Gaijin & Kimono

The question of Foreigners and kimono has wandered in and out of the news and online discussion for several years now. 

My kimono club and instructor when asked about this subject were confused and did not understand why people felt that only Japanese should wear kimono.  They are very happy to see people from all over the world being interested in kimono (and yes, that included cosplay, which they look upon with great amusement).

There is often a misunderstanding of the very nature of kimono that may lead certain people to believe that only Japanese people should wear them.  Kimono may be the national dress of Japan, but they are, in and of themselves, not religious, ceremonial, or sacred in nature.  Of course specific styles are obviously worn for such occasions, this is only natural as they are, after all, meant to be worn every day. 

The saddest thing about these protests is they only hurt the kimono industry. 

Consider these recent statistics:

Kimono is a dying art, many of the artisans are over 65 years of age and there are very few of the younger generation who want to involve themselves in the time consuming and detailed work that is an integral part of the making of a fine and sumptuous kimono. 

Kimono sales have plummeted by 80% in the last 30 years.

90% of Japanese do not even know how to wear kimono.  They go to special shops to have someone dress them.

Of the 10% that do know how to wear kimono not even half know how to sew them traditionally, or know the history.

I’m sure we can all agree that no one wants to see it go the way of the sea silk weaver of Greece.  One woman remains the only person in the world who knows how to weave sea silk – a 2000 year old tradition – and she has no apprentice.

So if you want to wear kimono, study kimono, design kimono or sew kimono – please do yourself, and kimono, a favor – Have fun and enjoy!

To hear more opinions on this subject from people around the world please see the links below:

(At 8:44 into the video Takedo Senko answers the question “What do you think about foreigners that want to wear kimono?” Please watch the video because it is very fascinating, but the short answer was “That’s wonderful. Please do.”)

The Kojiki (A Hawaiian living in Japan) touched briefly on this subject on her blog:

Racism and Kimono

Ready Set Kimono (a kimono instructor from Canada) has written about the subject here:

Protests at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts