Reviving the kimono culture

Reviving the kimono culture

Known for their trend setting ways, the youngsters in Japan, over the years, have completely shunned the traditional kimono, which was once the garment of choice for royalty, samurai, aristocrats and workers alike.


Dhanusha Gokulan

Published: Thu 21 Mar 2013, 8:25 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 11:11 AM

Even though these beautifully patterned garments have been synonymous with Japanese culture worldwide, today the women wear the Kimono only for ‘special occasions’.

“Women now wear the kimono only for weddings, graduation ceremonies and a few special parties. It’s complicated, expensive and most people don’t know how to take care of it,” said kimono expert, traditional dance teacher and actress Mako Hattori. “There is a particular way to fold the kimono. But most people do not know how to do it. But things have changed a lot over the years,” added Hattori.

A demonstration of wearing the kimono during Mako Hattori’s lecture on the Zayed University campus in Dubai on Monday. — KT photo by Rahul Gajjar

In a bid to revive and educate the local public about ancient Japanese culture, the Japanese consulate in Dubai invited Hattori and her team to give a lecture about traditional Japanese customs and the kimono in particular. The lecture was organised at the Zayed University Campus, Academic City on Tuesday.

A one-size-fits-all; the kimono is 13 metres long in length and 38 centimetres wide. Made from pure silk, it is a wide-sleeved traditional Japanese robe worn with a sash (obi).

For what seemed to be a dying dress form, there is a slight change in trend with the way youngsters look at the kimono, according to Hattori.

“Very recently many of them have shown interest in wearing, or at least learning to wear the kimono again. They have realised that only they can revive the ancient cultures and keep traditions alive,” said Hattori.

“Kimonos’ are very expensive, especially because they are handmade. Some of the more expensive ones cost about 600,000 Yen and they are also very difficult to maintain. Women wear the kimono over a light layer of clothing because they don’t want body sweat catching onto the kimono fabric,” said Hattori.

Since everything that the Japanese do is in sync with nature and changing seasons, women wear kimonos with motifs that mirror the upcoming season. “For example, women wear kimonos with motifs of cherry blossoms a few weeks before the actual cherry blossom season or they wear kimonos with embroidery of winter flowers and snow flakes a few weeks before actual winter sets in,” added Hattori.

Mako Hattori performs a Japanese dance wearing the kimono.— KT photo by Rahul Gajjar

The kimono is made of several pieces; the kimono, which is the dress itself; koshi hi mo, the belt that secures the kimono in place; obi, the sash tied around the waist in the back on top of the koshi hi mo; obi age, which is a piece of cloth that is tied under the obi; and obi dome, a rope that is knotted on top of the obi.

“Personally I learnt the art of draping the kimono from my mother. She used to be a geisha and whatever I know about traditional performing arts and kimonos are what she has taught me. In the same way I try teaching my daughter the ways of our ancient arts. In Japanese culture, kimonos and traditions are passed down from generation to generation,” said Hattori.

Hattori also gave a performance of traditional dances with the use of Japanese hand fans.

Daisuke Matsunaga, Japanese Consul-General said: “The consulate will be organising more cultural exchange programmes to sensitise the local public about Japanese culture. We are planning a screening of old Japanese movies at the Archive in Safa Park soon. The Shabib Brothers, the owners of Brownbook, have been of great help in the programmes.”

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