Wearing Kimono in Japan

One of the many things I’ve been impressed by in Japan is their willingness and true delight in sharing their culture with Americans. One of my favorite events so far has been the wonderful opportunity to be dressed in traditional kimono, hosted by the local Japanese spouses organization.

They invited us in, told us to wear our hair up, welcomed us with water, and sent us off to enjoy!

The first step is (what I think is called) the hiyoku, the under layer. During the dressing process, the women repeated many, many times that if we felt light-headed or sick that we should let them know right away because they were going to be tying each layer on us tight. This is me in the hiyoku not believing that just standing and getting dressed by someone else could possibly make someone faint.

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This is me starting to realize that standing with your arms out for a really long time is actually pretty tiring. Even when your kimono is absolutely stunning.

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There were so many belts and ties involved, which was surprising. My concept of a kimono was something that was more like a robe – in fact, we’d intended to buy several during our stay here for that exact purpose. Nothing says “I’m hugely pretentious now that I’ve lived in Japan” like your very own kimono for house lounging.

But I was starting to see why so many people give up that idea as impractical. First, because I don’t have two people around to dress me every day. (Yet.)

Second, because I don’t have the dexterity on my own to tie all the various belts and clips the women used to keep my kimono perfectly in order.

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Right about here is the part where I felt light-headed enough to ask for water and to sit down, and the American friends with me said I went from looking like “Man, this is fun!” to white as a ghost. I felt fine, then slightly not fine, then oh my gosh, I might pass out right now, all in the span of about thirty seconds, but the sitting down helped. Enormously. Wearing kimono is not for the faint of heart.

After a few minutes during which my Japanese friends tied my obi around me and finished my look as I sat, regaining my dignity and my equilibrium, I felt hugely better.

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And just in case you are starting to get jealous of how amazing I look in kimono, don’t forget that I was also wearing these beauties…

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Although if you have smaller (Japanese-size) feet, your socks get much more kawaii (cute)!

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But the sweet socks are necessary in order to wear the traditional zori.

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Once we were fully dressed, the Japanese women had arranged for a photographer to take posed studio photos, although of course we also needed to take a billion phone photos as well. Here’s a few with friends!

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As a secondary activity, the Japanese women also taught us how to wrap up fruit or wine from a handkerchief, and gifted us our own with instructions.

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Obviously I am extremely talented at wrapping apples following step-by-step instructions under strict supervision.

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Here’s the full 360 kimono result! I can’t wait to do this again next year and hopefully surpass my record of standing while being dressed without needing a sitting break.

We’ll see!

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