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Kimono Questions & Answers

Myths & Misconceptions About Japanese Kimono

Ohio Kimono began with a lecture and presentation about Japanese kimono in a tea room in 2009. Since then we have made it our mission to help educate anyone who wants to know about kimono. There is a lot of inaccurate information about kimono, and we work hard to debunk these misconceptions. Over the years we have had the privilege of helping many people with their journey through discovering Japanese kimono and the development of their kitsuke. We have observed that there are many common questions about kimono that are often asked of us, and so we have compiled a quick Q&A to better help people with their own kimono research. This information is our professional opinion. Feel free to contact us with kimono questions, or if you need help selecting which kimono to buy.

Kimono Dressing Questions

Q) Can you put Japanese kimono by yourself?

Q) Can you put on obi on by yourself?

Yes. Though it seems intimidating to many people, putting on an obi is fairly straightforward. All a person does is tie the obi on the front of themselves, and then move it around to the back. It is uncommon that anyone ties their obi blindly behind his or her back. Hanhab obi are considered a great starting obi for anyone new to tying them. Unlike other types of obi, hanhaba obi do not require additional accessories for a traditional look. Nagoya, fukuro, and maru obi require kitsuke dressing tools such as obi-ita, obiage, obijime, and a makura.

Kimono with Obi

Yes, almost everyone can dress themselves in a Japanese kimono. It may take some practice however almost every kind of kimono can be put on without much help. It's a wide spread myth that people can not dress themselves in kimono. The more formal kimono do require extra effort and steps, however they are not impossible to self dress. Its when you get into bridal and highly decorative furisode kimono that people normally require some assistance.

Q) How long does it take to put on a kimono?

The length of time it takes to put on a traditional Japanese kimono depends on the kind of kimono it is. The fastest and easiest kimono to put on are yukata, and they can be as fast at 5 mins to properly dress yourself. Formal kimono require additional accessories such as obijime that yukata do not, so they take a little longer. The over all length of time it takes to put on a Japanese kimono is up to an individuals personal skill, and also if the kimono feels like cooperating at the time. It is a myth that it takes 2+ hours to put on most Japanese kimono for any gender or age.

Q) Does the obi hold on a Japanese kimono?

This may come as a surprise, but no. The obi does not hold the kimono on the body, this is a common misconception. Traditionally Japanese kimono are held in place with a few different accessories, which are unseen once the dressing is finished. Specifically, there are ties that hold the kimono on, they are known as koshihimo. Depending on the formality of the outfit, and the type of the kimono, there can be up to 16 accessories required to wear the kimono in a way that presents in a traditional manner.

Q)  How do you tell the gender of a Japanese kimono?

Check the armpit. Seriously. If there is an open hole in the armpit where you can reach inside the Japanese kimono, it is intended to be worn in a femine fashion. If the armpit is closed, it is masculine. Male and female kimono are worn in different styles.

Q)  Why do some Japanese kimono have a wide full collar?

A full-width collar on a Japanese kimono is intended to have an eri shin (kimono collar stiffener) placed in it, then it is folded over. It is common among more formal kimono when you want your kimono collar stiff. Kimono such as yukata do not typically have a full-width collar and are sewn folded over. A full-width collar should always be folded in half and not worn open. Korin belts are great for helping to keep your collar folded while being worn.

General Kimono Questions & Myths

Q) Is there such a thing as a fake kimono?

Yes.  Authentic Japanese kimono are mostly defined by their seams, not the material they are constructed from. There are many pieces of western attire, and even costumes influenced by kimono however they are not a proper traditional kimono. 

Q) Is a yukata considered to be a kimono?

Yes.  A yukata is a kind of informal Japanese kimono. More specifically they are an informal type of kimono that can be worn by any gender, and at any age. There are many kinds of kimono, all of which have their own names such as: furisode, tomesode, iromuji, and more. Think of it like shirts. There are many kinds of shirts, but they are still all shirts: tank tops, tshirts, button up business shirts, etc.

Q) Do all Japanese kimono cost thousands of dollars to make?

Japanese Kimono With Obi

No.  Today most Japanese kimono production is assisted by machine, there are even factories that mass produce them. There are kimono that do cost thousands of dollars, however, these days such kimono tend to be very special formal kimono such as Furisode and Uchikake. Historically speaking the average person could sew and produce their own kimono at home. That is not to say that lavish highly customized kimono handmade by skilled artists in Japan do not exist, it is just that they are not mainstream.

Q)  Are all Japanese kimono robes one-of-a-kind?

No.  In more modern years it is increasingly common to find Japanese kimono that have 'sisters and brothers'. Most modern yukata are mass produced today in factories. Another example of kimono that have many duplicates would be odori kimono which are produced for entire dance groups. Today there are even KoFurisode being mass produced.

Q)  What are the easiest kind of Japanese kimono to wear?

In our opinion yukata are the easiest to wear for any gender or age.  Yukata require very few accessories compared to other Japanese kimono, this also makes them in many cases more budget friendly for someone who does not own any of the kimono kitsuke accessories yet. We frequently recommend yukata to people, and easily teach them how to wear them.

Q)  Are you naked under a Japanese kimono?

No.  Underwear should always be worn under a Japanese kimono, and to take it a step further juban should be worn under a kimono. A Juban basically is an under kimono for your kimono. You do not want your natural body oils and sweat to get on your kimono's inside. Kimono in many cases have many layers of underwear.

Q) Does everyone in China wear a kimono?

No.  More specifically the kimono is cultural attire unique to Japan. China, Vietnam, Korea, and more all have their own unqiue cultural attire with rich history and traditions. Today most countries such as Japan and China wear western attire and use traditional clothing for more formal ceremonal sitautions.

Q) Do Japanese women still bind their feet?

No.  More specifically the culture of foot binding was Chinese, not Japanese. It has been outlawed as a pratice for many decades.

Q) How do you tell the formality of a Japanese kimono?

The most obvious way to tell the formality of a Japanese kimono, is to look at the design layout of the kimono and determine what kind of kimono it is. The different kimono all have different design layouts. A kurotomes has a design layout different than a houmongi. After that check for the presence of mons on the kimono. The color black, and metallic accents also raise the formality of attire. For example a black furisode with gold accents is more formal than a blue furisode with no metallic accents.

Q)  What are komons?

Mons are basically Japanese coats of arms. When present on a kimono they rise the formality of the kimono. They will be displayed on a kimono in 1 , 3, or 5 groupings around the shoulders.

Q)  Is the word kimono singlular or plural?

The word kimono is singular and plural.  "I have 10 kimono for sale," "Look at all the kimono hanging up", etc. The word kimonos is not considered the proper expression for instances of dialog expressing multiple kimono.

Q) Do obi have formality?

Yes.  Obi much like kimono have their own formalities. There are formal obi, and informal obi. It is important to pair the proper formality of obi with the proper formality of a kimono. For example, it is normally regarded as improper to pair a plain hanhaba obi (very informal) with a furisode kimono (very formal).

Q)  What is wafuku?

It is a traditional Japanese term for all kinds of traditional attire. This includes all kinds of kimono, obi, and more.

Q)  What is kitsuke?

The art of dressing in kimono. Wearing and dressing in kimono is considered an artform in the kimono community and Japan.

Q)  What is kaku?

The formal rank of a kimono. There are different kinds of kimono, based on the gender of the kimono. More formal women's kimono include Furisode, and Kurotomesode.

Q) Where can I wear kimono?

Anywhere you want. From art museum gallery openings to a picnic in the park. Kimono can go anywhere you desire. Commonly people in the USA wear kimono to Japanese Cultural Festivals and Anime Conventions. There are also various regional kimono clubs that arrange group outings to local Festivals, and even just out to eat.

No.  Geisha / Geiko are professional hostesses skilled in various entertainment art such as but not limited to: singing, playing various traditional musical instruments and more. They are not prostitutes, nor have they ever been. Oiran and Tayuu were the famous Japanese prostitutes of old.

Q) Are Geisha prostitutes?

Geisha Questions & Myths

Women's Kimoo

Hikizuri.  These kimono feature a padded hem, and trail on the ground. The padded hem of a hikizuri allows for the kimono to a fuller presence and drag much more gracefully on the floor. Without a padded hem a kimono dragging on the floor is not very graceful.

Q)  What kind of kimono do Geisha wear?

An appreciate geisha in training.  Maiko looks distinctly different from the more senior Geisha. The sleeves of the Maiko kimono are long and in the style of the Furisode, they also wear brighter more youthful colors, and designs.

Q) What is a Maiko?

Q)  What is a Geiko?

A Geisha from Kyoto, Japan.  The Geisha of Kyoto are not known as Geisha, they are known as Geiko.

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