The Art and Culture of the Japanese Kimono

The History Behind The Japanese Kimono

Blue Cotton Geisha Girl Kimono

Traditional Japanese Kimono or Yukata, are wrapped around the body with the left side over the right. It is then secured with a belt called an obi and finished off with split-toe tabi socks for a truly authentic look.

Years ago kimono were worn by men, women and children. Today the Japanese still continue to wear them on special occasions, as they represent a pivotal part of their culture with their beautiful, colourful designs.

The word Geisha means “arts person” and perfectly describes what they stand for as they quite literally are women of art. In certain parts of Japan, Geisha can often be seen in traditional dress, with their white make-up, red painted lips, perfectly placed hair and elegant kimono. Trained in traditional Japanese arts such as dance, singing, music and most importantly, the art of conversation, it is a Geisha’s job to entertain those who visit their teahouses.

Tabi Socks

Maiko are apprentice Geisha. They dress in a very similar way however only once they have finished their training and are old enough will they be initiated into the more desirable role of a Geisha. They are usually adopted by a Geisha sister who teaches them the fine and delicate nuances of how a Geisha should carry herself. Through observation the Maiko will learn how to hold their fan, wear their kimono as well as other important qualities of how to properly present themselves.

In the past many young girls were forced into what is known as the ‘Flower and Willow World’ of the Geisha community, with many sold to Geisha houses by their poor families. These girls lived difficult lives unlike the Geisha of today who have chosen for themselves this highly desirable and deeply refined profession.

Pink Japanese Obi

The kimono of both Geisha and Maiko are long, reaching down to their ankles, with long wide sleeves and obi. The kimono of Geisha usually consists of more subtle shades than Maiko, whose are more bright and colourful.

Today, Kyoto is a well known place to see Geisha in Japan, although you would be considered more than lucky to spot one walking through the streets as Geisha teahouse are only accessible by invite only. In Kyoto Geisha are predominately known as Geika, however they are very similar in appearance with the main difference between them being their location and certain customs and traditions.

BBC Radio 4 recently broadcast about Mastering the Art of the Kimono investigating whether the culture of the Kimono is a dying art. Click on the image below to watch the audio slide show.

“This video brought back some great memories for me. I remember first seeing ‘Maiko’ girls wearing brightly coloured Kimono on the first of what became many wonderful trips to the beautiful city of Kyoto. During the time I lived in Japan I became used to seeing them being worn either on special occasions or on visiting temples and shrines, and I became fascinated to learn more about them.

I was amazed to learn that you cannot simply put on a kimono, there are so many layers and aspects to a kimono that you need to visit and pay a specialist ‘hair dresser’ type shop to help you to put one on! When we lived in Japan, Hiromi put her beautiful red kimono and the white make up on one night and my parents, who were visiting me in Japan at the time, did not recognise her and walked straight past!” Jez

Don’t forget, when you buy ANY adult Japanese Kimono from The Japanese Shop you will also receive FREE UK delivery, a FREE Kimono Gift Box, a FREE Japanese Christmas Card and FREE Japanese Gift Wrapping.

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