Today, I’d like to introduce a Japanese book written by my KIMONO master: Naoyuki Kanzaki.
The title of this book is “KIMONOGATARI – NOKOSHITAI MONO, KODAWARI NO KOKORO” (The tale of KIMONO – Things we want to leave to later generations and the dedication to it).
In this book, he says:
“Thinking of wearing a KIMONO, just at this moment, a strong, unexplainable tension like an inspiration runs through my body. The air becomes clear and purified, reminding me of what is the severity… It’s just a KIMONO, but it changes my point of view, my feelings and even my existence and the air around me, which is a mystery.”
Deeply deploring the fact that Japanese people no longer wear KIMONOs as much as they used to, he wrote this book some decades ago.
Indeed, Japanese people who wear KIMONOs in their daily lives is quite limited now a days.
Probably, only those who work in the field of Japanese traditional cultures wear it, such as madams of Japanese restaurants or hotels, workers in KIMONO industry like myself, GEISHA or MAIKO, teachers of Japanese tea ceremony, manner, classical dance, actors of KABUKI and BUNRAKU (Japanese puppet theater) etc…
Things change with the times, however in principal, we Japanese have a specific image deep in our minds toward KIMONOs, which will be something like “dignified and strong” or “full of spirits”.
Today, KIMONOs are worn mainly at special occasions called “KAN-KON-SŌ-SAI” in Japan.
“KAN(冠)-KON(婚)-SŌ(葬)-SAI(祭)” is a Japanese term indicating all the Japanese rites of passage.
KAN(冠) means a crown (coronation), so the occasions of KAN are celebration ceremonies such as, “SHICHI-GO-SAN (a traditional rite of passage and festival for three- and seven-year-old girls and five-year-old boys)”, “SEIJIN-SHIKI (a ceremony to congratulate and encourage all those who have reached the age of majority (20 years old))”, “NYŪGAKU-SHIKI (an entrance ceremony of a school)” and “SOTSUGYŌ-SHIKI (a graduation ceremony of a school)”.
KON(婚) means an engagement or marriage and SŌ(葬) means a funeral or other memorial services.
SAI(祭) means MATSURIs (festivals) such as “SHŌGATSU(Japanese new year day), HINAMATSURI (Girl’s day), TANABATA (Star festival) etc…
For these Japanese special occasions, KIMONO is indispensable because it gives the atmosphere of “HARE”.
“HARE” means “formal” or “celebrative” or even “honored”, therefore, we wear KIMONOs as “non-ordinary” cloths for such special HARE occasions.
Then, why KIMONO is “non-ordinary” today whilst it was just an everyday cloth for people before?
I think the difficulty to wear KIMONOs is one of the reasons.
In wearing KIMONOs, making “OHASHORI (a tuck)” and “OBI (a belt for KIMONO)” will be the two major obstacles for people.
After putting on “NAGAGAJUBAN” which is an underwear of KIMONO, you put KIMONO on top of it. However, the length of all the KIMONOs is always longer than your height, so you have to tuck it up at your waist by a thin cord for the hem of KIMONO to be kept around your ankles. (OHASHORI)
Making it parallel and looked rectangular is a little troublesome.
And then, the most difficult part of all is to wear OBI.
You wrap your torso twice then make a knot called “OTAIKO” on the back.
The procedure is quite complicated and takes time if you are not accustomed to it. (See this link for detailed explanations with images about how to tie OBIs.)
In Japan, there are many schools to learn how to wear KIMONOs (called “KITSUKE” school), and it is said there is no such school (to learn how to wear traditional cloths) in the world except for KIMONOs .
As you can see, wearing KIMONOs is considered to be difficult even for Japanese people and this is the reason why Mr. Kanzaki mentioned above that he feels strong and unexplainable tension in wearing KIMONOs.
However, all the more for those tensions, strict rules and the inspiration you may receive, people become crazy about KIMONOs.
Respecting the meaning found in each difficulty and obstacle and then accepting all of them as they are, might be giving certain sense of satisfaction to the minds of Japanese.
You may get a glimpse of Yamato Gokoro here too.