Japan’s vibrant and diverse culture has attracted Western nations since the beginning. The apparel is one of the features that captures this ethnic diversity so perfectly. Japanese culture is fundamentally based on traditional clothes. In Japan, several of these garments have been worn for many centuries. Yukata, geta, haori, and kimonos.They all exhibit Japanese elegance, which is very distinct from Western fashion.
The kimono is the most well-known of Japan’s numerous traditional garments. The kimono, available in a wide variety of styles and accessories, is also known as the national garment of Japan. Kimonos and other traditional attire were worn by many Japanese people every day before World War II. Still, you only see them at festivals, weddings, ceremonies, and other special events or in old-world cities like Kyoto. Depending on a person’s profession, gender, age, or occasion, there are numerous forms of traditional Japanese attire.
The Wafuku: The Japanese Traditional Clothing
All traditional Japanese attire is referred to as wafuku in a broad sense. Wafuku is a broad term that refers to traditional Japanese attire. However, it wasn’t always used to refer to a particular fashion. In actuality, the traditional dress was generally referred to as a kimono. The word’s origins can be traced back to the Meiji era, a crucial period in Japanese history. In essence, Japan’s society began to Westernize throughout this time.
The culture changed significantly along with the political and financial systems. The Japanese population was also exposed to Western attire due to this Westernization push. As a result, traditional Japanese clothing, which had previously been referred to as kimono, came to be known as wafuku, or Japanese clothing. Western fashion significantly differed from what the Japanese primarily wore at the time, so they called it yofuku, which meant “Western clothing.” Since then, the term “wafuku” has come to refer to all traditional Japanese apparel and accessories. It also characterizes the Japanese fashion trend most associated with long, flowing kimonos and yukatas.
Kimono: Japan’s Traditional Dress
The kimono, a significant component of wafuku, is arguably the most famous apparel item associated explicitly with Japanese culture. The phrase translates as “something that is worn” until the Meiji period when it was used to describe all Japanese clothes. Even though polyester is currently commonly used to make kimonos, historically, kimonos were created from handcrafted fabrics like silk, linen, and hemp. Kimonos are renowned for their vivid, striking patterns and designs, often achieved by needlework and natural cloth dye. Men’s kimonos typically have more subdued hues and straightforward patterns. Additionally, these kimonos lack the typically wide belt found on women’s kimonos.
This traditional Japanese outfit has a long history that dates back to the Heian era (794-1192). Over time, kimonos became commonplace among individuals, and layering progressively became fashionable. The art of producing kimonos had advanced to a specialist trade by the Edo era (1603–1868). Various foreign cultures, including clothing, significantly impacted Japanese culture throughout the Meiji Period (1868–1912). The Japanese government began promoting the adoption of new (Western) dress trends. Japanese people dress in Western fashion today and save their kimonos for special occasions.
The Common Kimono Accessories
Traditional kimonos are fashioned from handmade, hand-decorated materials like linen, silk, and hemp. There are numerous methods for creating a bow and tying an obi. Depending on the formality of the occasion, the wearer’s social standing, and the season, kimonos were initially worn with 1 to 20 layers for style and warmth. One of these undergarments is a nagajuban, a straightforward robe. People dressed more formally in the past by adding the hiyoku layer of clothing between their nagajuban and kimono. Today, tsuke-hiyoku, which are partial double layers at the legs or collar that give the appearance of a hiyoku, has replaced hiyoku.
1. Kimono or Tanmono – The main piece of the garment is now commonly referred to as a kimono. A mono is a long robe constructed from a single piece of fabric.
2. Haneri and Nagajuben – Nagajuban is a second, more straightforward robe that acts as the kimono’s undergarment. Only the nagajuban’s haneri (collars) are visible from the outside. For this reason, the haneri of kimonos are frequently adorned with patterns and decorations. The simple explanation for why individuals wear a nagajuban underneath a kimono, especially a fashionable one, is that they want to avoid the vibrant, delicate fabric from being dirty. The garment also helps keep the kimono clean by preventing skin from touching it.
3. Haori – The haori is a different kind of robe typically worn by males as a jacket. For men, hair is like a kimono robe but shorter and more like an overcoat. Today, women also wear the clothing, even though men were the ones who made it fashionable. Two strings referred to as haori himo, that are attached to the front of the haori serve as its bindings. Haori with designs on the back are referred to as “happi” and are worn specifically for celebrations and festivals. Both men and women typically wear a haki over a kimono.
4. Obi – The obi is a complex belt that must be tied in a problematic way to master. Koshihimo, also known as the hip ribbon, is a separate piece that holds the robe together while the obi is tied. In contrast to the ornamental obi, koshihimo serves a more functional function. It is typically constructed of thinner cotton or silk strands and is concealed from view.
5. Tabi – Socks and sandals are another essential ensemble that would complete the kimono outfit. The tabi is a white sock with separated toes and can be worn with sandals. While traditional tabi are typically white, it is not unheard of to wear colored or even patterned ones. Remember that formal and essential occasions always call for the customary white tabi.
6. Zori – A zori is a unique style of sandal that can be created from various materials, depending on the occasion for which they are worn. While straws make a traditional zori, they are now seen as more informal. Zori with brocade coverings is preferable for more formal situations, though vinyl zori will also work.
7. Geta – The geta is a high-heeled zori. Still, instead of creating an inclination like high-heeled shoes in the West, the wooden heels raise the sandals like a level platform. Zori can be worn in more formal settings, while a geta is the ideal accessory for a more relaxed summer style. Another distinct style of geta, known as okobo, with higher heels, is worn by aspiring geishas.
8. Kanzashi – Kanzashi, or hair ornaments, are frequently worn by women wearing kimonos to accompany their customary Japanese hairdos. There is a rich history behind the kanzashi, which is still popular today. Many female attendees at formal events may style their hair with a kanzashi. Kanzashi come in a variety of shapes and sizes, such as Tama (ball), Hirauchi (flat), Yuremono (swinging), Musubi (knot), Tsumami (knob carved), and Bachi gata (fan-shaped). Combs for hair can be ornamented with lovely decorations.
9. Okobo – The wooden platform sandals known as okobo, or pokkuri, are popular among Maiko (apprentice geisha), ladies, and young girls in some parts of Japan. They are often made from a solid piece of wood that is 10 to 15 cm in size, and they frequently have tiny bells attached to the slope of the shoe.
10. Hachimaki – A hachimaki is a traditional Japanese headband composed of red or white fabric. According to Japanese folklore, hachimaki fortifies the spirit and protects you from demons and evil spirits. The samurai, who wore headbands under their helmets to wick away sweat and keep the helmets in place during combat, are credited with starting the practice. Today, people wear them as a sign of courage or hard work, particularly those in the military, students taking exams, or people attending festivals.
11. Tenugui – Tenugui means “hand wipe.” Since the ninth century, Japanese households have utilized cotton towels called tenugui. People use these multipurpose cloths as washcloths, dishcloths, and hand towels daily. They are usually plain woven, approximately 35 by 90 centimeters in size, and almost always colored with some pattern. Since they frequently have such lovely and vibrant motifs, people wear them as headbands or headwraps. They are occasionally hung on the wall like tapestries and used as decorations.
Types of Kimono
Kimonos come in various styles, particularly for ladies, depending on the occasion, the wearer’s age, and marital status. Unmarried ladies and girls typically wear extended sleeves on the furisode, also known as swinging sleeves. Today, most women wear the furisode during the coming-of-age ritual, which typically comes in vibrant colors and spectacular designs. You could encounter different kimono types that all have a unique appearance and have various uses. Let’s now examine some of the most essential kimono types and determine the scenarios for which they are appropriate.
The yukata is a relaxed take on the kimono that both sexes frequently don at summer festivals and ryokans. A yukata is typically made of cotton, though polyester is now occasionally used. A yukata is lighter than other kimonos since it is worn without underwear. The yukata is the most common sort of Japanese kimono while being the most casual; you can see people wearing yukata during festivals and in old cities like Kyoto. A yukata is a very affordable alternative to the traditional kimono and a well-liked tourist memento.
2. Hakama and Haori
When worn together, the haori and hakama are formal attire for men often worn by the groom at weddings, coming-of-age ceremonies, and other significant life events. A kimono is covered by an overcoat called a haori. Troops once wore Haori in combat to insulate them from the cold. However, in contemporary Japan, haori are worn as an overcoat over yukata in ryokans or as a uniform for individuals who work in traditional Japanese theater. Women, instead of kimonos, can wear Haori.
When worn with a kimono, the hakama resembles a skirt. Initially, only men—such as samurai and those taking part in Shinto rituals—wore the Japanese hakama. However, in the present day, women don them occasionally, such as at a university commencement. People who practice kendo or Japanese swordsmanship, kyudo (Japanese archery), aikido, or other martial arts also wear hakamas.
3. Hanten & Happi
A hanten is a brief winter coat with a shaped collar and cotton padding for warmth. Initially, men and women wore it over a kimono or other clothing. Another short coat option is the happi, which is significantly more informal than the haori or hanten. Firefighters and housemaids first used Happi to signify their respective families’ crests; the symbol on their backs identified the group they belonged to. A happy typically comes in simple shades of blue, white, red, and black. The kanji, meaning matsuri, or festival in Japanese, is printed on the back of a happi, which is now typically worn at festivals and frequently comes with a matching headband.
The fundoshi is a piece of cotton worn by men in Japan and is both cozy and very traditional. A fundoshi was the norm for men in Japan up to World War II. Various styles were worn for various occasions, circumstances, and individuals. Fundoshi is probably only worn nowadays on traditional occasions. Additionally, sumo fighters don a fundoshi style known as mawashi.
5. Jinbei and Samue
Traditional loungewear, known as samue and jinbei, is constructed of cotton or hemp and is usually colored with a single hue like indigo, blue, or green. They both have a blouse and a pair of pants that match. When performing their duties, Buddhist monks used to wear samues, whereas town residents used jinbeis. The pants are the main distinction between the same and junbei, even though they appear similarly. Samuel’s pants are lengthy, reaching the ankle, whereas Jinbei are knee-length shorts. A lot of jinbei are knitted with yarn around the shoulder areas for increased ventilation, which is the second significant distinction.
Younger, single ladies typically don the furisode, a kimono worn for the most formal events. Long, draping sleeves and elaborate, striking motifs make identifying a furisode from a distance simple. These characteristics indicate that this is no ordinary kimono. The largest furisode has the longest sleeves, but there are also medium-length ones called chufurisode and shorter ones called kofurisode. All furisodes have reasonably lengthy sleeves. Young women frequently wear the kofurisode during graduation ceremonies. In addition to the typical patterns of flowers, cranes, and cherry blossoms, furisode frequently includes intricate needlework and designs from the Japanese shibori tie-dyeing method.
Uchikake is a jacket worn over a kimono, not a kimono that can be worn on its own. It is designed to be worn as the outer layer over women’s bridal gowns. It is typically either white or vivid red, with the typical patterns and hues that denote fortune and wealth predominating in the designs. Uchikake is a big, flowing dress-like robe that, like most wedding dresses, is intended to be larger than the kimono worn below. An uchikake is designed to drape over the body; therefore, unlike a kimono, it does not require an obi to be wrapped around the waist.
A hikizuri is a kimono style with an incredibly long skirt that gracefully droops behind the wearer as they pass. These days, hikizuri is mainly used by geisha as well as for theatrical or dance-focused stage performances. The word translates to “trailing/dragging skirt.” For ladies, hikizuri was a representation of riches and great rank. With their long, dragging skirts, these robes were not intended to be worn when you were out and about as circumstances changed. Women began to play larger roles in society.
The tomesode is a formal kimono style primarily worn by married women. Since historically, this kimono was manufactured by shortening the sleeves of young women’s furisode when they were married, tomesode has shorter sleeves than the furisode. The fact that tomesode only features patterns under the robe’s waistband distinguishes it from other clothing types. A tomesode, which is the equivalent of an evening gown worn by ladies at weddings and other important occasions in the West, is traditionally the official formal attire for married Japanese women. A wedding tomesode is typically black and has a special name, kuro-tomesode. Still, a colored one is called an iro-tomesode and is thought to be less formal.
The houmongi is a non-casual kimono style typically worn by married ladies while visiting someone’s home, attending an event or a tea party, or at other comparable social occasions. A houmongi typically has patterns that extend over and across the shoulders, on the hemline, and the sleeves, though the style may vary. Houmongi is typically manufactured using the eba-moyou technique, which enables the pattern to stay intact and visible even at the seams of the dress. This is because the design extends across the entire garment.
11. Iro Muji
A single-colored kimono known as a “iro muji” can be any hue. Iro mujis can be used for a variety of occasions, including funerals, where they might be dressed in darker hues. Young women typically wear Iro Muji at graduations and other formal occasions. Still, there is also a particular style that is solely worn for tea parties. An iro muji is far from casual clothing, yet it’s also neither overly flamboyant nor entirely appropriate for formal occasions. An iro muji is the ideal attire if you ever need to wear a kimono to a celebration where other people are expected to be the center of attention, like a wedding, a birthday party, or graduation.
A komon is a simple, everyday style of kimono. It is known as katazome when stencil-dyed repeating designs are applied in a particular way to the komon. They are excellent for various occasions because they are available in several colors and patterns. When running errands, hanging out with friends, going out on the town, or heading to a casual party, you can wear Komon. Due to their simplicity, Komon is regarded as casual wear, but a close-up will reveal intricate and minute patterns that are nearly concealed in plain sight.
A shiromuku is a traditional Japanese bride’s wedding gown made of all-white material. The bride was entering the new family with a clean slate, and the white clothing signified that she was prepared and willing to blend into her new family. Even though a shiromuku is supposed to be plain white, the dress has lovely stitching and embellishments. The shiromuku is worn with a wide headdress called a tsunokakushi or a wataboshi since it is a highly formal ceremonial outfit. A folding fan, a small pouch that resembles a purse, and a kaiken, a traditional dagger carried by samurai ladies, are other frequent items to complete the outfit.
Anyone who is even remotely familiar with Japan is aware of its long history of having a distinctive, vibrant sense of style. Even if their lives depended on it, most people wouldn’t be able to tell a kimono apart in a lineup of traditional Japanese clothing, even though most people will instantly recognize Japanese clothing by its stunning floral patterns and flowy silk fabrics.
Kimonos are undoubtedly one of the most famous examples of traditional Japanese clothing since they are so easily recognizable. Still, there is more to Japanese clothing than meets the eye. Numerous other outfits and accessories are used for particular events or circumstances. Still, you might need to be made aware of, in addition to the kimono, yukata, hakama, and jinbei. Japanese culture heavily emphasizes the use of traditional dress and accessories. Some of the customs date back many centuries, and individuals take great delight in dressing appropriately for occasions. When visiting Japan’s more traditional or touristy places, you can see people wearing various items.