Travel, Teach, Live in Japan
The word kimono literally translates to “something worn” and has been considered the national attire of Japan since its inception in the fifth century. The earliest kimono were influenced through extensive cultural exchanges between China and Japan, when Chinese traders introduced traditional clothing known as Hanfu, which were later modified throughout Japan's history resulting in todays contemporary kimono. Kimono can best be described as a T- shaped, straight lined robe with a collar and wide full length sleeves that falls to the ankle, made from a single bolt of fabric known as a tan, which comes in standard dimensions. The kimono consists of four main strips of cloth, two panels forming the sleeves, two covering the body, and additional smaller pieces that make up the narrow front panel and collar.
Kimono are traditionally sewn by hand, and their fabrics are also often hand made and hand decorated using silk, silk brocade, silk crepes, and satin weaves known as ninzu. The level of formality ranges from casual to extremely formal, and in the case of women is determined by the pattern, fabric, and color. Kimono worn by young women have longer sleeves and are more elaborate than those of older women, while men's kimono are usually one basic shape worn in subdued colors. Unmarried women traditionally have worn a style of kimono known as furisode, which has floor length sleeves and is usually displayed on special occasions. Kimono for women are typically similar in size, and are adjusted to various body types by folding and tucking. A kimono that ends at the wrist when the arms are lowered is considered an ideal fit.
The process of putting on a kimono is quite difficult and time consuming, and often requires the help of an assistant. Kimono are wrapped around the body in a precise manner from left to right, and are secured by a wide belt known as an obi, which is tied at the back. Traditional footwear called geta which is a thonged wooden platform shoe, and split stockings known as tabi are always worn with the kimono. In recent times kimono are most often worn by women and occasionally men at weddings, tea ceremonies, or other formal occasions. Professional sumo wrestlers who are required to wear traditional Japanese clothes whenever appearing in public can also be seen in kimono. Special courses are available in Japan for enthusiasts interested in learning the correct techniques for putting on kimono. Classes also cover how to match kimono undergarments and accessories, choosing the appropriate pattern and fabrics to the season or event, and selecting and tying the obi. Kimono are often very expensive, with a complete outfit consisting of undergarments, obi, ties, socks, sandals, and accessories easily exceeding $20,000.
Jim Sherard is the author of "Land of the Rising Sun, A Guide to Living and Working in Japan", which can be found at: www.escapeartist.com/e_Books/Living_and_Working_in_Japan/Living_and_Working_in_Japan.html