Kimono (着物)

Kimono is a traditional Japanese clothing. Nowadays, kimonos are no more commonly worn in Japan, but still remain a very important element of the country’s history, tradition and culture. In modern Japan kimonos are still sometimes worn, especially during important, traditional festivals or during, for example, tea ceremonies. Kimonos still remain one of the most widely known symbols of Japan. There are different types of kimonos that are worn on variety of occasions. It is very important to note that a kimono is ALWAYS worn wrapped left over right! Right-over-left way of dressing it is reserved for the deceased.

Kimonos for men and women differ significantly in both – the way they are worn, the accessories, colours and patterns. While man’s kimono has sleeves ewn to the body of the kimono and is not worn with an ohashori, so it only has to be long enough to reach your ankles, th woman’s kimono has sleeves not sewn to the body of the kimono and is worn with an ohashori, so it has to as tall as the woman wearing it is. There are many types of woman’s kimono. These are as follows:

  • Komon – a casual kimono with a small pattern repeated all over the surface of the fabric. It is worn with nagoya obi or han-haba obi. Worn by both married and unmarried women. It may come with a variety of patterns and colours, dependent on the season and occassion. Komon kimonos are worn on casual or semi-formal occassions, but may also be worn during tea ceremonies and such.
  • Iromuji – a solid colored kimono that is either without any pattern at all or has a delicate pattern woven into the fabric itself. It is worn with nagoya or fukuro obi. Worn by both married and unmarried women. It is typically worn during the tea ceremony. The usual colours for this kind of kimono are light pink, beige or light green. But you may encounter other colours as well.
  • Tsukesage – a semi-formal kimono which only has a pattern on the bottom, below the knee. It is worn with a fukuro obi. Worn by both married and unmarried women. This one will be worn on semi-formal to formal occassions and never during casual, everyday events. Depending on the colours and patterns, such  kimonos may be worn during different seasons and by women of any age.
  • Houmongi – a formal kimono with pattern across the sleeves, shoulder and bottom. Worn on formal occasions for both married and unmarried women. Is is more formal than tsukesage, but similarily to it, maybe be worn during different seasons and by women of any age simply depending on the choice of colours and patterns.
  • Furisode – a very formal, colorful kimono with long, swinging sleeves.  It is worn oonly by young, unmarried women! Before only women under 22 years of age could wear it, but nowadays this limit seems to have been expanded to 26. Furisode kimonos are richly patterned and sometimes additionally embroided, which makes them very expensive.
  • Tomosode – a very formal kimono worn by married women.  It is black with a colorful pattern at the bottom. It may also have small family crests painted onto it. This kind of kimono will be, for example, worn by the bride’s mother during the wedding.
  • Uchikake – a bride’s kimono with a padded bottom hem. It is typically very colourful and rickly embroided. It is worn over the white Shiromuki kimono worn by the bride.
  • Bride’s furisode –  is a long, trailing furisode with a padded hem. Is NOT the same as Uchikake.

Below you can see some beautiful furisode kimonos:

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Obi is the belt worn with a kimono. There are various types of obi, suitable for different occassions. They are made of different fabrics, from rich, thik silk through rayon, cotton and other fabrics. Typically, however, they are made of different kins of silk. The major types of obi are:

  • Han-haba Obi – a casual obi that is worn with a yukata and sometimes with komon kimono.  It’s width is only around 15cm (which is half of the usual width of an obi).
  • Nagoya Obi – it is a semi-formal kind of obi. It has a narrower section (~15cm wide) at one end where it’s folded and sewn in half. It is typically worn with komon, iromuji or tomesode kimonos. It was named after the city of Nagoya where it was first made. Nagoya obis are made from silk or rayon, sometimes from other artificial fabrics tro lower the cost. They may have simple, modest patterns as well as be richly embroided.
  • Fukuro Obi – a formal obi with pattern covering around 50% of its one side. It is ca. 30cm wide. It is worn with furisode, tomesode, iromuji, houmongi or tsukesage kimonos. These are almost always made of silk. The patterns are usually rich and colourful, with additional embroidery, which often makes this kind of obi very expensive. These obis are usually about 400cm long to allow making the o-taiko knot, but may sometimes be slightly shorter or longer.
  • Maru Obi – the most formal obi with pattern covering both sides of it. Because of the exquisite embroidery and high-quality silk used, it is very heavy and quite stiff, which makes it quite difficult to tie and wear. It is only worn during the most formal events with houmongi, tomesode or furisode kimonos. Nowadays maru obis are seldomly used, but the most beautiful that can still be bought are mostly around 60 years old or older.
  • Heko Obi – a man’s obi.  It is a wider obi made of a softer fabric.
  • Kaku Obi – a thinner man’s obi made of stiffer material.

Kimonos did not always look the same. Their style and design evolved over the ages. Below you can how the kimono changed over time:

Image by: Lewis&Clark College