in just a certain way and look just a certain way.  You can’t just put it on, and you are done like western style clothing.  You have to wear make sure it is the right length by folding it over in the middle.  You have to make sure the neck part in the back is just exactly in the right place.  When they put it on me, they also thought they had to make sure that my figure fit it right. I have a few more curves than Japanese women, so they would wrap towel around my waist to even me out so I wouldn’t look so curvy. Your body must look flat when you wear one of these kimonos. After that, you want to tie the obi just right.

photo of woman facing away from the camera
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The neck is considered the most sensual part of a Japanese woman.  Women who wear their kimonos like this are trying to be sexy.

 

The obi is the best worn on the kimono.  When I was a student in Japan, they taught me how to fold a kimono and to tie an obi. However, if you want to make the process easier, you can buy obis that are already tied, and all you have to do it put them on.  There are a few different ways to tie an obi, and I only learned one, the one that looks like a big bow when you are finished, but it is not tied like a we tie bows in the west.  The obi is thick and stiff.  It is not a single flimsy piece of material, but a very nice piece of material with something stiff in the middle that makes it hold its shape. It is very long and can be wrapped around more than once before they tie the elaborate bow in the back.  Most people can’t tie the obi for themselves. People need help getting into the fancy kimonos.

 

If you are a young woman, you will wear a kimono made of pink, peach, or some other very bright and feminine color. If you are an older woman, you will wear a black kimono with black flowers or a navy blue kimono.  The obi will not match the kimono because the Japanese say each item of clothing has its own personality.

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I have been wearing a yukata as a robe for years.  This is one that I am currently wearing. Even though I know how it should be folded to take care of it, there isn’t enough room in my tiny Korean apartment to lay it flat and fold it, so I hang it on a hanger and put it in the closet.
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I had trouble getting my photos of old photos to turn out right, but this is a picture of me many years ago after my first son was born wearing a yukata in the house while I was taking care of my baby. I have been wearing a yukata as a robe for many years because they are very comfortable.

 

photo of women holding cotton candy
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These two girls are wearing a yukata with an obi. (It looks very strange to me to put an “s” on a Japanese word because the Japanese don’t use a plural, so I keep changing my words to try to use the Japanese words without an “s.”)

 

Another kind of kimono is the yukata. The yukata is the summer kimono.  Both men and women wear the yukata.  It is made of cotton and usually has big blue and white flowers or other patterns like fish or dragons on it.  If you travel in Japan, you can buy yukatas in the souvenir shops.  The Japanese, both men and women, wear the yukata at home like a robe. They wear a tie belt, but not an obi unless they wear it out of the house.  A friend of mine took Japanese dance lessons, and she wore her yukata in her Japanese dance lessons.

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The lady on the left is wearing a honten over a kimono. If you look at her shoes, she is also wearing zori and white socks that are made with the toe separate.

Another kind of kimono in Japan is a jacket type kimono called a honten. The honten is worn over the kimono as a jacket.  When I was in Japan the first time many years ago, someone gave me a honten, but it is long since gone.  I used to wear it with my blue jeans.

Something else I used to wear with my jeans was a pair of geta, and many of my young Japanese friends did the same.  Geta are Japanese wooden shoes. On the top, they are made like flip flops where they come between your big toe and the rest of your toes, but the part that goes between your toes is made of velvet.  It is like you are walking on short stilts, and people can hear you coming when you walk on a floor or on concrete. The zori are another type of Japanese traditional shoes.  They are like flip flops on the top too, but they are made more. They are made of material more like regular sandals. They aren’t wooden like the geta. The geta may be plain white wood or they may be lacquered wood.  Mine were plain white wood, but the black lacquered geta are for more special occasions like weddings.

photo of women wearing kimono
Photo by Satoshi Hirayama on Pexels.com

These women are wearing a kimono, an obi, and zori.  If you compare the obi in this picture to the one of the other three women wearing a kimono in the earlier picture in this blog, this is another way of tying the obi. The first one looks more like a bow.  The one that looks like a bow is the one they taught me to tie.

woman using purple umbrella walking in the street
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The color of this kimono tells you this woman is not young. She may have grown kids.

There are two types of Japanese clothing I never wore. One, of course I never wore because it is just for men. I don’t know what it is called, but it is like a suit with big baggy pants the men wear at weddings and other special occasions. They are usually black with some white. I also don’t know what the other is called, but it is another type of kimono.  It is a quilted kimono.  I have seen them, but never worn one.  Because of the philosophy of Shintoism in Japan, the quilted kimono had to come into being.  Shintoism tells them they must stay as close to nature as possible.  This stops them from embracing things like central heating. It caused the samurai to be downright radical and not have any heat at all in their homes, not even a small fire in a fire place.  The quilted kimono is like a heavy coat to wear in the house.  There are parts of Japan that get a lot of snow in the winter.  I can’t imagine being a samurai and living in those parts of Japan in the winter.

buildings colorful costume dress
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Japanese traditional clothing is beautiful, so I asked someone why they don’t wear it all the time.  Look back at the pictures of the kimonos in my blog to see just how beautiful they are.  The Japanese told me they don’t wear kimonos all the time because they are inconvenient.  As I said, to wear the fanciest kimono and tie that obi, they consider it expedient to get someone to help them put it on.  However, with yo-ufu-u, what they call the clothing they have adopted from the west, all they have to do is get up and get dressed. It isn’t so complicated.

 

 

By the way, if you are interested in reading my latest book, it is online at Amazon. It is called Escaping Communism. My name is Ronda Everson, and I am the author. The publisher is Oms Publishing, a Korean publishing company.  The publisher also told me that it is on Kindle for people to read who have Kindle subscriptions. It is about people I know and things I have seen because I was in Romania right after the revolution.  Many of the people don’t speak English and couldn’t tell you themselves, but they went through some unbelievable things like swimming a river, dodging bullets, living in the mountains without running water or electricity, living in sewers, etc. to escape.  The link is:  https//www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/BO7NJ2ZJGK?ref=aw_sitb_dogotal-text.

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