A page about traditional Japanese clothing
When talking about the traditional clothing styles of Japan, most people get immediately to mind the idea of a kimono (着物), which name has a very simple Japanese meaning: a thing to wear.
Currently known around the world, it’s no mistake to believe that the traditional Japanese kimono has been the cornerstone of the clothing worn in Japan for many centuries in the past. That doesn’t mean it’s the only relevant piece used from long ago, but it’s indeed the one most intimately related to Japan’s history.
A little history about the traditional Japanese kimono
Its origin dates back to the 5th Century AD, when kimono-like clothes then called gofuku (呉服) came from Chinese influence to be used by some. The meaning of the name they were given would translate as draperies.
Three hundred years later, on the 8th Century AD, they became extremely popular and got established as a standard.
This popularity would last until 1932, quite recent times — even if kimono fashion had started to be substituted for western clothes on some civil servants since the 19th Century AD, namely railroad workers, school teachers and policemen. Those first substitutions were a consequence of the intent of modernizing Japan during the Meiji Restoration, a time of deep political change.
What about now?
In current times, traditional kimonos are clearly not a main Japanese style for casual clothing — modern people will usually be seen with Western style clothes on the streets. But surely — I would say fortunately, this doesn’t mean that you can no longer see kimonos or other traditional clothing in current Japan!
Such traditional and beautiful clothes are still worn in some formal occasions, specially if they come from Japanese tradition themselves. Their use also flourishes during the matsuri (祭), which are traditional festivals of great uniqueness and beauty.
Moreover, they are still worn on an everyday basis by some older people, or by some workers at ryokan (旅館), which are traditional Japanese hotels and inns — and it’s not rare that some guests also choose to wear some kind of kimono while relaxing there.
Please note that those are just some main examples of occasions in which typical modern citizens could be seen in such clothing, but not the only ones. There will be people choosing to wear a kimono for other reasons. As an example, you can look at the present picture — we wonder where this young lady was going, attending her phone while wearing a gorgeous kimono in the train!
More about the particular clothing from Japan…
As stated before, kimono is not the only traditional piece of clothing still present in modern-day Japan. Yukata, jinbei, samue and keikogi (or dougi) are also traditional garments that are used more sparingly, or in specific situations — like hot summer days or martial arts training.
You can read more about them and other stylish garments in our page of general information. However, neither of them would achieve their usual appearance nor fulfill their intended role without the use of accessories and the proper care.