Kimono Hunting

Kimono HuntingKimono Hunting
It' hard to resist staring at someone in traditional Japanese costume, standing out in a sea of Luis Vuitton handbags and Ralph Lauren sweaters on the subway in the morning. It's a pleasant reminder that even in a commercialized culture, traditional customs are still valued.

Second-hand Secrets
But tradition is big business, too, and kimono are a prime example. They are notoriously expensive, with a "bottom of the range" design likely to set you back at least
JY60,000, without the obi. Since most designs are "one-offs" by professional artists, the prices rise exponentially from there. If you're keen to purchase a kimono of your own, don't be put off by these prices, though. It's possible to do so without breaking the bank. Your best bet is to go for a secondhand garment. These resell at a fraction of the original price, as most Japanese don't buy used kimono. There are plenty of secondhand and antique kimono boutiques in Tokyo, with bargains to be found if you have the time to hunt.

Design Matters
If you are buying a kimono with the intention of wearing it here in Japan, it is worth considering that the design and color have significance, related to the season, the wearer's marital status and age. During autumn and winter, pine and bamboo designs are worn. In summer, cool colors and silver decorations are the convention for regular kimono, although cotton yukata (informal summer kimono), traditionally in blues and whites, are the preferred option for hot, sticky weather. One advantage to yukata is that they cost only a fraction of the price of a kimono. The most common designs for kimono, particularly ceremonial garments, are bamboo, cherry blossoms, fans (symbolizing prosperity) and cranes and turtles (long life). Young, single women wear long-sleeved garments in bright colors, with images extending high up from the hem, while older women wear shorter sleeves and more subtle colors and designs.

Treasure Trove
A good place to start bargain-hunting is Hayashi Kimono in Chiyoda-ku's International Arcade. There are two shops with English-speaking staff. Though these stores are on the tourist trail, there are some genuine Japanese garments (male and female) to be found if the polyester yukata and happi coats with sumo designs are avoided. Even if you're just browsing, the shops are well worth a look for their extensive selection of beautiful wedding kimono. Though too heavy and impractical for everyday use, these highly decorative silk garments make elegant and unusual wall hangings and are resold at

The basement of the Oriental Bazaar in Harajuku also warrants a visit. Don't be put off by the fact that there's loads of touristy tat sold here and that the place is always full of foreigners. There is a wide selection of vintage kimono and obi around the corner from the happi coats. They also sell zori (traditional sandals) and some vintage haori (kimono overcoats).

Daimaru department store often sells their ex-rental kimono at big discounts in March and September. At the time of printing, they didn't yet know the date for this year's sale, but it's well worth a call to find out. If you're interested in antique clothes only, the place to go is Morita Antiques in Omotesando.

Of course, once you've made your purchase, there's just the problem of how to put it on. Whatever you do, remember that it's left side over right, because right side over left is for dead bodies.

Kate Crockett

Hayashi Kimono
International Arcade.
Tel: 03-3591-9826.
Open daily 9:30am-6:30pm.
Nearest station: Yurakucho.

Oriental Bazaar
Tel: 03-3400-3933.
Open daily 9:30am-6:30pm. Closed Thursday.
Nearest stations: Harajuku or Omotesando.

Daimaru Department Store
Tel: 03-3212-8011.

Morita Antiques
Tel: 03-3407-4466.
Open daily 10am-7pm.
Nearest station: Omotesando.
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