Post by Melissa Masson, an ALT in Izumi
Maybe you’ve been in Japan for a few months (or a few years) and have finally decided to emulate the people you see in the Japanese tourism posters: You’re going to wear a kimono. Perhaps you’ve also heard the rumors that putting on a kimono is.. something of an adventure. In fact, people train for years to learn the art of kimono wearing.
No pressure, right? Right!
This information is aimed primarily at those women planning to attend the kimono event for KAJET in December, but is quite similar to what you’d expect for any kimono-wearing event or festival.
Clothes: Be aware that you will be changing in a room around other women, and that your undergarments may be seen by other women. If this makes you uncomfortable, plan ahead. Most Japanese women wear undershirts like tank tops or camisoles and long underpants underneath.
Hair and make-up: The traditional style is to have it up. Most kimono places will also do hair and make-up. This service may be available at certain times at the Izumi event. If you bring an elegant hair clip and pins, this is recommended. For the Izumi event, it’s wise to do your make-up beforehand if you have a strong preference.
When you arrive, you’ll be escorted to a room with a number of kimonos available. Choose your favorite design – checking to make sure it’s not too short or too long, as it should just about hit the floor – and then choose your obi (kimono belt) to match. Often, Japanese people will encourage you to choose an obi that stands out/contrasts with the colors of the kimono. They will then ask you to choose undergarments (to be worn over your own).
Once you’ve gotten your kimono, obi, undergarments and tabi socks, you can move to the changing area. Be careful that your under-layers do not have long sleeves, as your kimono may move and reveal them. We can’t have a ruined maiko-esque shot! You’ll be directed how to wear the undergarments, and in what order.
From this point, a woman will assist you in putting on the kimono. Each layer has a specific way of being pinned/draped. As you are dressed, you can maybe assist in holding something or keeping the folds together, but your job is primarily to act as the perfect mannequin.
Once you’re done, leave your belongings in an unobtrusive place in the changing room. If you are worried about something being stolen, it’s best that you leave it in your car beforehand. Scurrying back to your car in a kimono may take longer than anticipated.
All dolled up? Now it’s time to head out on the town. The samurai town, that is. Take some pictures in the traditional Japanese garden, see the preserved samurai-era streets and residence gates, visit a preserved samurai residence and participate in a simplified traditional tea ceremony while listening to the relaxing sounds of the Japanese koto.
If you can’t make it to the Izumi event, then there are other chances around Japan to dress up in kimono, some may even include paid-for photos. Kyoto is famous for these events and is a great place to go to see original kimono dressing, song and dance performances. Just Google it or ask a JTE at your school- Don’t let this chance pass you by!