Kimono School - 着物学院

With the days counting down until The Year in Kimono was to begin, I was lucky to find the Hakubi School, quite close to my house in Tokyo, still offering beginner classes on how to wear kimono.  The Hakubi School offers "comprehensive study of Japanese culture," including how to make a kimono. It is here I began my study of Kitsuke (how to wear a kimono).


In the quiet, sun-filled tatami room, my sensei revealed the inner secrets of kimono. First piece of knowledge was that kimono is meant to flatten the shape between waist and hips, which is more prominent in some western builds (including my own) than in Japanese bodies. Curves are not part of the aesthetic of kimono (think h-shaped figure rather than hourglass) because the obi (waist sash) won't lay flat if there are natural curves.


For almost 2 hours, she explained which pieces went where and demonstrated how to put on a kimono, by oneself, including how to tie a hoso obi (half width obi). Most obi are 30 cms/12'' wide, but hoso obi are about half that, making it easier for a beginner to tie.
The Hakubi School's Kitsuke course will teach me not only how to wear a kimono, but also the culturally correct manners and movements that are essential to wearing a kimono. I start in the middle of January and will attend 3-classes a month for 6-months! My goal, in addition to learning more about the kimono itself and how to tie different obi bows, is to 'master' the art of dressing myself. I'd like to be able to get dressed in under 10 minutes.



First Task - get a Kimono / 最初のタスクー着物を買う

Timing is everything. That this project began at the end of the year is quite fortuitous because that's when most department stores have their 'annual kimono sales'. Kimono prices can range from a few hundred to many thousands of dollars, depending on the handiwork, the fabric and the craftsmanship, like hand embroidery.
The first sale of the year found me at Daimaru in central Tokyo, which is one of the few department stores to also sell 'recycled' kimono. Recycled is the term for 'used' or second-hand kimono. The advantage is that recycled kimono are less expensive. However, there aren't many recycled kimono in my size (172 cms/ 5'8'') - the lovely clerk shows the typical size of kimono.
But we sifted through piles of kimono to find something. The true measure of fit is in the arms - a kimono has to hit the bone at the wrist when the are is extended, and body - there needs to be enough excess fabric in length (usually 30 cms) to provide overlap at the waist.

着物を買うにはまずいいタイミングが大事。このプロジェクトは年が終わるころに始まり、デパートの着物セールとちょうど同じときだった。着物の値段は手織りかどうかや織物の種類に大変よる。新しい年の最初のセールは東京丸の内の大丸デパートにあった。このデパートではリサイクル着物を売っていた。リサイクル着物は新しい物よりもちろん安くてよかったが、私のサイズ( 172 cms/ 5'8'')の着物を見つけることはかなり難しかった。しかし、ずいぶん探したらいいものを発見した。着物のサイズを自分に合わせるのには一番大事な事は袖の長さである。着物の袖は腕を伸ばしたときにちょうど腕の骨までにつくべきなのだ。それと、ウェイストのところで着物の織物が30cmほど余るはずなのだ。

This was my first ever experience trying on kimono. I couldn't believe how how luxurious and soft it is. This one is silk,, and I can see why I'll have to take care to keep it in this condition (for years!) Although my goal with this project is to borrow, share and wear as many different kimono as possible, I need to have one of my own. And so, on December 23rd I bought my first kimono.


Now to find out how to wear it.... さあ、どうやって着るのでしょう!
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