Kimono

The charms of kimono, still admired today

Kimono were worn by people as everyday clothing. The refined design of the garment is still popular with many Japanese people, as well as people from all over the world to this day. Let’s unravel its history and take a look at how the style of the kimono has changed and discover why it is loved by so many people in today’s Japan.

Compiled by Kaori Kinoshita

HISTORY OF THE KIMONO

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The archetype of today’s kimono has its roots in kosode, a type of kimono that had its sleeves sewn up to just below the wrist. Nobles used to wear this garment underneath a twelve-layered robe, commonly known as, ” juni hitoe”, while commoners, from time to time, wore the narrow-sleeved kimono alone for going out. However, as the samurai class emerged during the Muromachi period (1336-1573) and a greater emphasis was placed on movement in clothing, the fashion style of the upper class blended with that of the lower classes and kosode became a common garment worn when going out.

Since then, through the Edo period (1603-1868) to the Meiji period (1868-1912), the design has evolved to today’s style of kimono.

Most garments we see today were woven after the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1600). A lot of the garments made before that era have not kept their shape and only parts of the fabric remain. Some garments worn between the Azuchi-Momoyama and Edo periods still exist today, however they are mostly ones that once belonged to wealthier citizens, such as people from the aristocratic or samurai classes, or rich merchants. This is because commoners in the era would repurpose their old, damaged clothes that were no longer wearable to make everyday household items such as bedclothes or smaller kimono for their children. When these also got worn out, they would use the fabric as a rag or nappy until it fell apart.

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Also, yukata are universally loved due to their ease of wear and low price. Originally, the word referred to a plain linen garment worn when going to take a bath and to absorb sweat afterwards. During the Edo period, cotton replaced linen as the fabric of choice due to its superior absorbency, smooth feel and lower price.

Yukata were originally worn at night, or as protection against rain and dust, and as casual summer outfits. However, since the mid-Meiji period, it has been quite common for people to wear them when going out, much like they do now

KIMONO FASHION BY ERA

THE AZUCHI-MOMOYAMA
(1573-1603) TO THE EARLY EDO PERIOD (STARTING 1603)

After the end of the warring state period, an extravagant culture that reflected the taste of the samurai classes emerged, where gold and silver was used in abundance. Even though single-colour weaving patterns had been mainstream until then, the colours and patterns used diversified. As a result, the more dynamic styles of momoyama kosode and keicho kosode appeared.

THE EARLY EDO PERIOD
(STARTING 1603)

As the shogunate system of the Edo period stabilised and the economy developed, the common classes became the new bearers of culture in place of the samurai class. The fashion of actors and prostitutes led to the birth of kanbun kosode, which had an unconventional dyed pattern from shoulder to hem. The kosode became more sophisticated, which led to the emergence of genroku kosode.

MID-TO-LATE EDO PERIOD
(EDO PERIOD: 1603-1868) TO THE MEIJI PERIOD (1868-1912)

Due to a ban on luxury initiated by the Edo shogunate, plain fashion, such as striped patterns, became the trend during this period. Regardless of their age or gender, people often wore kosode with a dark coloured outer layer, usually brown, navy blue or grey. In addition to that, komon, small patterns drawn on the whole garment, and susomoyo, patterning on the skirt, became popular. In the Meiji period, most people mainly wore traditional Japanese clothing, in keeping with the plain colour trend from the Edo period. The susomoyo also remained prominent in the first half of this era. In the second half of the era, kimono dyed vivid colours with chemical dye started to appear.

THE TAISHO PERIOD (1912-1926)

In the Taisho period, the economy was booming and this gave rise to
a wealthier, less restrictive culture. The colours used in kimono became significantly brighter, using motifs with a western influence, such as oil paintings, art nouveau and art deco.

THE EARLY SHOWA PERIOD (1926-1945)

In the early Showa period, the western style that gained popularity in the Taisho period and the traditional style combined, producing a bold colour variation with a modern design. This style became prolific during that era.

THE MID SHOWA PERIOD – THE HEISEI PERIOD
(1989-CURRENT DAY)

After World War II, in the lead up to the bubble economy of the late 1980s, Japan experienced accelerated economic growth. In this era, western clothing steadily became more commonplace and more luxurious kimono were being produced. However, many new trends came and went during this period. One example of such a trend is the use of lamé fabrics.
By the Heisei period, the trend had moved towards a more conservative and elegant style. Later on, driven by a rise in popularity of antique kimono and colourful yukata, particularly with young people known to be rule-breakers, the style began to trend towards a more free and unique way of combining pieces.

BY THE HEISEI PERIOD, THE NEW KIMONO STYLE BEGAN
TO TREND TOWARDS A MORE FREE AND UNIQUE WAY OF COMBINING PIECES.

CONTEMPORARY KIMONO AND YUKATA FASHION

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KIMONO styling HANA
Photo: Yoshiko Honda
Styling: Rie Yoshitake

Yoshiko Honda, a professional photographer, saw Japanese beauty as epitomised by an actress wearing kimono. “KIMONOstylingHANA” is a project she has been working on, showing Japanese beauty through the garments. She hopes that this project will encourage more people to wear kimono in a smart and stylish way, and that they can come to enjoy it in their everyday lives.

YOSHIKO HONDA

Profile: Yoshiko graduated from Aoyama Gakuin Women’s Junior College before working for an airline. Later, after having children, she focused all her effort to become a professional photographer, working in the bridal market for almost 10 years. Now, she has a photographic studio in Tetsugakudo in Tokyo’s Shinjuku, where she has been doing portraits as well as pregnancy photo-shoots in her own unique style. She has also been working as a photographer for the websites of various companies, magazines and celebrity collections.
Web: yoshikohonda.com


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KIMONO DE ROCKON Project

Producer: Kureha Takaishi
Styling: Koji Fukumoto
Hair & Make-up: Ai Shimizu
Photo: Ayato Ozawa

The “KIMONO DE ROCKON Project” presents a hybrid way of wearing kimono,
pairing contemporary clothes and kitsuke (the traditional way to wear kimono) which has been passed down through generations. By contrasting the classic and contemporary styles, they aim to present the idea of an image and shade in a mirror, which is the original concept of the theme, ‘Re-flection’, while hoping that Japanese culture can be revitalised through kimono and yukata.

KIMONO DE ROCKON PROJECT

Profile: In this project, a group of people, dressed in traditional kimono in a stylish and cute way, walk proudly around the city of Tokyo. The photos can be found on Facebook and Instagram. Their eye-opening kimono style should not be missed.
Facebook: www.facebook.com/kimonoderockon
Instagram: @kimonoderockon


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AKIRA TIMES Photobook
‘KIMONO times’

Images: AKIRA TIMES

AKIRA TIMES is an artist from Yamagata, in the north-east of Japan, who has been creating new and surprising images of kimono. He has gone viral online, posting images since 2008. By teaching himself a range of skills, including photography, computer graphics, design, kitsuke, styling and make-up, he has shaped his own unique view of the world. He has dedicated almost 10 years to creating these works, eschewing the strict, traditional rules of the kimono. His complete works are available in the photo collection,
“KIMONO times”.

AKIRA TIMES

Profile: Akira was born in 1980 in Yamagata prefecture, Japan. After graduating from junior high school, he worked on his family’s fruit farm before suddenly developing a panic disorder, which drastically changed his life. He found himself drawn to photography and computer graphics, and has been producing his works ever since. He still lives in Yamagata and continues with his work, showcasing the beauty of kimono for the whole world to enjoy.
Facebook: www.facebook.com/akira.times Web: akiratimes.exblog.jp

AKIRA TIMES PHOTOBOOK
‘KIMONO TIMES’

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5,500 yen + tax │ 297×210 │ 144 pages Softcover
Author: Akira Times
Contributor: Sheila Cliffe
Web: www.libroarte.jp/akiratimes.html

Five Ways to Live on Budget in Tokyo

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1. Using 100-yen Shops

A good policy is to always check the 100-yen shop before buying something from a regular store. They carry an amazing variety of items and are ideal places to stock up your apartment with dishes, silverware, and other essentials to survive when you first arrive.

2. BUY IN BULK

Not everything is a bargain at the 100-yen shop, especially toiletries and other things that you’ll use everyday. It’s better to buy essential consumable supplies like tissues, detergent or body soap in bulk from stores like Costco. There are several around Tokyo and if you can find a friend with a membership, tag along with them every once in a while and stock
up. It’s also a good idea to buy lots of frozen veggies and fruits, as these can be absurdly expensive when sold fresh in the supermarkets. If you can’t make it to Costco, try finding a local wholesale food store such as “Niku nom Hanamasa” (there are several around Tokyo) which caters to restaurants and sells meat and seafood at big discounts. To manage bulk amounts of food, I bought a cheap box of 200 plastic bags which I then use to separate and freeze a few weeks worth of meat and fish.

3. BEWARE OF WARIKAN

Obviously, you should try to cook at home as often as possible if you’re living on a budget. And you should also try to pack a lunch everyday if you can. But sometimes you get invited out and want to have fun. In Japan, it’s pretty normal for a group of friends to share all the food and it’s often (but not always) customary to split the bill at the end of the night (called warikan). The problem is that you end up having to help pay for the five bottles of expensive wine someone decided to order. If your friends are considerate they will pitch in more if they had a lot, but don’t count on it! Your best bet is to go to a place with nomi-hodai or all-you-can-drink (usually for two hours) with a set individual price or to go to a Westernstyle pub where you pay separately as you order, (called betsu-betsu). You can also just buy snacks and drinks at a convenience store but be careful because it’s bad etiquette to eat and drink while walking around.

4. INTERNET ONLY PHONE

Mobile phone plans can cost up to 8000 yen a month or more and require you to sign a 2-year contract. Opt for an internet-only plan (with no calls included) and use free apps to communicate like Skype or LINE, which are really popular in Japan. Or, you could buy a portable Wi-Fi router that you can use at home and then carry in your pocket when you’re out to use with your smartphone. Either option will only cost you about 3000 yen a month.

5. SHOP ONLINE

Shopping online using Amazon or Rakuten is easy and convenient in Japan. You can even have your package sent to a local convenience store for pick up and often can get next day delivery. You can use a barcode reader on your phone to find better deals online while you’re shopping at stores, too. I usually use Amazon to buy big boxes of oatmeal or my favourite cereal that I know I’ll eat and that last for a long time.

Finding a place to stay in Japan

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Words: Dennis Bott

BUDGET ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS

Whether you’re staying long or short-term, finding somewhere to stay in Japan can be a daunting challenge especially if you don’t speak the language and have just arrived.

Although I haven’t tried it myself, Airbnb, where people rent out their rooms and apartments, seems to be a popular
choice nowadays. It’s usually cheaper than most hotels and depending on the option you choose, you could have an entire apartment where you can cook, use wireless internet and perhaps even get some travel advice from your hosts.

Another website called couchsurfing.com connects you with hosts around the world on the condition that you also offer your place to other couchsurfers. This can be a great way to connect with other travellers and organise trips together and basically allows you to stay for free, anywhere.

THE PROS AND CONS OF HOSTEL LIFE

Then, of course, there are hostels. Hostels also offer the ability to cook, but can often be noisy and sometimes rough or dirty. You also have to be careful about having your things stolen if you’re staying in a room with several strangers. On the positive side, they’re also a great place to meet people and can be really memorable experiences.

I once stayed in a really ratty hostel in Kyoto with about eight people in one room. People came in at all hours of the night and we all had to sleep in bunk beds. But I’ve also stayed in some really nice ones as well, so make sure you do your research and read the reviews.

BEST OPTION FOR LONG TERM STAYS

For those looking at a long-term stay, a guesthouse is probably the best option. There are several companies in Japan with English-speaking staff and websites where you can book a room by the month ahead of your arrival. There’s a deposit of 20,000 to 30,000 yen, but you get most of it back when you leave, as long as you don’t trash the room. The rooms are usually furnished with a bed with new sheets and a desk. The kitchen and bathrooms are shared with your housemates. I’ve actually lived in a guesthouse for the past two years. It’s convenient and it’s fun to meet the people from all over who come and go.

Another advantage is that a lot of guesthouses are conveniently located near big train stations so you can live relatively cheaply in a convenient area where rent would typically be very expensive. Paying rent is also easy because all the utilities are included in one price.

TRY A HOMESTAY FOR AN AUTHENTIC LOCAL EXPERIENCE

Another viable option is doing a homestay. I spent my first two months in Tokyo doing a homestay with a young couple who had two spare rooms. At first it was great having someone to talk to and dinner on the table every night. It was a great chance to see how Japanese people live and they organised a lot of activities every weekend. I would say that for a two-week stay, a homestay would be perfect. Any longer than that, in my experience, seems to be wearing out your welcome. It became uncomfortable trying to be home on time for dinner and I always felt like I had to be careful about making noise or using the shower.

Homestays can also be quite expensive in the long term, but I would say it was a great experience for someone arriving in Japan for the first time.

OTHER ALTERNATIVES – RENT YOUR OWN APARTMENT

Finding your own apartment presents its own set of pitfalls and challenges. First of all, you’ll need a bank account. But in order to get a bank account, you need an identification card and, of course, to stay in Japan you need some type of visa. Even if you have a job lined up before you come, getting everything in order takes time, so I recommend staying in a guesthouse for a month or two so you can take your time to find a good apartment.

Most apartments in Japan require at least a two-year contract as well as up to the equivalent of one or two month’s rent or so in deposits and fees. Choosing the right apartment in Tokyo is usually a compromise between price, size or location. Rarely will you find a place that is ideal in all three. You have to decide what’s more important for you depending on your own budget. For me, living in a central convenient location, close to a station and my job is important, but I also don’t want to pay a lot for rent. So I decided to sacrifice on space and privacy by just staying in my guesthouse.

Basically, the further the apartment is away from a train station, (i.e. less convenient) the more spacious or cheaper it will be. Some people decide to live outside of Tokyo altogether and commute into the city to save money on rent. For me though, not having to ride the crowded morning trains and being able to ride my bike to work is worth the extra cost of living in the city. I’m also able to stop home for lunch or go back if I forget something and I don’t have to worry about catching the last train at night on the weekends.

THERE ARE TONS OF OPTIONS, AND WITH A LITTLE PLANNING AND RESEARCH, IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE A HEADACHE.

A LITTLE PATIENCE AND PLANNING WILL PAY OFF

Hopefully, someone from your company or a friend willn help you with the process at the realtor’s office. You might be shocked to hear that some or many of the landlords will reject you right off the bat simply because you’re a foreigner. The most common reason is that they don’t want to deal with the language barrier. Also, they’re worried you will have poor Japanese etiquette such as making too much noise or not disposing of your trash properly. Some foreigners also leave Japan suddenly without paying all of their last bills. Whatever the reason, this is one of the most frustrating parts about finding an apartment in Japan. However, they do seem to be more open if you tell them you can speak some Japanese.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you won’t have internet for the first two or three weeks after you move into an apartment, while the telecommunications company changes the phone lines to your name. With proper research and planning, you may be able to shorten the waiting time by telling them ahead of time to get started on the process.

Make sure you budget ample time and money in your search for a place to stay. There are tons of options, and with a little planning and research, it doesn’t have to be a headache.