|PLUS - SHOP TALK
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
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.
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.
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 JY20,000-JY40,000.
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
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.
Open daily 9:30am-6:30pm.
Nearest station: Yurakucho.
Open daily 9:30am-6:30pm. Closed Thursday.
Nearest stations: Harajuku or Omotesando.
Daimaru Department Store
Open daily 10am-7pm.
Nearest station: Omotesando.