January 19, 2017
By: Shiori Iwawaki, Hina Uematsu, Mina Ito
There are several types of kimono, and they vary from place to place. In this article, we will introduce ‘furisode’. Furisode is a kind of kimono and is important to Japanese because almost all Japanese women wear it at least once in their lifetime. We will look at what a furisode actually is and its history, and will introduce three typical situations where furisode can be seen.
History of the furisode
A furisode is a style of kimono that can be worn in the coming-of-age ceremony which is called Seijinshiki. The furisode originated in the mid-1500s as middle and upper-class children’s clothing for both sexes, and at that time it was not worn by adults. At first, furisode had quite short sleeves and were used as everyday wear. However, furisode is a form of very tight clothing, so some people couldn’t wear them all the time as they were not practical. As time went by, sleeves became bigger and bigger and they became an elegant form of dress worn mainly on special occasions. Nowadays, popular furisode have long sleeves, but at first they weren’t that long. In the Genroku Era, from 1688 to 1703, furisode sleeve lengths were about 55cm to 95cm, but in the Edo Era, furisode sleeve lengths became about 95cm to 122cm. There was actually a reason that the lengths became longer, and that was because they started to do special dances at that time, and the movements looked much more beautiful if they had longer sleeves.
According to a 17th century text, boys could wear furisode until their 18th year or until they went through their coming-of-age ceremony, while girls were supposed to stop wearing them when they married or reached their 20th year. Initially, furisode were not that different for boys and girls, but fabric designs started to become more gender specific in the 19th century. In the 20th century, furisode became restricted to women only, mainly due to western influence on clothes for boys and girls. As the furisode became increasingly associated with young adult women, the shorter-sleeved children’s type became known as Wakiake. This means open-sided, in English.
When and where they are worn
Furisode are mainly worn in three situations. One of them is at a wedding as an attendee and another is at Yuino. Yuino is a proof of engagement ceremony when both families and the matchmaker gather together. However, the most common situation for Japanese is at the coming-of-age ceremony. People who became 20 years old are called ‘seijin’ in Japan and a coming-of-age ceremony is held on the 2nd Monday in January. On that day, women who became 20 years old wear furisode and celebrate becoming ‘seijin’. Originally, furisode could only be worn by women who were not married, therefore, almost all women wear furisode in the ceremony even though they are already married. Also the design of furisode has changed. In the past, the designs of furisode were older, traditional patterns, which could fit the Japanese mind, but now, along with the times, the designs are changing to more common patterns like leopard print. There are many more kinds of design than a long time ago, so we can choose from a large variety of patterns of furisode. The clothes which we wear today are comfortable to wear and easy to move in, too. On the other hand, furisode are very tight and hard to wear and move and run in.
Do you know the differences between kimono and furisode? Actually, they are basically the same. As there are many kinds of dresses, so there are many kinds of kimono. All furisode have long sleeves, but they can be divided into three different types, which are ko-furisode, chu-furisode and o-furisode. The ko-furisode is usually worn with a hakama for graduation ceremonies. The sleeves are a little bit shorter than furisode sleeves at about 75-87cm long, but they are still longer than standard female kimono sleeves. The chu-furisode is the most common type of furisode. Young girls usually wear it during their coming-of-age ceremony. The chu-furisode has medium size sleeves somewhere between ko-furisode and o-furisode, and the sleeves are about 91-106cm long. The o-furisode, also called the hon-furisode, is the most formal furisode, and mostly worn by brides. The O-furisode has super long 114-125cm sleeves, as well as a train. They are quite heavy, and difficult to walk around in. Furisode come in various styles and designs and it is lovely to see women and girls still wearing them in modern society, on their wedding days, special occasions, and especially on the day of the coming-of-age ceremony.