Simple Guide to the Japanese Kimono

  • History
  • Kimono, or literally “the thing to wear” refers to a Japanese traditional outfit. The standard plural of the word kimono in English is “kimonos”, but the unmarked Japanese plural kimono is also sometimes used.

    A kimono is a t-shaped wrapped garment with long and wide sleeves worn so that the hem falls near to the ankle. It’s wrapped around the body in a way the left side goes over the right – other wise you are dressing like a dead for his funeral – and held in place thanks to a belts called an “obi”, which is tied at the back. The kimono is generally worn with traditional footwear (especially zōri or geta) and split-toe socks, called “tabi”.

    Kimono from

    Today, the kimono is most often worn by women, and on special occasions. Traditionally, unmarried women wore a specific style of kimono called “Furisode” during special occasions, with sleeves caressing the floor. A few older women and even fewer men still wear the kimono on a daily basis. Men usually wear the kimono at weddings, tea ceremonies, and other very special or very formal occasions. Professional sumo wrestlers are also often seen in kimono because of their status. They are in fact required to wear the traditional Japanese dress whenever appearing in public.

    Geta from

    As the kimono has another name, gofuku (literally “clothes of Wu”), the earliest kimonos were heavily influenced by traditional Han Chinese clothing, known today as hanfu (kanfuku in Japanese), through Japanese embassies to China which resulted in extensive Chinese culture adoptions by Japan, as early as the 5th century AD.
    The formal kimono was replaced by the more convenient Western clothes and yukata as everyday wear. After an edict by Emperor Meiji, police, railroad men and teachers moved to Western clothes. The Western clothes became the army and school uniform for boys. After the1923 Great Kantō earthquake, kimono wearers often became victims of robbery because they could not run very fast due to the restricting nature of the kimono on the body and geta clogs. The Tokyo Women’s & Children’s Wear Manufacturers’ Association (東京婦人子供服組合) promoted Western clothes.


    Yukata from

    In the Western world, kimono-styled women’s jackets, similar to a casual cardigan, gained public attention as a popular fashion item in 2014.

    *Featured Image: Trippin’ Japan