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NIPPONIA No.29 June 15, 2004

In Japan Today
If You Want to Be Fashionable,
Try a Kimono
Written by Sakagami Yasuko, Photos by Kono Toshihiko, Collaboration: Yumioka Office

Left: These days, more young women are wearing kimono on outings.
Right: This magazine, Kimono Hime, is full of tips on contemporary ways to look good in a kimono. Modern fashionable women are paying attention. The magazine started the recent kimono boom.

Kimono, the traditional clothing of the Japanese, are generally expensive to buy and difficult to put on, so they have gradually fallen out of favor. As time passed after World War II, fewer and fewer people wore them. Today, almost everyone in Japan wears Western-style clothes, except on festive occasions like coming-of-age ceremonies and weddings. But over the last few years, it has become more common to see women in kimono on city streets.
"Compared to the situation about five years ago, the number of people wearing kimono has increased 30 or 40%. Young women used to shun kimono in the past, but are showing more and more interest in them now," says Yumioka Katsumi of Ichi no Kura, a store specializing in second-hand kimono in Tokyo's Harajuku district.
The kimono boom is being driven mainly by a magazine called Kimono Hime (published by Shodensha Inc.). Ever since the first issue appeared in 2002, the magazine has been presenting kimono as the new fashion. The 4th issue sold 300,000 copies, readership remains high, and models appearing inside have become fashion stars.
The editor-in-chief, Tanabe Mayumi, explains, "Women in their 20s and 30s are the ones fueling the boom. Some are tired of Western styles, and see the kimono as a new way to make a fashion statement."
Silk kimono are extremely expensive—anywhere from several hundred thousand to several million yen each! But some new ones hitting the stores cost only around 10,000 yen because they are made out of wool, cotton or some other material used in Western clothes. One reason for the new popularity of kimono is that they cost no more than a Western outfit.
Another factor is the resale of second-hand kimono. Many were made in the first half of the 20th century. Prices vary, but because of their age they can be quite affordable. This has made them popular among the young crowd that recently woke up to the beauty of kimono, and among their seniors, who never gave up wearing them. Other reasons for their popularity include the patterns and color combinations, which set them apart from Western clothing.
This new trend has more people in kimono on everyday occasions, not just for festive events.
Tanabe says, "A kimono brings out a woman's personality more than Western clothing can. For example, with a kimono we can coordinate the entire outfit, trying out different obi sashes, sash fasteners, kanzashi hairpins and other accessories, choosing the ones that match the kimono and our sense of style. Quite a few people are choosing the kimono when they want to look a bit fashionable, like when they go out on a date, or to the theater with friends."
Kimono certainly look good, as the modern Japanese women wearing them prove.

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