Japanese people are keenly aware of the four seasons, and the clothes they wear are always in keeping with the season. The Japanese are also very tuned in to the stages of their lives. Special events are held to mark milestones in children's growth, for instance, and people change their kimonos to fit both the season and the occasion.
Between 30 and 100 days after a child is born, the parents, siblings, and grandparents visit a shrine together to report the child's birth. The baby is dressed in a white under-kimono. On top of that kimono, the baby wears a brightly colored yuzen-dyed kimono if it is a girl, and a black kimono decorated with the family crest if it is a boy.
Another key event in a kid's life is the Shichi-Go-San ("seven-five-three") Festival, which takes place in November. On this day, parents take their five-year-old boys and seven-year-old or three-year-old girls to the local shrine to thank the gods for keeping their children healthy and making them grow. The kids are dressed in kimonos for this occasion too.
At the age of 20, young people celebrate their passage into adulthood by visiting a shrine on Coming-of-Age Day, the second Monday in January. For this occasion, girls wear furisode (kimonos with long flowing sleeves) and boys wear haori (half-coats) and hakama decorated with their family crests.
Furisode kimonos are worn only by unmarried women. Once upon a time, young Japanese women declared their love for a man by fluttering the long-flapped sleeves of their furisode kimono.
At weddings, the bride wears a pure white kimono known as a shiromuku. The color white signifies the beginning of a journey.
Once a woman is married, she no longer wears a furisode. Instead, she wears a tomesode, a kimono with shorter flaps on the sleeves. The tomesode can be either black or another color. Black tomesode with the wearer's family crest on them are reserved for formal occasions, such as the weddings of one's relatives. Colored tomesode can also be worn on formal occasions, but they do not always have the family crest on them. A key distinguishing feature of tomesode (both black and other colors) is that only the fabric on the bottom half of the kimono is decorated with a pattern.
Photos (from top): Children wear kimonos for the Shichi-Go-San Festival (courtesy of Hisako Nakatani ); a furisode kimono, worn only by unmarrid women (© Yoshiaki Yamamoto/SEKAIBUNKA PUBLISHING Inc,.); Many women wear kimonos for their first visit to a temple or shrine in the new year.(courtesy of Hisako Nakatani)