Kimono Making Is A Dying Art

[via kottke]
The Washington Post has an article about how the old method of making kimonos from scratch is dying in Japan, particularly in Kyoto’s Nishijin district. Many are being made in China and those kimonos are made in Japan are woven with cheaper imported silk rather than Kyoto silk.

Here is the main problem:

Fewer Japanese are marrying today than ever, and those who do largely shun traditional white wedding kimonos in favor of Western-style dresses. A declining birthrate, meanwhile, has meant fewer babies, which in turn has meant fewer sales of kimonos for children’s coming-of-age rites. Nationwide, kimono sales have more than halved in the past decade.

The reporter uses 102-year-old Yasujiro Yamaguchi, one of the last master weavers in Nishijin, as a narrative focal point through the article. He is one of only three left who can create a kimono from scratch, which means planning and weaving it with his own hands to “infuse the intended wearer’s personality”. All three are over 70 and none have any apprentices.

The kimono is one of the few things that I can think of as distinctly Japanese alongside Shintoism and samurai. If one looks at the kanji for the word (着物), kimono literally means ‘something worn’. It’s a symbol of traditional Japan and subtle beauty. I think this quote from Yamaguchi says it best:

“The kimono is not just about our country,” [Yamaguchi] added. “It is about the Japanese race — our daily rituals, our history, our religion, about who we are as a people. We have to do anything we can to protect the kimono, even if that means making them overseas.”

7 responses to “Kimono Making Is A Dying Art

  1. A rather interesting read. Just goes to show that with the growth of the digital age, culture has taken a tumble and we are losing the essences that define a part of who we are.

    But with the effects of globalisation and free trade, it was something inevitable, but I can see Yamaguchi’s point that they have to protect that culture, even if it means going overseas.

  2. Er your kimonokanji is reversed. But I love Kimonos, and for that matter, the more convenient yukatas as well.

  3. tj han: Okay, fixed it! I copied them seperately over from a program when I should have copied them together from Wikpedia. Thanks for pointing that out!


  5. i just noticed that those are os-tans xD

  6. yes.. its a dying art and its a great one,,very worth the work…

  7. great work isnt it?
    init boy/babe