An expatriate explains the Japanese kimono that Non-Japanese love and why it is so popular. 14 Kimono Basics and 6 Examples of Experiences
The kimono is a traditional Japanese folk costume, and for us Japanese, the kimono is a special way of dressing.
We feel happy when we pass someone wearing a stylish kimono on the street.
Japanese kimonos are respected and admired all over the world.
I live in France, and sometimes I meet Japanese people wearing kimono at parties and international exchanges.
I have seen many foreigners admiring and looking up to Japanese people wearing kimono.
Why then, do Japanese kimonos attract so much envy from foreigners?
In this issue, I would like to talk about the charm of kimono as seen from abroad,
– How have kimonos been conveyed to foreign countries?
– Why do foreigners like kimono?
– I would like to have basic knowledge about kimono so that I will not be troubled when foreigners ask me about kimono!
– What kind of Kimono lineage do foreigners like?
– What kind of Japanese cultural experiences can I have by wearing kimono?
What kind of kimono styles do foreigners like? What kind of Japanese cultural experiences are available by wearing kimono?
Japanese Kimono from a Foreign Perspective
Japonism and the History of Kimono in the West
Japonism was a movement that swept across the West in the second half of the 19th century.
Van Gogh, Whistler, Monet, and others have created masterpieces featuring women wearing kimonos, and the image of the Japanese kimono has taken root in the West for a long time.
The kimono began to appear in Japonist paintings at the Paris Exposition of 1867.
One of the most famous is Claude Monet’s “La Japonaise” from 1875.
The image of a white woman wearing a red kimono is a work that everyone has seen at least once.
From this time, the influence of the kimono began to appear not only in paintings, but also in the world of fashion.
Dresses and visites reworked from kimonos imported from Japan appeared as a chic and cutting-edge mode of Parisian high society.
In the 20th century, the kimono took on a different new form in the West.
It was the indoor kimono.
As a Japanese, you may be thinking, “Why is the kimono worn indoors? Japanese people may wonder, “Why is the kimono worn indoors?
The reason for this was the influence of the European social background.
It is a protocol of high society clothing in Europe, where there are many social rules.
After Japonism, beautiful Japanese kimonos were still popular, and there was no end to the number of Western ladies who wanted to wear them.
Kimonos sewn into haute couture styles continued to be popular, but many women wanted to enjoy them in a more casual way.
Since indoor wear was loose and free, it became popular for women in upper-class society who wanted to enjoy wearing kimonos to wear them as gowns.
Also, the high quality Japanese silk material was very comfortable against the skin and was very popular among ladies.
Impressionist artists such as Renoir created many paintings depicting such a scene at that time and the image of a lady relaxing in a kimono gown.
This image is still strongly rooted in the West today, and front-vented indoor gowns with vivid Japanese-style prints are sold every year.
Click here for related recommended articles.
The Influence of Japonism and Japanese Culture in the West: 15 Important Figures and 22 Influences, Anime 25 and Contemporary Culture
The Japanese sense of season and respect for nature embodied in the kimono
The charm of kimono is, above all, its uniquely Japanese colors and beautiful patterns that remind us of the four seasons.
Flowers, birds, and ancient Japanese motifs filled with good luck.
There are many meanings in them.
When Japanese people wear kimonos, they choose kimonos with a sense of the season and the spirit of the place they are going to.
However, even if there is a dress code for Western-style clothing, you are free to choose according to the weather and temperature of the day,
However, with kimono, it is so important to dress according to the calendar.
No matter how detailed the rules of kimono are, they will be ruined if the sense of the season is inadvertently mistaken when choosing a kimono.
Kimonos with a sense of the seasons are full of ingenious beauty in terms of materials, patterns, colors, and so on.
It is an expression of the sense of the season and the heart that Japanese people cherish.
For example, there are many kimono patterns, but flower patterns are considered to be especially important to pay attention to.
In the world of kimono, it is considered “uncouth to bloom with flowers.
Therefore, if you are going to wear a kimono with a flower pattern, it is better to wear it in the season one step before the full blooming season of the flower motif.
The four seasons and kimonos have such a deep relationship that it reminds us of the Japanese people’s love and respect for nature.
From a foreign point of view, such a deep respect for nature peculiar to the Japanese deepens the appeal of the kimono even more, don’t you think?
Why Kimonos are popular among foreigners
So, what is it about the kimono that makes it so “popular”?
Elegance when wearing a kimono. Elegance.
When you wear a kimono, your back straightens and each movement becomes more deliberate.
Because the kimono restricts large movements, the wearer naturally becomes aware of every detail of his or her movements.
The appearance is very elegant, and even to a foreigner, the careful movements of a Japanese person wearing a kimono are said to be elegant.
A dignified samurai in a kimono is seen as having dignity in every movement.
Another influence is the Japanese people seen in Japanese movies based on historical dramas, as well as Japanese historical dramas popular in other Asian countries.
The gorgeous kimonos of the princesses of the Edo period, such as those of the O-oku (the ladies’ chambers), are very popular among foreign tourists from China, Taiwan, and Korea, whose cultures are similar to those of Japan.
Unique Japanese coloring
Japan’s traditional use of color is gentle and delicate and sets it apart from other countries.
The unique Japanese sense of color is special even to people outside of Japan, and the wabi-sabi of color is what makes the heart of Japan so special.
Traditional Japanese colors refer to colors based on the color sense unique to Japanese culture, as well as the 1100-odd colors that include traditional color names unique to Japan that have sources in past historical documents” (from Wikipedia).
As stated in Wikipedia, the sheer number of colors in Japan is astonishing.
Japanese dyeing technology was almost completed in the Nara period (710-794).
The ancient colors have remained unchanged since then and continue to be passed down to the present day.
Even we Japanese are enchanted by the elegance of the names of Japanese colors.
Asagi, Toki (Japanese crested ibis), silver gray, deep blue, and Akaneiro (madder red)…just by hearing the names of these colors, we are swelled with various images.
Kimonos are decorated with such profoundly Japanese colors that just hearing the names conjures up a variety of images.
Isn’t this one of the reasons why kimonos evoke images of Japan?
KAWAII is said to be the most globally spread Japanese word since the beginning of the 21st century.
The cuteness of Cute in English is an expression of childishness and immaturity, not a multifaceted expression of loveliness like Kawaii.
Therefore, many foreigners use “Kawaii” and #kawaii is used worldwide on social networking sites such as Instagram, which shows its convenience.
Many people are attracted to kimonos because they want to feel the elegance and traditional Japanese culture! In recent years, the number of foreigners who are attracted to kimonos because of their kawaii style has been increasing rapidly.
Of course, the cuteness that can be seen in a traditional kimono is also a part of it.
Kimonos with pop modern Japanese patterns and colorful obis are very popular among young foreign tourists.
The secret to the popularity of colorful and cute kimonos is that they look great in photographs.
In addition to the charm of traditional Japanese clothing, kimonos are also attracting attention as a light, modern style of dress.
Basic knowledge of kimono that you don’t have to worry about when asked by foreigners
When I have a foreigner who is interested in kimonos, he or she will ask me about things that even Japanese people don’t know.
Let’s learn the basic knowledge of kimono that will be useful in such a case.
The past article which is more detailed about the basic knowledge of kimono is here.
Basic Knowledge of Kimono: Japanese Culture and Experiences that Foreigners Want to Know
11 types of kimono
There are 11 typical types of kimono.
Kimono worn by a bride for a wedding ceremony. It is worn with a white kimono and a cotton hat or kakkakushi (blindfold).
Shiro-uchikake can also be worn at the wedding reception. It is characterized by its bright colors and gorgeous patterns. It is worn with a kakunakakakeshi (blindfold) on the head.
The kimono, also called mohuku, is made of a single black color and has no gala.
It has one white family crest on the back, both back sleeves, and both chests, and a black mourning sash is worn.
The first formal dress for unmarried women. It is characterized by its long sleeves. Depending on the length of the sleeves, there are three types: large furisode, medium furisode, and small furisode.
Furisode is matched with a fukuro sleeves.
- Black tomesode
The highest grade of kimono worn by married women. It is considered the first formal Japanese dress. It has one crest on the back, both back sleeves, and both breasts.
There is an ebane pattern on the hem. A brocade or karawori pouch or round obi is worn as the obi.
- Irotome-sode (colored sleeves)
A tomesode whose fabric is not black. This is a highly prestigious kimono that can be worn by both married and unmarried couples.
It is worn with a round or double-breasted obi, and the upper half of the body is plain, with the pattern spreading only to the hem. The level of prestige and the occasions in which it can be worn vary depending on the number of crests.
- Houmon-gi(Visiting kimono)
Houmon-gi(Visiting kimono)is the next most prestigious kimono after Furisode and Tomesode. Unlike tomesode, it has a pattern on the upper half of the body.
Because it is a high quality kimono, it is worn with a high quality fukuro obi. Tsukesage
A kimono with a pattern on the left shoulder. It is the second most prestigious type of kimono after the visiting kimono.
It can be worn for children’s ceremonies and Shichi-Go-San (Seven-Five-Three-Three) events, as it can be worn with a double-breasted obi to increase its prestige.
On the other hand, it can be worn to a dinner party or to a theater by wearing a Nagoya obi or a fashionable Fukuro obi, which reduces the prestige of the kimono.
A kimono dyed in one color other than black and white. The rank depends on the pattern woven into the fabric.
If it has a crest, it has the same rank as a visiting gown, and is worn with a fukuro obi.
If it does not have a crest, it is equivalent to a tsukebake, and if a nagoya obi is worn, it is equivalent to a komon.
A kimono with a pattern on the entire fabric. It is worn for everyday wear with a Nagoya obi or han-haba obi.
There are three representative types: Edo komon, Kaga komon, and Kyo komon.
A yarn-dyed kimono made of silk thread. Like komon, it is worn for everyday wear or as a fashionable dress.
It is worn for practice, dinner with friends, etc. Match an obi with a Nagoya obi of the same rank, a stylish pouch obi, or a han-haba obi.
The lowest grade of kimono. It is often worn in the summer because it is made of thin fabric and is breathable.
It can be worn directly on the plane with a long underwear, so it does not need to be worn with an overcoat. A semi-bukuro obi is used for the obi.
Rules of Kimono “Class
Kimonos have a rule called ” class”.
The type of kimono to be worn depends on the occasion.
There are four main types of class.
The higher the class, the more formal it is, and the lower the class, the more casual it is.
Let’s take a look at each of these in order of class.
Formal wear: Kuro-tomesode, shiro-tomesode (five crests), uchikake, hon-furisode, and mourning dress
This is the most prestigious type of kimono and is worn for official ceremonies such as weddings and funerals.
In Western dress, it is equivalent to an afternoon dress or evening dress.
Semi-formal wear: colored tomesode (three crests or one crest), visiting kimono (with crest), furisode (chufurisode/ko-furisode), colored kimono without crest (with crest)
This is the next most prestigious type of kimono after formal wear, and can be worn in a wide range of formal situations.
In Western-style clothing, it is equivalent to a semi-formal afternoon dress, dinner dress, cocktail dress, etc.
Abbreviated formal wear: colored tomesode, visiting gown (kimono without crest), colored kimono without crest (kimono with crest), tsukege, Edo komon
Kimonos worn to parties and other festive occasions. In Western clothing, it corresponds to a one-piece dress, two-piece dress, etc.
For everyday wear: Mumon, Komon, Gosoku, Tsumugi, Kasuri, Hachijo, Wool, Meisen, Cotton, and Yukata.
As casual outfits, they cannot be worn to formal occasions. In Western clothing, it is equivalent to a fashionable dress.
The important sense of season in kimono. 3 types of classification
As we have seen above, kimonos have different ranks, and the type of kimono is selected accordingly.
Kimonos are made of the appropriate fabric for the season in which they are to be worn.
This is how it is done.
The basic rule is to wear three types of kimono according to the time of the year: versatile, simple, and light.
There is no rule that says which kimono must be worn at a particular time of the year, but the general time of year for wearing kimono is as follows.
However, for weddings and other prestigious celebrations, kimono should be worn according to the calendar as much as possible.
However, when you wear it for yourself, it is more of a custom than a rule, so you can choose flexibly according to your physical condition and the temperature of the day.
Let’s take a look at the three types.
From the beginning of October to the end of May, when the temperature is around 22 degrees Celsius.
Lined kimono. Two pieces of fabric are combined.
It is warm even in the coldest season of winter. On the other hand, if worn during the hot summer season, it becomes hot because the air gets trapped in it.
It is usually worn during the change of seasons such as June and September.
The temperature is around 22℃ to 28℃. Since a single-garment kimono is not lined, it is lighter and more airy than a versatile kimono.
Worn with a summer obi on summer days from late June to early September, when the temperature is relatively hot, from 28°C to 28°C.
The kimono is unlined, the fabric is thin and transparent, and materials used are silk, gauze, or jofu, which are cool even during the hot summer months.
Influence of Kimono seen abroad
Le Redoute, a major apparel seller in France, has a categorization called KIMONO.
Reference article in France: https://www.laredoute.fr/lndng/ctlg.aspx?artcl=kimono#srt=noSorting
In Europe, kimono-style clothes are usually open-fronted, made of thin material, and have no buttons.
It is worn more like a cardigan than the kimono = gown or loungewear of a century ago.
The lightweight material makes it easy to carry and is enjoyed by people of all ages and races.
ZARA, which operates worldwide, also has a genre categorized as KIMONO style.
ZARA France has a concept of KIMONO style as follows.
This season (2022), the softest silhouette of outerwear, the draped kimono, is the focus of attention.
The long type can be layered over a dress, while the wrap type can be worn as a top for jeans.
This winter, choose prints such as floral, oriental, and solid colors to be sure to get noticed.
Citing ZARA France.”
It’s kind of nice to see kimono living and evolving in the contemporary world apparel scene.
Japanese accessories related to kimonos popular overseas
There are small Japanese accessories that are worn when wearing Japanese clothes.
Small traditional Japanese accessories such as kanzashi (hairpin) and netsuke are popular overseas as well.
Try wearing a kanzashi as a hair accessory in a stylish way, or a handmade Japanese netsuke as a key chain.
And now, the furoshiki is attracting the most attention.
Furoshiki, pronounced “furoshiki,” is also being used overseas for its convenience and ecological use that leaves no waste.
Furoshiki is also popular for wrapping Christmas gifts and for packing wine as souvenirs at home parties.
Geta, zori, tabi, are also said to look stylish.
In summer, people wear sandals instead of sandals, and socks with split toes like tabi are also popular because they are unusual.
Speaking of summer Japanese accessories, don’t forget about fans.
Even overseas, fans are used for small occasions, but fans with Japanese patterns or made in Japan are very popular because they are exceptionally stylish.
They are also very popular as souvenirs, so we recommend them as small gifts.
Kimono style printed fabric
One genre that does not seem to get much attention in Japan, but is often mentioned by Japanese abroad, is the world of handicrafts.
Japanese handicraft books and clothing pattern books are very popular, and quite a few Japanese handicraft publications have been translated.
Among these, Japanese patterned fabrics are particularly eye-catching. Cotton and other fabrics with Japanese-style prints are very popular.
We were surprised at the variety of prints based on kimono galas at the store.
In particular, these fabrics made in Japan are very popular, so much so that there is a categorization of Japanese fabrics both on the website and on the sales floor.
Reference article from France: https://www.tissuspapi.com/236-tissus-japonais
Some people use these cloths to make clothes, others to make accessories.
In France, where I live, I sometimes see Japanese patterns on people’s belongings in the streets.
When masks were in short supply during the Corona Vortex, everyone in France was making them by hand, and I saw many people using Japanese patterns on their handmade masks.
What kind of kimono do foreigners like?
Patterns and colors that show your country’s character
Foreigners, in a word, have their own national characteristics.
Of course, it is natural that there are personal preferences.
However, as a trend, there are countries where flashy kimonos are popular.
Countries that like subdued colors.
After all, the patterns and colors of popular kimono tend to symbolize the country.
In some countries, elegant and calm colors with elegant patterns such as flowers and animals are popular,
while others have luxurious and festive patterns and bright colors.
Casual Japanese clothing experience, yukata
And yukata, rather than kimonos, can be considered one of the most popular Japanese kimonos.
At inns in Japanese hot spring resorts, simple cotton yukata are provided as a service.
Recently, more and more inns are offering yukata in beautiful colors for rent.
Since yukata can be worn more casually than kimonos, it is less of a hurdle than wearing a kimono, and foreigners appreciate the experience of wearing a kimono.
Japanese-style souvenirs tailored to the daily life of foreigners
When I live abroad and tell my friends and acquaintances that I am going back to my hometown in Japan, they often say, “I want you to buy me a kimono! I want you to buy me a kimono!
What on earth would they use it for? I am sometimes surprised to hear that they want to use it as a loungewear.
Under the influence of Japonism, kimonos were used by upper class ladies as loungewear.
Even now, it seems to be admired by foreign women as a loungewear.
Haori, hanten, and jinbei are also popular.
Some foreigners like to wear haori even after returning to their own country because it can be easily put on like a jacket.
I once received a request for hanten as a souvenir in the summer, and it took me a long time to find one because they were not readily available.
The casual jinbei is popular among children and men, and depending on the color, can be worn by women as well.
The jimbei is a very popular Japanese souvenir because of the comfort of cotton and the ease with which it can be worn.
Needless to say, fans, drawstring bags, and other accessories related to kimonos are also very popular as souvenirs.
Six recommended Japanese cultural experiences for foreigners in kimono
In this section, we will introduce six Japanese cultural experiences that foreigners can enjoy while wearing a kimono.
Tea Ceremony and Kodo
The most representative Japanese cultural experiences that can be had while wearing a kimono are the tea ceremony and the kodo (incense ceremony). The tea ceremony and the incense ceremony are also representative of Japanese cultural experiences that can be experienced wearing a kimono.
Wearing a kimono makes the manners more natural, and if you are going to go to the trouble of experiencing Japanese culture, you may want to try wearing a kimono as well.
There are many tea ceremony experience plans that include dressing in a kimono.
The first step is to put on a kimono, and then you will be served tea at a tea ceremony.
This is simple and popular.
Kimonos are comfortable for working in a Japanese-style room, and you can experience a lot of Japanese culture during a short workshop.
There are many manners in the Kodo experience, so you will probably enjoy it more authentic if you participate in the workshop wearing a kimono.
Kimono dressing experience
Kimono dressing is difficult even for Japanese people without knowledge.
For foreigners, the difficulty is more than twice as great.
There are many foreign tourists who say, “I want to try on a kimono, but I don’t know how to put it on. There are many foreign tourists who say, “I want to try on a kimono but I don’t know how to put it on.
Therefore, kimono dressing plans are popular among foreigners, and you can get a kimono dressing service with an interpreter.
Kimono rental plans that allow you to enjoy kimono in such a casual manner are popular.
Also popular are the plans to have a commemorative photo taken in a luxurious kimono in the style of the O-oku (the ladies’ chambers) or a glamorous kimono in the style of an oiran (courtesan).
This is a very popular Japanese cultural experience, especially among Asian tourists.
Related article: Transform yourself into an “Ooku” (the ladies’ chambers)! Kimono Experience to Entertain Affluent Foreigners
We can feel the joy of the foreigners who want to experience Japan! You can feel how much fun they are having.
Kimono for budo? It may seem strange to a Japanese person to wear a kimono for budo, but to a foreigner, a kimono for budo is a splendid kimono.
People who practice budo overseas pronounce the word “kimono” as “kimono.
From our point of view, it does not seem to be a kimono, does it?
But for foreigners, wearing a Japanese-made kimono and having an authentic budo experience in Japan is a special experience.
Team building in budo is popular for groups coming to Japan from overseas for training.
Since this is a KIMONO experience, it will be a special project that emphasizes Japaneseness.
Karate, Judo, Aikido, Kyudo, and Kendo are popular activities enjoyed around the world since childhood.
Many children take karate and judo classes after school.
The phenomenon of foreigners who enjoy budo coming to Japan to practice martial arts has been strong, and areas and dojos where budo has an inbound effect have been attracting a lot of attention.
They are sure to buy Japanese-made dojis as souvenirs.
Purely Japanese-made dojos are expensive when purchased overseas, and services such as embroidery of names in Japanese are gaining popularity.
Kimono rental is a popular plan for foreigners who want to try on kimonos casually! One of the most popular plans for foreigners who want to try on kimonos is to rent kimonos that will be dressed for you.
One of the most popular plans is the Kimono dressing experience with an interpreter, which is a rare opportunity to try on a kimono by yourself in your home country.
After the kimono dressing is completed, a commemorative photo will be taken and the participants will walk around the streets of Japan in their kimonos.
In Asakusa in Tokyo and the ancient capital of Kyoto, which are popular tourist destinations, you can often see foreigners in kimono.
It is also fun to stroll around the streets, buying small tasty foods at every corner.
Wearing a kimono, a traditional Japanese folk costume, while walking the streets of Japan in style is a very special experience during a visit to Japan. Such an experience will be a special time during your stay in Japan.
I want to enjoy Japan to the fullest! I want to enjoy Japan to the fullest! The enthusiasm of foreigners who want to enjoy Japan to the fullest is wonderful.
Let’s enjoy Japan together with the same vector of enthusiasm!
sword dance is a traditional Japanese art using a Japanese sword and a fan. In the sword dance experience, participants will wear a hakama kimono and dance the dance.
In ancient times, sword dances were performed by warriors and samurai to inspire themselves and their comrades on the eve of going to battle.
This is a Japanese cultural experience recommended for men who want to enjoy wearing kimono, as there are not many men’s kimono experiences.
Of course, women can also participate, so it is open to everyone and recommended for those who want to feel like a samurai in a more authentic way.
The instructor will teach you how to put on a kimono, how to use a fan, and how to wield a Japanese sword, and the sword dance experience is gaining popularity due to its depth.
This cultural experience is recommended for those who are looking for a rare opportunity to experience Japanese culture in a private setting, as there are not many places where they can do so.
Summer Festival and New Year’s Day
Summer festivals and New Year’s in winter are the times when we Japanese can easily wear kimonos, don’t you think?
Wearing a yukata to a festival on a summer night, watching fireworks and visiting food stalls is a uniquely Japanese experience.
This is a uniquely Japanese pleasure.
Summer nights are long and bright in countries located in the upper northern hemisphere, such as Europe and the United States.
Around the time of the summer solstice, it is light until around 10:00 p.m., so summer nights are dark and long.
This is a special and surprising experience for Westerners.
If you have a foreigner visiting Japan during the summer festival season, please wear a yukata and go to a festival with him or her.
Even small neighborhood festivals and Bon Odori dance festivals are enjoyable enough.
New Year’s is also a time when you can fully enjoy Japanese culture.
There are many more opportunities to wear kimono than usual, such as New Year’s visits to shrines and tea ceremonies.
If you have a close friend who is visiting Japan for New Year’s, please invite him or her to a shrine or a tea ceremony wearing a kimono.
As a Japanese, I am happy to see the appeal of the kimono spreading beyond the borders of Japan to the rest of the world.
Kimonos are full of Japanese traditions.
The charm of the outfit cannot be described in a few words.
It is not only the superficial beauty of the colors and patterns of the kimono,
It is not only the superficial beauty of the kimono, such as the colors and patterns, but also the fact that foreigners long to see Japanese people in kimonos,
The kimono is a living part of the Japanese culture.
It would be great if many foreigners could enjoy the kimono, which is a living part of Japanese culture.