If you have ever watched an anime and seen the characters wearing a kimono, you have probably wondered what is a kimono? A kimono is a traditional Japanese dress worn today in tea ceremonies, weddings, and other formal occasions. You may seen many characters wearing them at one point in an anime. Typically, in anime, females are seen wearing kimono though men do wear them as well.
Kimono are generally made out of silk, as is the obi, and may consist of many layers beneath the initial robe that you see. The outer layer has beautiful decorations that often suit the season the kimono was made for varying from birds to flowers and other plants. The colors are also a reflection of the season themselves. Often, bright colors will be worn for summer and cooler colors for seasons like winter.
The kimono's literal definition is “thing you wear” from the words "ki" which means wear and "mono" or thing. In English, people tend to say "kimonos" when used in the plural form, but in Japanese, it is still just "kimono".
There are many different types of kimono from the furisode, which is worn by unmarried women, to the susohiki, which are worn by geisha or other traditional Japanese stage performers. A woman's kimono is dependent on her marital status as well as occasion. For men, however, kimono are much simpler in color and do not have as many parts or layers.
The kimono is heavily influenced by the Chinese clothing, which is notable in some of the cloth designs and details. It was in the Heian Period when the straight-line cutting method created the modern day style of the kimono that we know today. This new cutting style made the kimono more comfortable and practical to wear. This also makes it easy to lend a kimono to a friend since it did not involve taking body measurements.
During the Kamakura and Muromachi periods, more colors were brought into the kimono making process. Designs became more intricate in this time, as well, though many women opted to wear kimono with shorter sleeves while samurai wore dress more appropriate for battle. Then in the Edo Period, kimono became an art form and were in high demand. Kimono colors showed a warriors allegiance to his feudal lord. The style of kimono changed including a kamishimo, a sleeveless garment to be worn over the kimono, and hakama, which are split-skirt trousers.
Unfortunately, the decline of everyday kimono began during the Meiji Period because it was no longer required. Kimono were saved for special occasions while people turned to suits, dressed, and more Western clothes for daily use. Kimono today are no longer solely made out of silk but can be made out of polyester too.
- Episodes: 201
- Aired: April 2006 - March 2010
Gintama takes place in a feudal Japan where aliens have invaded bringing with in advanced technology. Swords have been outlawed, which has brought an end to the way of the samurai. In this time, Gintoki, Kagura, and Shinpachi exist as Odd Jobs, a group willing to any type of job for money.
It is in Gintama that we are able to see the use of kimono in everyday life. Most of the Japanese characters dress in traditional attire. We even get to see Kagura wearing a traditional qipao as everyday dress. This was a time where traditional dresses were used everyday, rather than just during special occasions. Gintama also shows the use of hakama in daily kimono wear. We can see how the kimono fit into the history of Japan, although of course, Gintama is much less historical than other anime.
Gintama Opening 1
In Japan today, kimono are generally worn for special occasions only such as weddings and tea ceremonies. Sumo wrestlers may often times be seen wearing kimono as it is a requirement. The kimono has also been adapted into more modern fashions such as lolita fashion called wa loli. As you can see, even though the everyday use of kimono has declined, the kimono is still a very popular fashion that has yet to lose popularity in Japan today.
There are westerners who do want to wear the traditional kimono, as well, so some establishments are available for renting out kimono to foreigners. These establishments can show how to properly wear a kimono and allow foreigners to walk around town in traditional dress.
Kimono can be quite expensive so most people in Japan will usually rent a kimono rather than buy one for special occasions. A cheap kimono can go for around $100 while an expensive kimono can dip well into the thousands.
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: October 2011 - March 2012
Ayase Chihaya became obsessed with the world of competitive karuta after a classmate, Wataya Arata, taught her how to play. She, Arata, and her close friend Mashima Taichi competed together and loved it. Arata had to move away since, but Chihaya continues to play in hopes of being able to play together with Taichi and Arata one day. Many years have passed and they have changed, but is it possible for them to play together once again?
In Chihayafuru, we get to see the use of kimono in everyday life and how it stands out. Although kimono were not originally worn when playing karuta, with the persuasion of Kana, the team agreed to dress in kimono blending the rich history of Japan from the 100 poems to the traditional dress in a modern day Japan.
There are many rules in regards to how to wear a traditional kimono, though store clerks are always willing to teach you if you want to learn how. Not just foreigners, but even many Japanese people today do not know how to properly put on a kimono.
There are many steps that must be taken to properly wear a kimono from having all of the seams inline, the right cannot overlap the left, and the excess material must be tucked underneath the sash. Unless you wear a kimono often, it can be quite difficult to remember how to put it on. Often times, someone who rents out kimono can teach you how to put one on.
There's also a proper attitude and etiquette to follow when wearing a kimono from how you can walk to how you can behave. It's not just an outfit, it's how you act too. It reflects the proper lady-like behavior that is to be expected of a woman who wears a kimono.
Ai Yori Aoshi
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: April 2002 - September 2002
Hanabishi Kaoru is a university student who lives by himself when one day he meets a beautiful girl in a kimono at the train station. She seemed lost so Kaoru offers to help her find her way, but the place she was looking for turned out to be an empty lot. They go back to his apartment to think of their next steps when she shows him the childhood picture of the person she is looking for and it turns out to be himself! This girl is Sakuraba Aoi and it turns out that she is his fiance who has come to Tokyo to be his bride, but it has only reminded him of the reason why he left home.
Not only do we get to see kimono in everyday use in modern Japan in Ai Yori Aoshi, we get to see the proper etiquette that must be followed when wearing a kimono. Aoi does a perfect job showing to behave when wearing a kimono. She is quiet, reserved, has proper posture, and walks properly. Although Ai Yori Aoshi is an ecchi anime, there is some respect for Aoi as she does not often make a spectacle of herself. Respect for the kimono, please!
Ai Yori Aoshi - Anime Classics - Available on DVD 7.24.12 - Trailer
As you can see, there is a lot more to a kimono than just a dress. A kimono is not a cosplay nor is it just a piece of cloth. The kimono is a beautiful textile representation of Japan's rich history that has continued to survive today. The kimono has survived for many centuries, continuing to grow and adapt to new ages in Japan.
It will be interesting to see how much more the kimono will adapt to new styles in Japan. Japan is known as being a country with many different trends, but the kimono is one fashion that never goes out of style.