Created By: peccantis on December 4, 2010 Last Edited By: peccantis on December 8, 2010

UsefulNotes: Kimono

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"The iconic threesome of shouchikubai, or pine, bamboo and plum. Where's the plum I hear you ask. Umeko's her name."
Creating this to support Kimono Fanservice, which is currently in YKKTW.
In Japan, kimonos have a very special place in people's hearts. Demoted from the clothing (its name literally means something you wear hanging by your shoulders) to Extra Special Occassion Wear, kimonos nowadays whisper sweet nostalgy.

During pre-WWII times, everyone wore kimono. If you were rich, you still wore same garment as your servants did, but more: it was more colourful, more patterned, more embroidered, made of more precious materials, and you wore it in layers. If you had enough money, you had super-thin summer kimonos as well as fully lined winter ones, and everything in between, and there was no time of year or occassion you could not mirror with your patterns and themes. When WWII came along, women were suddenly expected to work in factories and whatnot, and kimono became a cumbersome thing, and a luxury. After the war there were people, mainly middle-aged or seniors, who chose to continue wearing kimono daily, and there should still be a few around. Basically, anyone wearing kimono daily in post-WWII times has been an exception, and something special.

Nowadays, wearing kimono on a daily basis is limited to a few older ladies and geisha. Kimonos are also expected or even required wear in such disciplined pastime circles as tea ceremony or ikebana (flower-arranging). Women of any age may wear a kimono to any kind of a party, get-together or celebration, with the highest-rank kimonos reserved for the weddings of close family. Little children will wear their first kimonos in Shichi Go San (children's celebration), and young girls look forward to their Seijin Shiki (of-age celebration) furisode just as eagerly as a Western girl would fuss about her prom dress. Outside these contexts, women's kimono are rarely seen, and male wearers are even fewer.

It should also be noted that when one wears kimono, the expectations about your behaviour change: you are supposed to be even more proper than if you were wearing anything else. This might be partly due to the fact kimonos are mostly restricted to formal events these days, and partly due to the garment's status having been turned from "it's what everyone and their mum wears" to "walking memory of the Good Old Days".

Kimono is a language of symbolism. Most Japanese would know some of the basic rules, but a great majority of the messages and nuances are only readable to a devoted afficinando. Due to this, both wearers in IRL and characters by artists who didn't know better are easy prey for Unfortunate Implications and Accidental Innuendo. A range of details in the dress, including sleeve length and shape, collar position, accessories, and any possible feature of the obi (the sash) cover messages concerning the wearer's age, sex, marriage status, wealth, the occasion, relations, the season and personality. Even if they're a corpse waiting to be cremated and buried (collars overlapping the wrong way). Many creators use this for subtext or even puns.

Despite the long history of kimono, there actually is no such thing as "the traditional" kimono. The tubular shape favoured today was created in the mid-20th century by Norio Yamanaka, founder of kimono-wearing schools throughout Japan. The previous styles changed every 100 to 200 years or so. The style geisha wear is only about two hundred years old.

In modern Japan, the skill of dressing up in a kimono and carrying it is largely limited to dancers, geisha and such, and afficinandos. A run-of-the-mill will have to rely on a relative or a paid professional to dress her up for an event. A woman able to dress oneself up is oh-so-WOW. High-end formal kimono are incredibly expensive, and can exceed the price of a small car quite easily. Normal quality kimono are not cheap either, with an every-day, synthetic one costing about 200-250 USD in minimum. With all the accessories one needs on top of this, it adds up quickly.

Yukata, worn by nearly everyone come summer and festivals, is much like an easier, lighter, and less expensive version of the kimono, but considered completely separate from the kimono in Japan. However, the feelings they awaken are rather similar. By nature, a yukata is relaxed home-wear (comparable to shorts and a tank top), and situations where one can wear it are very limited. If kimono is "wear" then yukata is "underwear" in terms of social acceptance in public. Rules for wearing yukata are much more relaxed than for kimono.

See also Kimono Fanservice and Kimono Is Traditional for use in media.


  • In the James Bond book Doctor No James and Honey are supplied with kimonos to wear. He prevents her from wearing with the right overlapped on top of the left, which is only done for corpses.
Community Feedback Replies: 7
  • December 4, 2010
    Isn't this a bit specific for a Useful Notes page?
  • December 4, 2010
    Nah, it's fine.
  • December 5, 2010
    And here I thought it lacked some serious detail! Could this have a Useful Notes subpage for Kimonese-to-English translations for colours, patterns etc?
  • December 5, 2010
    • In the James Bond book Doctor No James and Honey are supplied with kimonos to wear. He prevents her from wearing with the right overlapped on top of the left, which is only done for corpses.
  • December 5, 2010
    It might be interesting to add that kimonos are always folded left over right when they are worn - right over left is for dead people. I don't know very much about this, but it's SUCH a common mistake in anime fanart it's just grating.
  • December 7, 2010
    If were going to give examples... it's probably omnipresent in slice-of-life anime and manga, but I figure if there's something interesting to say about them...

    Anime and Manga
    • In Azumanga Daioh, of the six students and two teachers, only Sakaki and eleven-year-old Chiyo knew how to put on a kimono, and had to teach the rest. Kagura's parents bought her one for the occasion.
    • In Hidamari Sketch, not only does Hiro lend Miyako her old yukata, but it's mentioned that Sae put hers on like a guy at first.
    • In Ichigo Mashimaro, it's discovered that Ana doesn't have a yukata, so the temporarily "borrow" one off of Miu. As in, she had been wearing it when they borrow it. Then Chika remembers Nobue's old one, which Miu ends up wearing to the matsuri.
    • In Lucky Star, the girls talk about the tying of the obi. Kagami's assumption was that Miyuki had tied it herself, but instead, the person at the store tied it. Konata's obi was tied by her father, a fact which disturbs Tsukasa.
  • December 8, 2010
    I'm creating a third YKTTW covering Kimono Is Traditional examples, now you know.