Cabinets, Kimonos and Celebrating the Topknot

wafuku blog aug 12 logo A

wafuku – noun: traditional Japanese clothing

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Magnificent, kimono shaped cabinets by the Californian artist, John Cederquist. His work is influenced by advertising, Japanese woodblocks and American cinema and animation. He creates vivid images using wood, wood inlay, stains and epoxy resin. These kimono shaped cabinets are from 2005. I covet them all.

Bluto's diner

Bluto’s Diner

Big Fish

Big Fish

Heavenly Victory

Heavenly Victory

Double Fuji

Double Fuji

Forrest Grows The Flying Fish

Forest Grows The Flying Fish

Kosode That Built Itself

Kosode That Built Itself

Mr Chips

Mr Chips





Bluto's diner openc

Bluto’s Diner Partially Opened

kimono cabinet open1

Bluto’s Diner Fully Opened


Downton Abbey fans may have noticed that Lady Mary, in the UK television series, Downton Abbey, wears a lovely kimono as a robe. Whenever a show portrays the 1900s to 1930s, you tend to see a kimono being worn if a scene is called for with a woman wearing a robe.

I’m afraid my screenshots are rather fuzzy but they are the best I could capture.




Another UK television show, Mapp & Lucia, based on the novels by E. F. Benson, has Lucia wearing a lovely kimono (see below). My screen grabs of it are even worse than the Downton Abbey one, as the scene with Lucia wearing it was in a room with low light, but you can see clearly enough that it is a little black beauty of a kimono. It is a lovely, old furisode kimono. Furisode are the ones with the ultra deep sleeves, a style worn in Japan by young, unmarried women on special occasions, such as to their graduation or to a wedding. Lucia’s is a lovely example of one from that era; it will have been very expensive, both when new and now.


ml4 ml1 ml2



Here is a handy little guide to kimono types and where they may be worn

kimono types - when to wear


Shimada Mage is a Japanese Festival held in Shimada city around 19 September each year. It celebrates the topknot (chignon) hairstyle.

There are different theories about the origins of the Shimada Mage hair style: some say it was created by prostitutes working in the Shimada-juku inn district on the old Tokaido route to Edo, some suggest that it is the style used by the Kabuki actor Shimada Mankichi (1624-1643), others think that is the Japanese word Shimeta, in the sense of tied-up hair, became “Shimada” and others think that Tora Gozen, a native of Shimada, devised the style herself. Tora Gozen was a prostitute said to have been on good terms with Soga Juro Sukenari, the elder of the two brothers in the famous tale of Soga.
She is also depicted in Kabuki theater as Oiso no Tora, a key character in works such as Kotobuki no Taimen. In front of the Yakushiji Hall, in the grounds of Uda-ji temple in the Noda district of Shimada City, is a stone memorial known locally as “the grave of Tora Gozen”.

Shimada Mage is the most popular traditional Japanese hair style. It has been worn since the 13th century, but like the other Japanese hair styles, it developed mainly during the 18th century, as part of a wider blossoming of Japanese traditional culture.

Most of the information above is from the Shizuoka Gourmet website, where you will find more pictures and more information about this festival.

topknot kids

I wish I knew what the writing on their kimonos says.


Above photo from Shizuoka Gourmet


Traditional Japanese Wigs. A lovely, Japanese lady, whom I know on G+, attended a Japanese wig event, where she watched wigs being styled by a professional. In Japan, brides who wear traditional, Japanese wedding kimonos wear wigs to complete the look. Here are pictures of wigs created by the artisan at that event.


Wax is combed through the hair, then it is tied and twisted into ornate designs.


There are many variations of the style.


Wigs are also worn by geisha (geisha are also called geiko in some areas). The trainee geisha, called maiko, who have very ornate hairstyles lavishly decorated with flowers and pins, don’t wear wigs but have their own hair styled and therefore have to sleep with their necks resting on uncomfortable little blocks, called takamakura (high pillow), so that their hair touches nothing as they sleep. When they paint their faces white, they leave a centimetre or so of skin pink and unpainted around the hairline. The two reasons are that it keeps the makeup and facial wax out of their hair and it reminds people looking at them that there is a real person hiding behind the doll like mask of makeup. Once the maiko graduates into a fully fledged geisha, she cuts her long hair and has wigs made instead. A geisha therefore wears her makeup over her entire face, under the edge of the wig, with no flesh colour showing around the edge, apart from the eri-ashi, which is the unpainted pattern of peaks or curves at the back of the neck. She usually has a widow’s peak at the front. A geisha can also sleep more comfortably because she just takes off her wig and sleeps with her head on a standard pillow, with no neck block required to raise the hair from being disturbed. She no longer has to go through the weekly, agonizing ordeal of having her hair restyled, she just gets her wigs regularly maintained instead.
Some geisha have a bald spot on the top of their scalps due to how tightly their own hair was pulled and tied when they had, as maiko, to keep their own hair styled. The constant tight pulling on the scalp gradually damages the follicles until, at that tightest spot on top, the hair ceases to grow. They tend to be rather proud and fond of this bald spot, as it marks their suffering for their art. Not all geisha have been maiko first, one has to be young to become a maiko, One might be a maiko for about 4 years but it depends when one starts. If older, the apprenticeship has to be shorter, if not young enough, one has to become a geisha without can become a geisha but not a maiko. Not surprisingly, it carries extra prestige for a geisha to have been a maiko first.

geiko geisha wig

Geisha in wigs


Maiko Satoryu (left) and maiko Umesaya (right), by Michael Chandler on Flickr


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. 

Left Over Right – Florence Welch Gets It Wrong – Celebrities in Kimonos

wafuku – noun: traditional Japanese clothing

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Left Over Right

I notice that Florence Welch, of Florence and the Machine, wears a furisode kimono in her Dog Days video. What really puzzles me is that she wears it with the fronts the wrong way round; she has the right front over the left one, whereas kimonos are worn left over right. Even if she didn’t know the left over right rule, it is very obvious with her kimono, as you can see from the third picture of her below, because the left side of the front has the deep, fancy pattern on it and the right front has only the smaller, simpler, bottom end of the design, so she has the nicest, most striking part of the front pattern hidden under the right side’s front. It would also look so much nicer with a sash that was about 3 inches deep and firm enough not to gather up, like a wide belt or something, worn with the buckle at the back.

Florence and the Machine

Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine

Here in the West, women wear their clothing fronts right over left and men wear them left over right but in Japan both genders wear their traditional clothing with the left front over the right. Well, that is unless they are dead, because, in Japan, only a corpse wears the kimono fronts right over left. It is not just people from outside Japan who get it wrong; nowadays most Japanese people do not wear wafuku (traditional Japanese clothing), so they don’t tend to know the rules involved in wearing it. It is not altogether unusual for a Japanese person who is wearing a kimono for the first time, perhaps a yukata one at a summer festival, to wear the fronts the wrong way round and it is also not unusual for an older, more informed Japanese person to rush over to them and try to switch their kimono fronts around, horrified that the young kimono novice is dressed as a corpse. Yukata kimonos usually have an all-over repeat pattern, so the pattern doesn’t make it obvious that the left front should be on top.

With a tomesode, houmongi, tsukesage or furisode style kimono it is usually obvious which front should be on the outside, because the pattern on the left front will be much more decorative but on a kimono with an all-over repeat pattern, such as a komon style kimono and most yukata kimonos, it is not obvious, which is why kimono novices get it wrong, especially if they are used to western world style women’s clothes being worn the opposite way. However, on the kimono Florence Welch is wearing in her video, it is very obvious which front should be on the outside but she still got it wrong.

Florence Welch

My daughter, who thinks she knows nothing about kimonos, has clearly picked up a fair amount of kimono knowledge from me over the years, mostly while modelling kimonos for me, because it was her who saw the video, spotted Florence was wearing a kimono and noticed, to her chagrin, that she had the fronts the wrong way round.

In saying that, way, way back when my daughter bought her first Japanese kimono, the one that made me want one and started me collecting, we didn’t know the left over right rule either and it was not obvious because that kimono had an all-over repeat pattern, so we do have photos of her wearing that first kimono with the fronts the wrong way round. Had it been one like Florence’s, though, I’m sure we would have realised which front went outside simply by looking at the pattern, so we can’t work out why Florence didn’t realise it.

We westerners seem to find it so hard to overcome our tradition of right front over left front for all women’s clothing, even when the pattern on the kimono makes it obvious the left front should to be on top. I even, however, saw some full sized paper kimonos, made and displayed by a Japanese artist, with the woman’s kimono fronts correctly placed but he had the man’s kimono fronts incorrectly right over left. It’s only here in the West that all women’s clothes are worn right over left, not the case with Japanese kimonos, regardless of whether one is male or female (unless it is a corpse, then it’s right over left). Here in the West, only men’s clothes are left over right. I understand western women’s clothes are right over left due to the fact that women of fashion in the past used to have maids to dress them and right over left was easier for the maid facing the wearer but I don’t know for certain if that is true.


Everybody Loves A Kimono

It seems everyone loves a Japanese kimono. Below you can see a photo of Dita Von Teese dressed up as a maiko (apprentice geisha). It’s a pity she is not wearing okobo geta, like those shown further down this page. When Dita Von Teese visits Japan she always gets a new set of photos taken of herself in a kimono. It takes them about an hour to get her dressed up, in preparagtion for the photos. Dita advises that every woman visiting Japan should do this too.  If you are not likely to be in Japan, you can always treat yourself to a genuine, Japanese kimono from my website. Below Dita you can see Sarah Jessica Parker, in Sex In The City, wearing a floral kimono to a party, Kate Winslet in Mildred Pierce, Vanessa Williams, playing Wilhelmina Slater in Ugly Betty, Drea de Matteo in Desperate Housewives, wearing a pretty orange kimono, which I think is actually a girl’s one, rather than a woman’s one, and she has the fronts, like Florence, the wrong way round with the right one over the left instead of left over right. Janet Jackson,  Madonna, Jessica Alba, Reese Witherspoon and a few others and, of course, my daughter in the kimono that started my obsession with them. Since kimonos, when worn the traditional way, are worn with a big fold-over at the waist and, with children’s, big tucks at the shoulders, the children’s ones are actually quite big when the tucks are taken out and the waist isn’t folded up, so they can have a nice fit on an adult, as you see on Billie Piper.

Dita Von Teese dressed as a Maiko


Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex In The City


Rita Ora Models a Wafuku kimono.
The May 2014 edition of Elle Magazine (UK) features the singer, Rita Ora, whom you can see modelling one of the silk kimonos from my website.


Rita Ora in a kimono from kimono


Above, on Rita Ora.


The same kimono (not on Rita).


Kate Winslet in Mildred Pierce

wearing a shortened, soft silk, antique kimono, in lovely muted colours


Vanessa Williams, playing Wilhelmina Slater in Ugly Betty

wearing an embroidered furisode kimono


Drea de Matteo in Desperate Housewives

she too has the fronts the wrong way round


Bowie yukata

David Bowie

wearing a casual, cotton yukata kimono.


Billy Piper

in what is actually a little girl’s kimono


Janet Jackson


Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink,

wearing a pink, antique kimono, with another kimono hanging on her door in the film


Hope Davis in The Matador

wearing a komon kimono open over black trousers & top



even she has the fronts the wrong way round


Jessica Simpson


Justin Lee Collins in a really nice men’s kimono and hakama


Shirley MacLaine

wearing a hoari kimono jacket over her kimono in the first photo


Jessica Alba as Sue Storm of the Fantastic 4

in a white kimono, as the bride at a Shinto style, Japanese wedding


Miranda Clarke in the tv series Firefly

wearing an antique Japanese kimono over her dress


Also from the tv series Firefly

The heavily pregnant character in this episode is wearing a red, Japanese michiyuki. Michiyukis often have covered buttons down the front but they actually fasten with press studs. This girl has hers only fastened at the top, with the front pulled slightly open because she has the large, pregnant bump that they want to emphasise in these scenes. They don’t normally lie open when worn.


Reese Witherspoon


John Wayne

in The Barbarian & the Geisha






Freddie Mercury

from the band, Queen.



Gene Simmons of Kiss

wearing what is actually a women’s kimono.


beat chain

The Beatles wearing  Japanese happi (festival jackets),
provided by Japan Airlines to first class passengers.

The chainlink pattern on their happi is one of the komochi-Yoshiwara patterns, this one being “Yoshiwara-tsunagi” a single link wide chain. There was a guide to entertainment at Yoshiwara, at Tebiki-Chaya, at the entrance to the Yoshiwara.
Komochi-Yoshiwara was used as the pattern on the noren of “Tebioki chaya”, the guide teahouse. At the time, Yoshiwara wass representative of stylish play for rich men. The chain represented the hold such pleasure had in keeping them in Yoshiwara and the suffering of the women bound to stay there. It has remained a popular motif on happi and summer yukatas.


My daughter



Uchikake Kimono

That one now belongs to London’s Grange Park Opera for a production of Madame Butterfly, photo below of Cio Cio, in Madame Butterfly, wearing it.


Too Small is Iki

I was talking to someone recently about Japanese geta and zori. The facts that they are rather narrow, that the toe post is in the middle and not offset to one side like western world flip flops and that they all tend to be quite small in length and don’t seem to vary an awful lot in size were mentioned. The narrow soles and the fact that the toe post is central means one side of the foot overhangs the side of the sole. The Japanese also allow their feet to overhang the back of the sole, with both geta and zori, they don’t consider that to look too small, they consider it iki (quietly stylish) but to the western world eye it looks slightly odd. We in the West expect the entire foot to sit within the edges of the shoe’s sole and not to overhang it at the sides and back. Below you can see a diagram of how they should be worn and why they are worn that way.

How the Japanese wear geta

In the photo below, you can see an example of what I mean.

maiko geta

It shows the foot of a maiko (apprentice geisha) in her high geta, called okobo, with the side of her foot up by the toes hanging slightly over the side and the heel hanging over the back. If the foot does not overhang the back of the sole, that is also considered fine but you can see that an overhang is considered acceptable with traditional Japanese footwear. The person I was talking to about this wanted a pair of my zori for a photo shoot but thought they were no use because all were a little too short in length for the model but, on learning that the Japanese often wear them with heels overhanging, selected a pair for the photo shoot after all.

I have an entire blog post all about Japanese traditional footwear here


Traditional Japanese Footwear

wafuku – noun: traditional Japanese clothing

Welcome to my WordPress blog


Traditional Japanese Footwear

Traditional Japanese footwear tends to have thong toes, like modern day flip-flops. The thong part is called the hanao and can usually be replaced if it is damaged or a change is wanted. The thong between the toe is believed to press on acupressure points, aiding the body.

This kind of footwear could be easily made using nothing more than woven and twisted reeds, the woven reeds providing a sole, the twisted reed providing the string for the hanao or to simply tie the sole onto the foot. While wafuku (traditional Japanese clothing) can be very complicated and time consuming to put on, the fastening of it is done with just simple ties, although the different and very specific knots used for each tie can be somewhat complex. This simplicity meant almost anyone could make themselves simple footwear. You can see a pair of tatami, waraji sandals below.

Waraji tatami sandals
waraji, straw footwear

The traditional footwear worn with kimonos is, for women, geta or zori. The spelling of zori varies a lot, you may see it as zouri or zoori.
Geta are wooden soled shoes, with solid platforms or with little stilts, called ha (teeth), on the bottom of the soles; they can be found with one, two or three teeth, the most usual being two. Paulownia wood is popular for geta. They are still worn nowadays and tend not to be too terribly high now, though, in the past their height was often much greater. The design of geta is a practical one; they keep the wearer’s expensive kimono from touching the ground and becoming dirty or damaged. Very high toothed geta were used in winter to keep the kimono off the snow.

The wooden bases are sometimes ornately decorated. The images below show you a very plain vintage pair, a vintage pair of lacquered wood geta, an antique pair and a pair of ama geta, with toe covers, to keep the toes dry in rain.

Plain wood geta

Lacquered wood geta

Antique geta

Ama geta, with removable toe covers, for rainwear

Snow geta – the wooden teeth on the sole raise the kimono off the snow and the spikes give grip, like crampons.

Koi Antique Geta

Geta based beauties by Kenzo

Children’s Ashiato (footprints) Geta

The prints are cat, tyrannosaurus, gecko, monkey and owl.

Names of geta types

Oiran’s Koma geta. Also known as mitsu-ashi (three legs)

Oiran were high-ranking courtesans and prostitutes of the feudal period, considered a type of yujo (woman of pleasure), and they wore this tall, lacquered footwear called koma-geta (or mitsu-ashi – three legs). Unlike geisha and maiko, who only entertain by conversation, singing, musicianship and dancing, oiran were the hierarchy of prostitutes and courtesans in the pleasure quarters in Japan, of whom tayuu were the highest ranking oiran and considered suitable for the daimyo, who were the powerful territorial lords. Only the very wealthiest and highest ranking daimyo could ever hope to patronise tayuu.
Whereas geisha and maiko wear tabi socks, the oiran preferred not to do so, even in winter, and their toes could be seen poking out, under many layers of kimono, while wearing these tall geta. These ultra tall (about 25.5cm), three toothed geta helped differentiate oiran from geisha and maiko. Oiran became highly ritualised in many ways and, ultimately, the culture of the tayu grew increasingly rarefied and remote from everyday life and their clients dwindled. The last recorded oiran was in 1761. Their art and fashions often set trends among the wealthy and, because of this, cultural aspects of oiran traditions continue to be preserved to this day. The few remaining women still currently practicing the arts of the oiran (now without the sexual aspect) do so as a preservation of cultural heritage rather than as a profession or lifestyle.

Maiko okobo

Maiko (apprentice geisha) wear specific geta called okobo pokkuri; as you can see above. These geta increase the maiko’s height and ensure she walks in small, delicate steps, as everyone in a kimono is meant to, not in long strides. As soon as one is dressed in a kimono, obi and geta or zori, one almost automatically walks in little steps.
These geta are sometimes called pokkuri or koppori; both words are onomatopoeia, that is they represent the sound of walking in them.
Pokkuri and Koppori are usually very ornate and worn by young girls on shichi-go-san (7-5-3) which is a celebration at ages 7, 5, and 3. Maiko’s okobo, however, are generally quite plain, made of unfinished wood. The colour of the straps indicates the rank or experience of the maiko, starting off with red hanao and ending their maiko days with yellow, shortly before becoming full Geisha. Geisha don’t wear okobo, they wear either standard geta or zori. Maiko footwear is exceedingly expensive and somewhat hard to find.

Senryou geta

Generally most Japanese people call this style of geta, with the slant-cut front on the underside, senryou-geta. The reason they are called this is that in the 37th year of Meiji (1904) the Russo-Japanese War started and was won by Japan. The Japanese Army then began to occupy many countries on the continent of Asia. In those days, this style of geta, with the slant-cut front on the underside, was very popular in Tokyo. Someone named this style of geta, Senryou, or Senryou-geta because of the patriotic feeling of that time. One meaning of the word Senryou is “occupation”. This meaning was depicted by one particular kanji (Japanese text symbol) but many people felt that this use was very harsh and direct and that it showed an attitude that was not welcome, so, in order to keep the word but soften it, a different kanji began to be used. This different kanji had the same sound “Senryou” but its roots were very different. This new kanji became a lucky word and is still used today. Now the word Senryou means sen = 1000 and ryou = a currency unit from the Tokugawa Period (1603-1867).  This high amount of money was considered large and lucky, so senryou-geta started out as meaning “occupation geta”, then, while it kept the same name, the meaning changed to that of being a “very lucky geta” or “great geta”.

Menkoi geta (cute geta)

Round backed heel geta with the slant-cut front on the underside. Many years ago during a time in Japan when foreign shoe styles were becoming popular, Mr. Kunitaro was anxious about the future of the Japanese traditional shoe, geta. He made many different styles of geta from his own ideas and his own work. One such geta he displayed in his shop’s window and it became very popular with customers. They said it was a very cute and pretty style. That style was named “menkoi-geta”. The word “menkoi” is part of the dialect of Northern Honshu and means the same as “kawaii” which is Japanese for “cute” or “pretty”. Your children would enjoy these geta. They have been worn by Japanese people since old times. Mr. Kunitaro Yoshida, the originator of the menkoi-geta, owned the Geta Shop called “Yoshikuni’s” in Iwate. Yoshikuni is the predecessor of the present Akai-hanao-no-jojo.

Tenga geta

Tenga geta are one tooth geta. The tooth is replaced when it wears down. Also referred to as ipponba (one tooth) geta. The single tooth is usually around 5 inches high


Ashida geta have two teeth, the height of which can be short or tall. The most common ashida geta are only about two inches high. These are good for everyday wear in fair weather or light rain but, in the rainy season, puddles on the unpaved edo era streets were often deep, so deeper puddles called for higher geta, and the geta-makers (and their geta), rose to the challenge. They made geta with tall teeth; gakusei ashida geta,  and ones with tall thin teeth, called takai geta (sometimes takageta), as the thin teeth keep splashing to a minimum. The tall ones are also sometimes called sushi geta because they are reported to be worn by sushi makers in restaurants where the arrangement of a sushi bar requires some height and the scraps of raw fish tossed onto the floor instil a desire to not get too close to the ground.


Gakusei-ashida means ‘high geta for students’ and they have thick, high teeth. These are also popular with Bankara students and high school male cheerleaders. Bankara students wear an all black school uniform full of patches and gakusei geta. This is traditional Japanese student-style. They have a lot of guts and stick to their principles.

Bankara students

Onna-kuronuri-hutatuba geta

Onna-kuronuri-hutatuba geta means ‘ladies’ two teeth black geta’.

Pokkuri geta

Pokkuri are worn by little girls and by maiko. They are also called okobo. See the maiko okobo section below for more information.

Itaura geta

The insole is rice straw matting. These geta looks a little like  centipedes. The Japanese seldom wear these geta. Usually they are were worn at an ironworks or in a ship’s engine room to protect feet from iron scraps or engine oil.

High heeled geta

Geta do not usually have a right or left foot, the toe post is in the centre and the outer side of the foot slightly overhangs the sole. Recently, however, a popular Japanese women’s geta design has the toe hole not in the middle but offset, so that the geta have a definite left and right foot. These are influenced by modern shoes. These geta’s characteristics are narrower for women and made with a clear foot shape. The traditional geta are very square but these new geta are more fashionable.

Geta reeno

Another high heeled geta but less extreme than the ones above.

Ukon geta

Ukon geta are women’s geta and are easier to wear than those with the high teeth. They can also be purchased with much squarer toes than those shown above, The ones in the picture are geta_ukon_kuro_onna, meaning, ukon geta in black (kuro) for women (onna).

Ukon Shiraki

In the picture above, you can see men’s ukon geta. Usually worn with casual yukata kimonos.

Geta parts

How to wear geta


Most women wear zori with kimono. Zori are thong toed, usually wedge soled, though sometimes flat shoes. You soetimes see zori spelled zoori or zouri. The thong toe on Japanese footwear is always attached at the front centre of the sole and worn with the big toe to one side and the rest of the toes to the other. Western world flip-flops usually have the thong toe offset to one side, to allow the sole of the foot to lie centrally on the shoe sole but not so with Japanese ones (although the offset toe post is actually now just beginning to creep into a few contemporary designs of zori but, generally, the central post remains standard). Because the thong is central, the outer side of the foot often overhangs the side of the sole a little, as can be seen in the photos with maiko okobo, above, and the pair of black zori at the top of this blog entry. The heel often overhangs the back of the sole a little too.

The images below show pairs of zori: one silk brocade covered pair, with matching clutch bag, one with beaded soles and thongs (hanao) and one pair of rain zori, designed to keep the feet dry. The black shoes shown at the top of this footwear blog post show zori worn with tabi socks.

Brocade covered zori, with matching clutch bag

Beaded zori

Shigure zori
Covered toe zori are called shigure and are worn on cold or rainy days

Girls’ bunny zori
How cute are these?

Irregular Choice Zori
They tie at the ankles, with pompoms on the ties. That’s my daughter in the photos

It’s hard to make out in the photo below but those Irregular Choice zori have
a geisha holding a bangasa (Japanese parasol) on the bottom of each sole

Men’s Footwear

Men wear wooden geta, waraji and setta sandals, like the tatami waraji shown at the top of this blog post, or the footwear shown below. The white setta below are actually Buddhist monk’s sandals.

Men’s geta
Men's wooden geta shoes

Setta sandals

Ryu (dragon) and shogi (Japanese chess pieces) pattern men’s setta


Traditional, Japanese, reed snow boots.

Fukagutsu - Jap trad snow boots


With all this footwear, one wears tabi socks, designed to be worn with thong toes, unless wearing a casual, cotton yukata kimono, in which case one does not wear tabi.  Another  exception is the waraji sandals, often worn without tabi, especially by workers in rural areas. The older style of tabi is non-stretch, with kohaze fasteners, and the more contemporary style is stretchy and without fasteners. Shoes are removed when entering a Japanese home; one walks on their scrupulously clean floors in one’s tabi socks or a pair of indoor tatami sandals. You can see tabi being worn in the photo at the very top of this footwear blog post, with the black zori.

Tabi socks

You can also get knee high, stirrup stockings, called kyahan, to wear under tabi.

There is also other tabi toed footwear, such as jika-tabi, worn as outdoor tabi like ninja boots, worn  in some martial arts or just worn casually. They are a 20th century creation. The example below is a pair of canvas, rubber soled tabi boots, with kohaze fasteners. Nike also recently produced a range of tabi toed trainer shoes and boots, called Nike Rifts, to introduce the acupressure effects of tabi toes to the sports trainer.

Contemporary tabi boots

There are many other pairs of Japanese shoes on my website at and all sorts of other information about Japanese clothing and collectables


Make Your Own Geta

There’s a great site called Instructables, with tips about various things and instructions on how to make all sorts of stuff. One thing I found there was instructions for making a pair of geta. You can see the instructions here. Perhaps you could make your own ashiato geta, like the children’s cute  ones shown further up this post, with whatever footprint you choose in place of the two ha (teeth).


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.

The Kimono That Started My Passion

wafuku – noun: traditional Japanese clothing

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The ‘geisha’ in the garden, shown below, is my long suffering daughter, who patiently allows me to photograph her in an endless array of kimonos to display on my site, allowing people to see what many of them look like when on. In the photos below, she is wearing one of her own kimonos; that’s the kimono that made me feel I had to own one of my own and got my passion for kimonos started.

Maiko being dressed

wafuku – noun: traditional Japanese clothing

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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