Hello All! I apologize for not updating lately. It just didn’t feel right to me with all that has been going on in the world as of late. I needed to take a step back. I’m back, however, and have decided that my next series of posts will cover information about the Japanese Kimono. I’m going to go ahead and start with my favorite kimono, the furisode.
The Furisode Kimono
The furisode kimono is commonly worn my women under the age of 20. This is the kimono a girl will wear at her coming of age ceremony, a tea ceremony or to a wedding. It is considered formal wear, like a tuxedo, in Western culture. It has colorful patterns and designs and very long sleeves. The sleeves must be held up from the ground and can take lots of practice. I always had lots of trouble folding the sleeves into my lap when sitting and keeping the undergarment lining in the sleeves!
The furisode is most typically worn by women who are single. Today, however, the rules of wearing formal kimono have been somewhat relaxed and more women past the age of 20 can be seen in them. Once a woman marries, traditionally they would only wear a short sleeve kimono.
The furisode kimono dates back to the 1500s and was a garment worn by the middle and upper classes. The lower classes had to wear kimonos with shorter sleeves since the material was expensive! Today a well made furisode remains expensive and can cost up to $15,000. Kimonos can be passed down the family line and worn by multiple generations of women.
This kimono can be made out of a variety of materials, but is often made from silk since it is considered to be a formal kimono. I’ve seen cotton and crepe a lot.
Fun fact that when a kimono needs cleaning, it typically needs to be sent to a professional in Japan who will take the kimono apart, clean the fabric by hand and sew it back together!
The Obi and Mon
Obi is the Japanese word for belt. On a furisode kimono, an obi is the long sash that is tied to accent the kimono. It will usually carry a similar accent color to the kimono. The obi can be tied long with a decorative bow in the back, or tied and the bow clipped onto the back for ease. From experience, I always prefer an obi with a bow that can be clipped on.
A Mon is a crest. Think of a Mon as a type of a coat of arms. You may see them on the kimono at the top and incorporated into the motif. There can be 1, 3, or even 5 on one kimono. The Mon is the symbol on the kimono that makes it formal.
The ultimate formal kimono is an uchikake kimono. It is only used for weddings and worn by a bride or to a stage performance. An uchikake kimono does not have sleeves worn as long as a furisode kimono. The uchikake is heavier, padded and often made with brocades fabrics. An uchikake kimono will trail along the length of the floor and is typically only worn once in a lifetime.
The patterns on an uchikake kimono are more traditional and often feature cranes, phoenixes and other mythical creatures; red is the most common color to find it in. Unlike the furisode kimono, this kimono is not designed to be worn with an obi. If is worn as an “overcoat” over a white kimono or other lighter color or layer.
A shiromuku is a white wedding kimono only worn during a Shinto religious ceremony. The white is said to symbolize the purity of the bride. The other thought process is that in ancient Japan, white symbolized the sun’s rays. The bride will change into a red kimono following the ceremony for good luck. Shiromuku kimonos are typically rented.
In the summer it is quite common to see women in Japan wearing a lighter cotton yukata kimono. A yukata is made from cotton and unlike its more formal counterparts is unlined. This is the kimono you will see most foreigners or tourists think of when they hear the word “kimono” or buy a “kimono” from a shop to take home as a souvenir.
A yukata comes with a obi that does not typically have a pattern on it like a furisode kimono. Summer is a popular time in Japan for summer festivals like bon odori and Tanabata. What is nice about the yukata is that the cotton fabric of a yukata breaths and dries quicker is people are out and about during a summer festival. Summer is hot and humid in Japan. There are many different styles and patterns you will see on a yukata.
I hope you enjoyed part 1 of a brief explanation into the different types of kimonos. I’ll include more formal kimonos and a look a men’s kimonos in the next few posts. I hope you enjoy cultural information such as this. Until next time! Stay safe!