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Although Western-style dress has been popular in Japan since the late 19th century among men, and since the 1920’s among women, the traditional kimono has by no means disappeared. Its form and use have been refined to play an appropriate role in Japan’s modern life.

The kimono assumed its present form during the Edo period (1603-1867). designers have tried to modernize its style over the last decade or two because the Japanese have found that in everyday life, whether in office or factory, shopping or teaching, the kimono is not as practical as and more cumbersome than Western-style dress, which is less restrictive in movement and easier to take care of.

There are many varieties of kimono: the long-sleeved, gorgeous kinds worn by geisha or young girls, the formal kimono stamped with the wearer’s family crest and worn on ceremonial occations; kimono for men and kimono for children.

A young woman wears a kimono with long sleeves and an Obi, (see below) a wide silk or brocade sash about 12 feet long and 12 inches wide. The Obi is wrapped around the waist, and a little higher so that it covers the ribs, and is tied at the back in a very special fastening kept in place by as many as 15 girdles of brocade, silk or other materials worn around the middle of the obi. As she gets older, her kimono designs become smaller and the colors deeper and richer while the obi is worn lower and made narrower. Obi colors, like the kimono, depend on the age of the wearer.

To complement her kimono, a young woman wears a Nagajuban, a silk kimono which serves as a slip, and Momen-no-juban, a cotton slip. In addition, Haori, a short knee-length kimono, is frequently worn too.

Synthetic fibres have replaced silk for kimonos in an attempt to overcome laundry problems. designers have introduced new fabric designs which can be worn regardless of the age of the wearer. formerly, tradition dictated certain patterns and color to be worn according to the season and one’s age. For example, a young woman would wear red and pink with floral designs in spring, while in summer, her kimono would suggest water. In autumn, she would wear floral designs or chrysanthemums and in winter, especially at holiday time, designs based on pine trees, plum blossoms and bamboo, Japanese goodluck symbols.

At the time of the Meiji Restoration of 1868, men readily adopted the business suit and reserved kimono for home, relaxation and formal wear. A man’s kimono is usually dark-blue, brown, grey or black. The material is silk or handwoven wool for winter and cotton for summer.

The formal attire, consisting of Haori (below)and Hakama, a divided skirt-trouser worn over the kimono, is equivalent to a tuxedo or tails. Today, however, Hakama is generally used only by artists, actors and family patriarchs. The common formal attire of present-day Japanese men is a morning coat and striped trousers.



The thickly padded over-kimono worn in winter for lounging is called Dotera or Tanzen (left). Japanese men also wear Obi, but usually of a subdued color and sometimes made of soft silk.




The summer season brings out the traditional Yukata, an informal, unlined kimono made of cotton and worn with a narrow sash, which is usually worn to the bath or on summer evenings. Simple in style and construction, it has been the favorite attire for relaxation, but even Yukata are gradually disappearing from the urban scene.

Children’s kimonos have tucks along the shoulders and around the waist, and these tucks are let out from time to time to widen and lengthen the kimono to fit the growing body.

On the feet, Tabi, or Japanese socks with one socket for the big toe, are worn, white for women and black and sometimes white for men(see picture left)

Japanese footwear consists of Zori (see picture below) a thin or thick soled sandal with a V-shaped thong which comes between the big toe and the rest of the foot and so keeps the sandal in place. The wooden sandal with a raised strips across the sole is called Geta. Japanese footwear has been designed so that it is easy to slip off, necessary in the country where footwear is removed before entering a house.

Thick coats with sleeves designed to take the sleeves of the Kimono and Haori are worn in winter. There is also a short jacket called a Happi which is worn primarily by Japanese workmen.

There is a wide variety of patterns in Kimono, but one of the most popular types, the stripe or shima, is one of the most difficult to wear.

The traditional Japanese garment is fashioned entirely from one long piece of cloth and, due to its relative simplicity of design, the kimono can be made in an amazingly short period of time. Actually in the hands of a skilled person, a kimono can be completed in a single day.


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