Kimono – Past and Present

May 7, 2016

by  Haruna Masuzaki, Kazuki Nakamoto and Hikari Yanagihara

Kimono is a kind of traditional Japanese garment with a very long history. Originally, the word ‘kimono’ was kurumono, which means ‘wearing thing’. It was later shortened to ‘kimono’. Kimono are often worn on special occasions, like festivals or weddings. They are often beautiful, colorful and representative of traditional Japanese culture. Kimono are instantly recognized around the world as being Japanese.  

Kimono is a kind of traditional Japanese garment with a very long history.

Kimono

Kimono Material

The material of kimono is generally silk. Some kimono are created from silk that is dyed before weaving, while some kimono are dyed after weaving. The most common are those weaved from dyed silk.

In addition to silk, other materials used are cotton, polyester, and wool. Kimono made from cotton and polyester is easy to wash. On the other hand, wool kimono are very cheap and great for the winter, but are susceptible to being eaten by worms during storage.

The material of kimono is generally silk.

Silk

When Do People Wear Kimono?

Most Japanese people wear their kimono on special occasions. However, it is also possible to wear a kimono in daily life, as fashion. This is more common amongst older people than younger people. They may wear kimono to go out to eat, to visit a museum, to seeing the cherry blossoms or autumn leaves, to go shopping downtown, and so on.  On type of kimono that is worn in during summer festivals is a yukata. At first glance, it appears just like a traditional kimono, but in fact it is very lightweight, with no inner lining. It is also very casual and festive. Both men and women wear them. June through September is the most common time to see people wearing yukata. In the old days, people put on their yukata after a summer bath, and enjoyed the coolness as they fell asleep in their yukata.

The Origin of Kimono

The kimono has a long history as a beautiful and tasteful traditional Japanese garment recognized around the word. There are several reasons why it is appreciated by so many people. One is that it grew out of harmony with Japanese life and culture. For example, it is ideally suited for the Japanese climate. There are different thicknesses for different seasons. Also, kimono come in many shapes and sizes, and can be used for many different purposes. They can also be layered, to adapt to any temperature or weather condition.

Heian period (794~1185)

Kimono came to prominence during the Heian period.

Heian kimono

Kimono came to prominence during the Heian period. During this time, a new technique was developed for making kimono that allowed makers to not worry about the wearer’s body shape. It also made the kimono easier to wear and easier to fold and store. In addition, people began to pay more attention to the color of kimono. Original colors and patterns began to emerge, and many of them were related to the various seasons and times of the year. People of the upper classes wore gorgeous kimono. Common people, on the other hand, tended to wear kimono with short sleeves. Like the traditional kimono, the yukata is said to have also originated in the Heian period. Noblemen from the Heian period used to take stream baths. Some people began to wear a garment called a yukatabira, which served to protect their skin from steam burns. Nowadays, the yukatabira is the thin cotton garment worn under the kimono. But back in those days, it was not cotton, but rather hemp that was used by most people. Cotton was more expensive than hemp. People used to walk back and forth to the bathhouse in their Yukatabira. The yukatabira eventually evolved into what we now know as the much more colorful and festive yukata.

Kamakura period (1192~1333)

During the Kamakura period, there were many wars. For this reason, the kimono was simplified to be more practical.

Muromachi period (1392~1573)

In Muromachi period, the form of what we now recognize as the contemporary kimono appeared. Dyeing skills of kimono makers made remarkable progress during this time period.

Edo period (1603~1857)

Japanese dress of the day is born in this period. This period also progress. At the time, people wear the same as present kimono.

Meiji Period (1867~1911)

During this period, Japan was heavily influenced by western cultures and industrialization. For this reason, more people started wearing western clothes. This set the tone for the current modern age, when kimono are mostly worn on special occasions.

Modern Japan

Japanese people now wear western clothes in their daily life, as it is easier, cheaper, and more practical to do so. However, this decreases their chances to wear kimono. For this reason, kimono is now reserved for special events and occasions.   Recently, kimono has started to be worn as fashion. For example, a kimono that it is easy to take off and put on has been developed.

How to Buy a Kimono

Buying a kimono is not so easy for the first time buyer. If you are one of these people, you should keep a few things in mind before you buy one.  First, if you have some Japanese friends, you should ask which shop is good. Also, you should visit a lot of shops so that you can compare a kimono you like in one shop with that of another shop. When you visit a shop, talk with the salesclerk about where you plan to wear the kimono, what kind of season you want to wear it in, and what your budget is. Then, the salesclerk will help you find a kimono that matches your look. Then you can pay for the one that looks the best on you.   Finally, you must remember that a kimono is expensive property. You should always take care of your kimono and wear it with a fresh feeling. In the case that kimono gets stained with something, you must have the stains removed in the shop. Please take good care of your precious kimono.

How to Rent a Kimono

kimono rental is a good option.

Kimono rental

For many people, buying a kimono is too expensive, especially if they only wear it once or twice. Therefore, kimono rental is a good option. There are many kimono shops in Kyoto. Most of them will rent a kimono to you all day long.   One good place to rent a kimono is the Kiyomizuzaka shop, which is only a one-minute walk from the famous Kiyomizu-dera Temple. This shop is located on the street where many souvenir stores are visited by large number of sightseers. The set rental plan at this shop is only 3,000 yen. It includes a kimono, an obi (belt), a bag, and some tabi (Japanese sandals), all in one set. Moreover, you can select from 30 different sets to suit your mood. You can try more of them on for fun. Also, you can do some sightseeing while wearing your rental kimono.

How to Put on a Kimono

In order to put on your kimono correctly, you must follow several steps. First, turn position the kimono behind your back while making sure the collar is centered. The center seam should be in the middle of the back. Second, decide the width of outer skirt. Hold the end of the kimono collars and then raise them up under the side. After that, take down the hem to just above the floor. Then wrap the right side panels first, so that the end of the right collar should be put on the left waist. Next, decide the width of before under. Wrap the left side of panels first, and the end of a collar should be put on the right waist. Next, while holding the right panel, wrap the left panel over it. Next, put on the koshihimo (waist cord), just below your navel. Then, make a ohashori, which is the fold made at the waist so that women can adjust the length of their kimono. Put both hands through arm holes under the sleeves, and smooth out any excess material, both on the front and back. The line of the fold should be straight. Finally, check how the kimono looks in the mirror.

How to Wear Make-up with Kimono

The quality and appearance of your facial skin is very important when wearing kimono. Your face looks good in a matte color, not a glossy color. This is because kimono looks best in an impersonal type of beauty. First, draw your eyebrows in a long and merry way. This is because your kimono probably has a loud pattern. Also, your eyes are the most important. Apply eyeliner on the upper eyelid to create the impression of long narrow eyes. After that, apply eye shadow using the color of a similar tone. Try not to use eyelash curlers. This will impress a person favorably. Finally, apply red lipstick to your lips. In this way, you can make sure that your appearance in a kimono is a gorgeous one.

Hairstyles Popular with Kimono

Kimono looks best when the woman wearing it has an elegant hairstyle.

Hair style

Kimono looks best when the woman wearing it has an elegant hairstyle. Yakaimaki (evening party roll hairstyle) is the most popular for kimono because it allows others to view the beautiful neck of the woman wearing the kimono. It also creates a distinctive silhouette, which is a round shape. Finally, the hairstyle truly becomes gorgeous when a hair ornament is used.

As you can see, kimono have a long tradition and history, and have been loved by Japanese people for a long time. Now, Japanese people wear western clothes in their daily life, but foreigners who come to Japan also want to try wearing kimono. Why don’t you wear Kimono?

Access to Kiyomizuzaka Shop

Take the bus bound for Kiyomizudera, Gion and Ginkakuji from Kyoto station. You should get off Gojo-zaka. Plese go up Gojo-zaka, you will see Kiyomizuzaka on the right. It is about 5 minutes.

Autumn Leaves in Kyoto

by Hikari Yanagihara, Kazuki Nakamoto, and Haruna Masuzaki

Every year in the late autumn, the leaves in Kyoto turn beautiful colors of red, yellow, orange, and brown. This colorful display is called kouyou. At this time of the year, the leaves change with the drop in temperature from autumn to winter, showing the power of nature. Every year the leaves turn different colors. The beauty of kouyou is amazing in some years, but less spectacular in other years. For example, some leaves turn red, while other leaves turn yellow. The resulting color depends on a variety of conditions, such as the species of tree and the conditions in the environment, such as temperature, sunlight, and water. The most important factor is the temperature. When the change in temperature is larger, the leaves become more beautiful. In addition, the quality of color in kouyou can be effected by typhoons from the summer or early fall. Therefore some leaves turn red early, while others later in the season.

The leaves in Kyouto turn beautiful colors of many colors.

Kouyou

Kouyou Charm in Kyoto

Japanese kouyou is famous for its beauty, not only amongst Japanese people, but also foreigners. And one of the most famous places to see the beautiful kouyou in Japan is Kyoto. One reason is because there are so many temples and shrines with gardens in Kyoto. These places are an important part of traditional Japanese culture, so they are protected carefully and taken care of well. Therefore, people love to visit Kyoto in the fall to see the autumn colors and to experience Japanese tradition. When kouyou and Japanese tradition are combined in this way, it makes the experience of visitors much more special. This is something very hard to experience outside of Japan.

There are many places to view kouyou in Kyoto.

Japanese Kouyou

There are many places to view kouyou in Kyoto. For example, visitors can see the beautiful red leaves of trees at the famous Kiyomizu temple at night because they are lit up. It is a special experience. Also, they can enjoy riding a well-known kouyou viewing trolley in the well-known Arashiyama district on the west side of the city. The most appealing points of kouyou are both the variety of tree species, and the way the view is different each year. Much of the beauty of the leaves is difficult to capture in a photo, so you should come to Kyoto to see it with your own eyes.

Autumn Leaf Types

In Japan, there are two different words used to refer to the trees that produce the most beautiful colors in the fall: momiji and kaede, both of which refer to species of the maple tree family. Typically their leaf color is a deep red in the fall.

Momiji (Japanese maple tree)

There are many species of maple in Japan, but one particular species is native to Japan: the momiji (Acer palmatum). Japan is like a treasure house of momiji. In fact, the kanji for kouyou (紅葉) can be read as ‘momiji’ or ‘kouyou’, so momiji are symbolic of the kouyou experience in Japan.

There are many species of maple in Japan

Japanese Momiji

One of the best places to see momiji in the fall is in Kinkakuji (The Golden Pavillion). The best time to see momiji there is generally from mid-November through the first ten days of December, a peak window of about one week. That window depends entirely on environmental factors as discussed previously. If you go to see kouyou too early, they are still green. But the deep red color begins to emerge in November.

Kaede

Kaede is a more general term for ‘maple tree’ in Japanese language. It can refer to all maple trees, including the momiji. However, the term ‘momiji’ typically refers to maple leaves that are small, sharp, and 5-pointed. On the other hand, ‘kaede’ often is used to describe maple leaves that are larger and 3-pointed, like a frog’s hands. In fact, the origin of the word ‘kaede’ means ‘frog’s forlegs’.

Kaede is a more general term for maple tree.

Japanese Kaede

There are a lot of kaede – along with a few momiji – in the world famous Kiyomizu Temple complex. The scale is huge, with more than 1,000 trees. The best time of the year to see kaede at Kiyomizu Temple is from the middle ten days of November to the first ten days of December. What is special about this collection of maple tree is that visitors can view them at night because they are lit up from November 15th to December 8th. However, because Kiyomizu Temple is such a popular destination for tourists, it is very crowded during kouyou season.

Best Places to View Kouyou

There are many temples and shrines in Kyoto, but some in particular are better for viewing the autumn leaves than others. Below are 3 places we recommend for experiencing the beauty of kouyou.

Hosenin

Hosenin is a small temple complex outside of Kyoto in the hills north of the city. Because of its distance from the city center, not many people know about this temple. There is also lot of nature in Hosenin, making it a great place to see the momiji in the fall. The kouyou at Hosenin is really beautiful. In the garden, sightseers can see bright kouyou, and can view them while drinking powdered green tea and eating cakes. The fresh green bamboo of the garden and the contrast of the red autumn maples are very beautiful. Moreover, the place is lit up in the night, so it’s just too good to pass up. Visitors can see the green bamboo and kouyou, which seem to float in darkness. Also visitors can be healed by the sound of a water harp. Visitors find it hard to take their eyes off of the view of kouyou reflected on the surface of water in the pond. It is mesmerizing.

This is a small temple complex outside of Kyoto.

Housenin

Access:
From Kyoto station, you should the train bound for kokusaikaikan and get off kuramaguchi station.Then, walk about 6 minutes straight.

Enkoji

For tourists interested in taking photos, we recommend Enkouji Temple. Enkouji reflects the changes of each season well. The kouyou colors in the autumn are especially beautiful in the gardens of the temple. In fact, the gardens there match well with the outside scenery, so we can take beautiful photos. Many gardens of Kyoto are too crowded with people, so it is difficult to take good pictures. However, at Enkoji, monks keep certain areas of the garden clear of people, so visitors can take beautiful pictures. Moreover, the kouyou at Enkoji are varied, so people can see many different bright colors, making for a fantastic view. One of the gardens is named “Garden of Ten Cows” and had particularly bright kouyou. Also, Enkoji is known for its fallen kouyou. Even after the leaves have fallen onto the ground, it is still very beautiful. For this reason, many people visit Enkoji een after the kouyou have fallen.

For tourists interested in taking pictures.

Enkouji

Access:
From Kyoto station, you should take the bus of the five section.

Kiyomizudera

Kiyomizu-dera temple is perhaps one of the most famous temples in Kyoto and in Japan. It was originally constructed in 798 by Sakanoueno Tamuramaro, and is known for its large wooden balcony. The main hall of the Buddhist temple, which stands up upon a cliff in the hills east of the city, was rebuilt in 1633 by Iemitsu Tokugawa. From this location, visitors can get a magnificent view of the whole city of Kyoto. Kiyomizumeans “pure water.” The water at the temple is said to have the power to heal the soul and also to make the dreams come true of those who drink it. The kouyou at Kiyomizu-dera temple are very beautiful. Every year lots of people visit during the autumn season. The foilage is also lit up at night during the kouyou season, which is beautiful, like a dream. So, not only can visitors get a nice view of the city from the great balcony, but also we can see the temple surrounded by kouyou in full color from a different view. It is a scene right out of a painting.

This is perhaps one of the most famous temple in Kyoto.

Kiyomizu temple

Access:
From Kyoto station, you should take the No,206 city buses bound for higashi-dori-kitaoji bus terminal.