Metropolis Magazine
Issue #805 - Friday, Aug 28th, 2009
Metropolis Specials Metropolis Classifieds Metropolis Joblet Visitor's Guide Japan Inc Kansai Scene iTunes Metropolis Friends Metpod
Photo of the Week
The Small Print
Star Struck
"Page 2 "
The Goods
Body & Soul
Tech Know
Cars & Bikes
Global Village
The Last Word
The Negi
+ Best of Tokyo
Haikyo Corner
Out & About
Japan Beat
Live Report
Pop Life
2008 Flashback
Stage & Dance
Metropolis League
Theater Maps
Restaurant Review
Bar Review
International Dining
Local Flavors
Table Talk
About Us
Distribution Points
Sponsored Links
Past Issues
804: Drama Scene
803: Heads, Tails & Snake Eyes
801: A Legacy of Emotion
800: Through the Monocle
799: Fighting spirit
798: Taking the Stares
796: Friends Don't Let Friends Become Salarymen
795: Fuzzy Democracy
794: Hung Jury
792: Highway to Hell
791: The Cartography of Cyberspace
790: Train Talk
789: A Confessions of a Teenager in Kimono
787: A Downloaded Question
786: Counterculture Shock
785: The Good Sensei
783: Me, Charisma Woman?
782: Stumbling Block
781: Paradise Lost
779: Half and Half
778: Road Rage
777: Dumb Luck
775: The M-List
774: Compatriotic Spirit
773: The Naked Truth
770-71: It Ain't Easy Being Green
769: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas in Japan
768: Japanese Lessons
766: Bad Credit
765: Chew on this
764: Red faced
763: Down and Out in Tokyo
761: Kicking the bucket
760: Thumbing It
759: Fixing the System
757: Smoke rings
756: Stalking the Predators
755: Banding Together
753: No Competition
752: Sex and This City
751: Let's Shogi
750: The Yasukuni Follies
748: Loud and Clear
747: I'll be back
746: Raiders of the lost SMAP
744: Magical Mystery Tour
743: Murder in Lotus Land
742: Stereotypes 'R' Us
740: The Mother of all Mothers
739: Crimes of Fashion
738: The Hafu Dad Brigade
737: The Green Team
736: Fight Club
735: The Paper Chase
734: The Wind-Up Writer Chronicle
733: Food For Thought?
732: Home and Away
731: The 2008 Nazi Olympics
730: The Two-Wheel Revolution
729: Gimme a Break
728: Power Play
727: Dying for a doctor
726: Footloose Revisited
725: Little Fish, Bigger Pond
724: Japan's Peace Monster
723: Language Abuse
722: Scumbusters "R" Us
721: First Action Hiro
720: The Return of Asashoryu
718-719: A Time to Give
717: My Homelessness Dilemma
716: The 30 Percent Solution
715: Past Imperfect
714: Killing the Kimono
713: The trouble with Tibbets
712: Surfing the Shinto-net
711: Falling Stars
710: Macho Man
709: Bad Impressions
708: Bloodsport
707: Our Last Word
706: Anonymocracy
705: The Air Up There
704: Read the Signs
703: The sky should not be the limit
702: My Year Zero Proposal
701: The Joys of Freeganism
700: Prada for the People
699: The Parasite Country
698: Washed up in Tokyo
697: Birthing's Not for Babies
696: On the Handlebars of a Dilemma
695: My So-Called Poverty
694: Get Out the Vote
693: The Ishihara Mystery
691: Let it Flow
690: Caf Culture
689: Oyaji Fashionistas
688: The Democracy of the Dysfunctional
687: Polite Disregard
686: Venting on Climate Change
685: Silent No Longer
684: To protect and serve?
683: Save the Sanshin building!
682: In the Realm of the Pond God
681: The Open Society and Its Enemies
680: Five-Ring Circus
679: Topic of Cancer
678: Pet Peeves
677: Why I am Banned in Japan
676: A long way to the top
675: Euro-vision
674: Child's play
673: Why I did it
672: I Love Japan
671: Running Crazy
670: Planet Apology
669: A peek behind the curtain
668: Opening Up
666: Pitching a fit
665: All wrapped up
664: Yule Rules
663: Field of Dreams
662: Save Lives, not Face
661: Why Do I Buy a Ticket?
660: Dying for a Nap
659: We, the jury
658: Grain of truth
657: Remembering The Maverick
656: A Rose by any Other Name
655: Heir today, gone tomorrow
654: Manhandled on the Metro
653: The bodyguards of the road
652: Separate but equal
651: Going for the gold
650: Being Audrey Hepburn
649: Not Sitting Pretty
648: Get Smart
647: Through foreign eyes
646: A failing grade in cute
644: Club Lands
643: Sayonara, Hide
642: The JET SET
641: What, me worry?
640: The Da Vinci Load
639: Making Waves
638: Final Cut
637: Resave the whales
636: Soccer Silliness
635: I, Smoker
634: The Ultimate Loss
633: Shoot the Messengers
632: The second sex
631: A Maverick Moves On
630: The curse of Baron Mitsui
629: Waiting for Heidi
628: Memoirs of a fake celebrant
627: Take it Outside
626: Wa? What wa?
625: A well-drawn life
624: St. Patrick the abducted
623: Bend over
622: The (Un)Late show
621: Oil spill
620: Ice Follies
619: Pride Goeth
618: Lost roles
617: Saying it with Cookies
616: Wrestling with foreigners
614-615: Blank Pages
613: Fretting Over Freeters
612: Farewell, Sensei
611: Sympathy for the wild ones
610: Back in Black
609: Out of many, one
608: Youth culture
607: The Russians are coming!
606: Meddle Detector
605: Tokyo, Mon amour
604: The Wailing Wall
603: Getting Abreast of Cancer
602: Willing Ally
601: New war,same story
600: The Big Chill
599: The Gray Zone
598: Jail break
597: Extremely Lost in Translation
596: Wounded Despot
595: History Lessons
594: Valhalla of the Imperial Army
592: Culture crash
591: Complaints Department
590: What lies beneath
589: Strange Games
588: Junk Science
587: The day the invaders came
586: The Test that Drove Me Crazy
585: Smile and say “lesbian”
584: Keep Article 9
583: The Great Divide
582: An ad for all seasons
581: Killing the Golden Goose
580: The other half
579: Give me back my bye-bye
578: Araki in Focus
577: Head out on the Highway
576: The hate that won't go away
575: Here's the beef
574: Yukking it up
573: Squatter’s rights and wrongs
572: The Trouble with Yokoso
571: Fire from the sky
570: Invasion of the gairaigo
569: Good company
568: Find Out What it Means To Me
567: Field of schemes
566: In the Name of Justice
565: Winner or Loser?
564: Staying Foreign
563: The Scare after Tomorrow
561-562: The Spirit of Things
560: War for remembrance
559: Storm damage
558: The Meaning of Godzilla
557: Who’s left to listen?
556: Paying respects
555: Gender Trouble
554: Coming clean at last
553: Go our own way
552: Hits of yesteryear
551: Heir apparel
550: Personal Reflections
549: Nuclear Reactions
548: Article of faith
547: Martyrs for the firm
546: A different anniversary
545: We, the jury
544: Wrongs & rights
543: Moore or less
542: Fair games
541: Developmentally challenged

By Katherine Whatley

Confessions of a Teenager in Kimono
Wearing traditional attire has opened my eyes to a magnificent world

Katherine Whatley is an eighth grader at an international school in Tokyo

The first time I wore a kimono was when I was 7. It was shichi-go-san, the festival where parents with kids aged 3, 5 and 7 dress them up and go to the local shrine to pray for good health. My mom and dad got all of their Japanese friends involved, and I was the center of attention for a good hour as they dressed me in a gorgeous orange and green kimono. They tied my obi and pulled my hair up into a bun with a pink clip. Everyone was so excited, and I loved every moment of it, just as most 7-year-olds would. I still remember the feeling of sliding my arm into the kimono and feeling the soft lining envelop my arm. I felt like a princess from long ago.

My 3-year-old sister, on the other hand, could not get into the spirit of things. She wouldn’t wear the stiff obi and hated the kimono because it inhibited her from running around like her usual tomboy self. To this day, she still doesn’t understand my love for kimonos and all things girly. She just laughs and goes to play with her Lego.

Fast-forward four years. I’m sitting at the kitchen table, and a brilliant idea pops into my mum’s head. Knowing how much I like to dress up, and remembering how much I enjoyed shichi-go-san, she suggests that I learn how to wear a kimono from Oishi-san, an older lady who used to take English lessons from my mother. One of Oishi-san’s passions in life is kimono. She learned to wear them as a young woman and has taught others how to wear them ever since. Oishi-san readily agreed to the idea, and my best friend Abby and I started our first lesson a few weeks later.

Every Saturday for a year, we stepped into a timeless world of stunning silks, pretty patterns and an elegance not found in our everyday teenage lives. At first, it would take two hours to put the obi on, and we would always need Oishi-san’s small but talented hands to get us out of a mess. We were definitely not graceful or elegant. Gradually, we began to need Osihi-san’s help less and less, and by last January, we could do the whole operation in under 45 minutes. We may have lacked the finesse of our teacher, but we’re certain that the kimono had been worn by people much less elegant than us.
Everton Strottmann

In February, Abby and I wore our kimono outside for the first time. In the beginning, we were like newborn colts, knocking our knees together in geta sandals. (We had not thought to practice walking in geta.) We were worried about what people might think of gaijin wearing kimono, not to mention teenagers wearing ones that they had bought in a flea market. Gradually, though, we realized that the stares from old ladies were not of annoyance but of amazement and excitement. Some of them offered their congratulations and told us they were astonished we could put on a kimono by ourselves. Mentally, I gave a sigh of relief. I had braced myself for being stared at like I was batty or a public nuisance. Instead, all of the ladies were happy. (Later on, however, a few would give us quizzical looks when I put on a pair of Western shoes.)

In fact, older Japanese women are the only people who understand why we like these clothes so much. They have worn kimono—and not just to the obligatory weddings and funerals—so they understand the thrill of feeling cocooned in silk. Yet no one my age gets it at all. To Japanese girls, kimono are what their grandmothers wore, some boring, old fashioned thing that you put on for special occasions. To many foreigners, it’s just some lame cultural relic, an artifact that their teachers or mothers make them learn about. When Abby and I describe how beautiful we feel wearing kimono, they shrug us off, not understanding and not caring. One of our friends even jokingly suggested that we wear kimono to the school dance. Little did she realize that she planted the seed of a great idea in my head.

I’m sad to report that we’ll never experience a full-scale kimono revival. I haven’t been able to make even one of my friends want to wear one, and you’ll never see groups of gyaru walking around Shibuya in traditional dress. Yet even though the kimono is a fading tradition, its death is not as close as you might think. Recently, increasing numbers of Japanese women have begun to view kimono as fun, and you can buy countless books about how to make them, how to wear them, and how to accessorize with them. I’m happy to think that, for the moment, my dress-up outfit is safe.

Got something to say about this article? Send a letter to the editor at

Listen to the Metropolis Podcast, the coolest guide to what goes on this week in Tokyo.

Looking for international friends? Check Metropolis Friends now - it's 100% free!