Kimonos, Cats and Cords

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wafuku – noun: traditional Japanese clothing

Welcome to my Wordpress blog in another magazine feature.
My website and I were part of a feature in the How To Spend It, the FT magazine, a few months ago, in their fashion edition.


Huge Kumihimo.
I have two of these huge kumihimo; they are enormously long, hand braided, silk cords, each with a loop at the centre and lovely tassels on the end. They are unused and the tassels are still wrapped in paper. I have no idea what they are for . I think they may have been made for a Buddhist or Shinto temple, because they very thick and long, pure silk, hand made, rather special and must have been exceedingly expensive to produce. They are really rather lovely and, when you move the cord about in your hand it has that lovely sound that silk makes, like footsteps in deep, crisp, new snow.
In that photo my daughter is holding just one of them.



Contemporary Take On Kimono.
This floaty, contemporary kimono is by Hayami Mariya.


Pretty Kimono.
Although this will fit an adult as a beautiful robe, it is actually a girls’ kimono but girls wear them with a big tuck in the shoulders and at the waist, which reduces the size of them a lot. They are always made big so tht these tucks can be inserted, so, without the tucks, they can fit adults surprisingly well. My adult daughter, whom you can see holding the kumihimo in a photo above, wears this size of kimono a lot. She especially likes them because they come in bright colours with vibrant patterns


Here she is again, wearing a kimono of same type and size. She is not a tall woman, so it is ankle length on her; on a tall woman they would be shorter.


Feline Fabulous.
Check out these great cat obis. I would love these.



You can also check out my website, providing vintage & antique Japanese kimonos & collectables.


One of my kimonos being modelled by the singer Rita Ora



Please note that any advertisements shown below my posts are put there by WordPress, not by me. I am not responsible for whatever product or service is advertised and it being there does not mean that I endorse or recommend it. 


Japan’s 20 Year Old Girls’ Seijin-No-Hi Celebration & Furisode Kimonos

wafuku – noun: traditional Japanese clothing

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Each year in Japan there is a celebration called Seijin-No-Hi (sometimes seen as seijinsiki), now usually held on the second Monday of January. No matter where you are in Japan on this date you will see many girls, dressed in their traditional kimono, out and about celebrating Seijin no hi. The celebrations are organized by the local government of their place of residence. Styles of these ceremonies are different from region to region. Many of these young women have their hair and make up done by a professional and have a photographer take a commemorative photo, just as we might when dressed for a university degree ceremony.

Seijin-no-hi is a coming of age ceremony for girls who have reached the age of 20. At this age, they are considered adult and can legally vote, smoke, drink etc. It is meant to be an auspicious event to celebrate and encourage people who realise that they have become adults and have made up their minds to live their lives independently.

In Japan, the 20 year old women dress in beautiful furisode kimonos for that day. Furisode is pronounced foo-ri-so-day, with no stress on any of the syllables. Furisode kimonos are very ornate and have exceedingly deep sleeves. The beautiful furisode is usually bought for them by their parents, at a cost of thousands of UK pounds for a silk one, plus as much again for the obi, obi accessories and such. Nowadays they sometimes just hire the outfit for the day. The Japanese have a saying that translates as, ‘have three girls and be broke’.

Girls used to be taught by their mothers how to on put their kimono and obi, which is a time consuming and difficult task, but this tradition has largely died out, so they usually now go to classes to learn how to put it all on and how to carry themselves when wearing it or have a dresser to help them on the day.

Below you can see examples of current fashions in obi knots for wear with furisodes, nagoya obis in a variety of bow knots. You may also notice the little stoles many wear around their shoulders, another popular fashion just now. The stoles are often fur fabric or, particularly popular, floaty marabou feather. Although kimonos have changed relatively little over the centuries, there are, like everywhere, fashions that come and go. This can be a style of print, a weave of silk, a way of tying an obi, a particular kimono accessory etc

Furisodes are astoundingly beautiful kimonos when on but they also make spectacular display items, either on an ikou (special kimono display stand) or on a wall, hung from a kimono hanger or bamboo rod, back view with the fronts pulled out and pinned to the wall or clipped (like in the next photo, below) to the sleeves. The furisode comes in three different sleeve lengths: oburisode(full; 105 cm), chuburisode (medium; 90 cm), and kofurisode (short; 75 cm). The ones shown here are all oburisode, the deepest sleeved furisodes.

Below are some examples of the furisode kimonos on my site. Where you may see a break in the pattern at the back, this area is hidden when on, by the waist fold and obi.

This first one has wonderful, stylised cranes and ume (plum blossom) on it


This pink one has pretty clouds floating across it, a very popular motif in Japan.


The pale yellow one below has trailing flowers and lovely, gold, kinkoma couched embroidery detailing.


The green floral one below also has gold detailing. The photo doesn’t do it justice, it is exquisite when on.


The furisode below is a pretty, soft green colour, with wonderful flower sprays in shades of pink, white, blue and green.


This next furisode kimono is a more modern one, also on my website. It has magnificent peacocks on it, with rainbow tails, and is highlighted with sparkling rhinestones


Finally, the furisode below, one of my favourites, has a dramatic design of tabane noshi and flower baskets, with pretty embroidered detail too. Tabane noshi is a decorative bundle of strips, originally narrow strips of dried abalone/mother-of-pearl bundled together in the middle; it was the ritual offering to God in Japanese Shinto religion. Tabane noshi is now also is used to refer to a bound bundle of any kind of ribbon strips. This motif is often seen in the masterpieces of furisode kimonos from the middle of the Edo era, created by various techniques. It remains a very popular motif in Japanese design.

When you think of the quantity of silk used to make these furisode, which are usually fully lined in silk too, and the fact that they are almost all hand printed and entirely hand tailored, it is hardly surprising that one will pay at least £3000 for the kimono alone.


More Vintage Kimonos & More Post Office Annoyance

wafuku – noun: traditional Japanese clothing

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More Kimonosoidered Furisode Kimono

butterfly furisode kimono

The kimono above is a lovely, silk furisode kimono. Furisode (pronounced foori-so-day) means ‘swinging sleeves’ and this style of kimono has extra deep sleeves and is worn by young, unmarried women, from about the age of 20. Once married, they replace it with a houmongi kimono, which has much less deep sleeves. This one has the most fabulous embroidery on it; great big butterflies. The lining is foxed, that is, it has yellowish brown spots on it, a characteristic sometimes seen on vintage silks, especially the ones used for linings. It doesn’t weaken the fabric, it just discolours it and that doesn’t show when it is worn. The photos don’t really do that furisode justice, it is much nicer up close. My daughter’s scarlet hair goes well with so many of the kimonos.

I’m most annoyed with the UK Post Office. A parcel sent to Germany went missing (I since insist on sending overseas mail as insured, registered mail), so I put in a claim for lost mail, even though I will get £34 back at most, when the contents’ value was £120. The other day I got a letter from the Post Office, asking for my original receipt for the contents, saying I had 5 days to reply or they would consider the matter closed. What annoys me about that is that it took them 7 WEEKS to send that reply to me. I told them, in my reply, exactly what I thought about that!

Now I’m going to take a 30 minute nap, having got little sleep last night, then it’s time to make lunch, after which I will pay another customs’ import tax bill for kimonos I’ve bought from Japan.


Obis Galore – – Vintage Japanese Kimonos etc.

wafuku – noun: traditional Japanese clothing

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Obis Galore

oil painted purple silk obi

The obi above is a purple silk, two part nagoya obi, with a hand painted oil painting of glorious flowers. The large white stitching around the edges is just to keep them neat during storage, they just get pulled out before use.

The obi below has a lovely example of a stylised peacock and sensu (folding fan) shapes, woven in iridescent and metallic, urushi (lacquer coated) thread. The peacock’s feathers shimmer with metallic colours.

peacock nagoya obi

The photos show the rear section of the obis; this shape is known as a taiko. Contrary to what many believe, this shape ‘knot’ is not named after the little taiko hand drums, it is named after the Taiko bridge where this shape of knot was first worn on the opening of the bridge. It was worn by a few geisha and quickly caught on and became fashionable. Although called a knot, it is not actually tied into this shape; The obi sash section is tied and the knot section is folded into this shape and held in place using an obiage and an obijime. The taiko is padded out at the top with a bustle pad called a makura. You can see a nagoya obi being tied into this shape in the video instruction in one of my earlier posts on this blog.

Below is a maru obi.  Maru obis tend to be extra expensive because they have pattern along their entire length and on both sides. Fukuro and nagoya obis usually have pattern on only one side and often only on the parts that show; the section of the sash that doesn’t show may be plain.

maru obi

The next picture shows a reversible, man’s kaku obi and, the picture below that shows a heko obi. Kaku obis are formal wear for indoors and outdoors and a heko, soft obi (also known as a house obi) may used for informal wear at home. The kaku obi has one pattern in the weave on one side and a different one on the other. A kaku obi is wound round the waist and tied at the rear in a clam knot, the heko obi can be tied at the rear in a simple, floppy bow.

kaku obi

Below is a man’s, silk heko obi

heko obi

Obis are exceedingly long, as they are wound round the body more than once, and a woman’s one in particular requires a lot of length for the rear knot too. For example, the heko obi above is 303cm long, 70cm wide and is about half a kilo of silk. A women’s obi is usually much heavier and can cost as much or more than the kimono it is worn with. The obi is always bought separately from the kimono. Think of it like a skirt and blouse, you can’t wear either just on its own; you buy them separately and mix and match.

heko obi

The picture above shows Maiko’s obis, called darari obis. Maiko wear their obis with the ends hanging down at the back and their geisha house’s mon (crest) on the end. Even used, damaged darari obis are incredibly expensive and I have not yet been able to afford one.

Geisha (nowadays called geiko) are hostesses, they are not prostitutes; long ago obis were tied at the front but, when they became deeper and the knots became bulkier, they were worn tied at the back instead and have remained so ever since but the way to tell a prostitute from a geisha used to be that a prostitute continued to wear her obi tied at the front, which made it easier to remove and put back on.

Mon and Kamon – Japanese Crests – Japanese Kimonos

wafuku – noun: traditional Japanese clothing

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Japanese Mon & Kamon

Mon means crest and kamon means family crest. The origin of the Japanese family mon goes back to the eleventh century. Each of the high ranking officers of the day began using a specific textile designs on their most formal wear, to be worn at the Imperial Court by all courtiers. Then they started having them on their carriages as well. The designs steadily became more refined and elegant. These emblems later became the formal mon (crests) we know now and were always put on formal garments.

When the Heian period ended and the samurai warrior class took over the government, at the end of the twelfth century, the warriors used their own emblems on their banners, flags, weapons and hanging screens to identify their camps and headquarters in the time of war. The warriors, who recognized that they were less cultured than the nobles, copied with admiration what the courtiers did

When the roll of fabric is dyed for a kimono that will have mon on it, discs of fabric are masked with rice paste, to be left undyed and white, the mon design (chosen by the person having the kimono made) is then stencilled onto the white disc. There is always a seam at the centre back of the kimono, so the roll of kimono fabric has half circles left in the correct place at the edges so that, when sewn together, it forms a disc for the mon at the centre back. Kimono fabric is produced in rolls (bolts) and every roll for a man’s kimono is exactly the same size, every roll of women’s kimono silk is the same size (and longer than for a man’s one), every roll of haori silk is the same size etc., so any pattern or mon disc on the garment is printed or masked out on the roll at exactly the right place for when it is cut out. This is why these garments vary very little in size; any slight variation in size is due only to the amount of seam allowance when sewn. They have no darts or other shaping of any kind, everything is rectangular.

A mon makes a garment a formal one, suitable for formal occasions. It can have one, three or five mon; the more mon it has, the more formal the occasion it is deemed suitable for. Garments with mon are divded into three types: itsutsu mon (5 mon), mitsu mon (3 mon) and hitotsu mon (1 mon).

There are different styles of mon too. In the picture below, showing three variations of icho (ginko) mon, you can see three versions of a the mon: hinata – full sun (left), kage – shadow (middle), and nakakage – mid shadow (right). The more subtle versions are for slightly less formal occasions. There are also embroidered mon, called nui mon.

A family may choose a mon that is associated with their family (a family mon is called a kamon) or just opt for one they like instead. They are seen on all sorts of items in Japan: clothing, signs, boxes, ceramics, banners etc.

Women are not obliged to adopt their husbands’ family mon, they may wear their maiden mons, called onna mon. Below you can see mon on two silk, women’s tomesode kimonos; one kimono with an oil painting of mountains and one with an embroidered winter scene.

There are hundreds symbols used in mon and many variations of each. Some popular emblems are sasa (bamboo) leaves, yotsume (4 eyes, a mon of four diamond shapes), tsuta (ivy), kiri (paulownia), tachibana (citrus/mandarin), ageha (butterfly), ume (plum blossom), katabami (wood sorrel/oxalis/clover), mokku (gourd), papaya slice, hanabishi (diamond flower), sensu (folding fans), tsuru (cranes), fuji (wisteria) and myouga (Japanese ginger).

Over the centuries many new mon emblems have been developed and many variations designed of old ones

The most frequently seen (by me, at least, and I have seen thousands of kimonos) are ivy, plum blossom, ginger, butterfly and, especially, paulownia. You can see a paulownia mon on pink in a photo above and, below, some information about paulownia in Japanese mythology.

The mon in the picture below is an interesting one; it is a Japanese mafia mon, worn at induction ceremonies.


Kiri (paulownia): A deciduous tree, native to eastern Asia. In Japanese myths it is said to have the only branches phoenix will land on. It is very popular in traditional Japanese art, particularly textile art where it is often seen on beautiful women’s kimonos and a very popular mon (crest) motif. It is also the flower symbol of is the Office of the Prime Minister of Japan. Paulownia is also known as foxglove tree and princess tree.

An exquisite, antique, itsutsu mon tomesode kimono, with hand applied textile art showing treasure ship festival floats and busy people


A hitotsu mon

My Irregular Choice Boots with Geisha

wafuku – noun: traditional Japanese clothing

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With my love of wafuku (Japanese traditional clothing) and my weakness for Irregular Choice shoes, it was inevitable that I bought myself these Irregular Choice geisha image boots. I also have the geisha image shoes, in brown, though I don’t have photos of those right now. If I take some, I’ll add them here too.

As you can see below, they have very weird heels. I really love the quirkiness of Irregular Choice shoes and own many, many pairs, but I have to admit, they are rarely comfortable. These boots, however, are actually fairly comfortable to wear and easy to walk in, thankfully… well, compared to much of their footwear

Below is a close up of the geisha printed on the front of each boot. In the white areas, such as her face, the camera’s flash obscured a little of the detail, but you get a pretty good idea of how it looks.

Men’s Japanese Kimono Outfit

wafuku – noun: traditional Japanese clothing

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The full, formal, men’s wafuku outfit can be seen below. The full length kimono is worn tucked inside the hakama. Over the top, he wears a haori kimono jacket. Haori are fastened with a haori himo, which is hooked onto the inner edges of the haori. Men’s himo should not be untied, as they are very complex to re-tie, one simply unhooks the himo at one side to open the jacket. A himo is not essential for more casual wear of a haori kimono jacket. Himo are bought separately and moved from one haori to another. The white one in the picture is a very formal himo; for more casual wear, one would wear a smaller, simpler one, usually of a more muted colour.

One of the main differences between men’s and women’s kimonos is the sleeves. The sleeves of women’s are unattached from the body for over half their depth and are open at the inner edge, not sewn closed, whereas men’s kimono sleeves are attached either all the way down or with just an inch or so unattached at the body edge. Women’s sleeves have to be free from the body for a greater depth because they wear such a deep obi and the sleeve must not get in the way of it, so the sleeve hangs free of the body for much of its depth. Men’s obis are relatively narrow, so the deep sleeves can be attached much further down the body.

Another notable difference between men’s and women’s kimonos is the length; women’s kimonos are extra long, as they are worn with a large, length adjusting fold-over at the waist, held in place with a koshi himo tie, whereas men’s kimonos are worn without the length adjusting fold at the waist.

Setta sandals have thong toes and are worn with tabi socks.

Men’s kimonos are not always worn with hakama and haori, the picture above shows the full outfit for formal occasions. The kimono, worn underneath the hakama and haori, is held closed with a kaku obi, which is also used to help keep the hakama up.

Mens’ kimonos are usually very subdued in pattern and colour, although their under kimonos (jubans) and haori linings are often striking but the outerwear kimonos are usually muted in colour and design. The reason men no longer wear very brightly coloured and very decoratively patterned outer kimonos is that, way back, rich merchants started wearing extremely ornate, expensive kimonos, often more expensive and fancy than nobles or those of the samurai class could afford, so a law was passed stating that only nobles and samurai class could wear fancy outer kimonos, all other men had to wear only muted ones (unless worn for theatrical purposes such as dance performance or weddings etc). They took to putting wonderful textile art on their juban underwear kimonos and on haori kimono jacket linings, which became known as hidden beauty, since it didn’t show on the outside, and the merchant classes and commoners started to feel superior about that, it seemed more classy than the ostentatious garments of garish, vivid colours and numerous fancy brocades that the nobles and samurai class continued to wear.

Here’s a link to How to put on a man’s haori and attach and tie a man’s haori himo. Women’s himo are tied differently, you can see how to tie a woman’s haori himo here

Video part 1 – How To Put On A Nagoya Obi – Vintage Japanese Kimonos

wafuku – noun: traditional Japanese clothing

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A lesson in how to put on a nagoya obi, with a taiko ‘knot’ at the rear. Nagoya obi have the sash section already folded in half and the rear knot section at full width. The video is in two parts.

The woman in the video is wearing her kimono with the fold-over tied at the waist, to adjust length, and has, round her waist, a koshi himo (soft tie) under a (pink) date-jime obi around her waist. She also wears an obi ita (stiffening board) under her obi. Her (white) obi ita has an elastic strap round the back, most obi ita have no strap and are just held in place by the obi. She puts the nagoya obi on top of all those.

You can also get pre-shaped, two part nagoya obi, which do away with all the time consuming, complicated tying, but look the same once on.

The makura (pillow) she mentions is an obi bustle pad, which pads out the top of the rear knot and is hidden inside the knot, covered by an obiage. The obiage is a scarf-like tie that goes around the top of the obi sash and is tied at the front, then partially tucked under the sash. Around the middle of the sash, to help hold the obi in place, is a cord called an obijime, also tied at the front.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “untitled“, posted with vodpod

Samurai Doll, Odori Kimono & Origami Cranes

wafuku – noun: traditional Japanese clothing

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Below you see an antique, Japanese, samurai doll head. This beautifully crafted head has a gofun face; gofun is made from powdered oyster shells and has a finish very like porcelain. Nowadays, plastics are used instead. The face is hand painted, the eyes are glass and his purple band is silk. This head was intended to make into a doll but the rest of the doll was never made



Orizuru: Origami crane. Throughout history, birds have been viewed as animals of special value and have been endowed with meanings often drawn from legends and stories that have endured over many generations. For the Japanese, the crane (tsuru) is considered a national treasure, appearing in art, literature and folklore. The Japanese regard the crane as a symbol of good fortune and longevity because of its fabled life span of a thousand years. It also represents fidelity, as Japanese cranes are known to mate for life. Over time, the crane has also evolved as a favorite subject of the Japanese tradition of origami.

Shortly after the end of World War II, the folded origami cranes came to symbolize a hope for peace through Sadako Sasaki and her story of perseverance. Diagnosed with leukemia after being exposed to radiation after the bombing of Hiroshima, Sadako became determined to reach a goal of folding 1,000 cranes in hopes of being rewarded with health, happiness, and a world of eternal peace. Although she died before reaching her goal, the tradition of sending origami cranes to the Hiroshima memorial has endured, as a symbol of the wish for nuclear disarmament and world peace. Today this tradition of folding 1,000 cranes represents a form of healing and hope during challenging times.

Maiko being dressed

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A Maiko (apprentice geisha/geiko) being dressed in her kimono and obi. Note the large tuck stitched into the outside of the deep kimono sleeve and the shoulders (to suggest a child, whose kimonos often have the size reduced that way) and the high soled geta she wears, both syles denoting a maiko