Japanese Traditional Clothing: The Best Deep Dive

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A man and a woman standing side by side wearing a pink/white and grey yukata respectively, a form of tradtional Japanese clothing.

When it comes to traditional Japanese clothing, we usually only think of kimono. However, there are all kinds of traditional Japanese clothing. While some of them are not as popular as they used to be, many Japanese people still wear them on special occasions. Let’s learn more about other traditional clothing from Japan!

Kimono 

The modern kimono dates back to the Heian period (794-1185). Kimono materials consist of textiles, cotton, linen, and silk. Depending on the type of fabric and style, the price of a kimono is also different. 

The cloth is around 12-13 m long, 36-40cm wide, cut into eight pieces, and sewn together to create the basic shape of a kimono. The fabrics are stacked and fixed by the Obi.

Not only is it unusual from the design, but the process of wearing kimono also requires understanding the proper steps. It usually has only one size, and the wearer needs to tie it to fit the body. 

Men’s kimono, on the other hand, are usually dark blue or black. Instead of an elaborate pattern, they have a simple embroidery of their family crest. On the other hand, kimonos for women have many types depending on the person who wears them, the time, the event, and the location.

Different Types of Women’s Kimono

Furisode is for single young girls with bright colors and many decorative patterns on delicate silk, and its most notable feature is its long and wide sleeves. This kimono is for important events such as the Coming of Age ceremony (January 20th) and graduation ceremonies in March and April.

A group of young women dressed in ornate, long sleeved furisode kimono with fur collars. The furisode is a form of tradiitonal Japanese clothing.
Furisode kimono is the most ornate kimono for young, unmarried women. Image via Shutterstock

Tomesode is a formal dress for married women. Unlike furisode, its sleeves are short, and the primary color in the body of the kimono is black. There might be simple patterns with elegant colors near the bottom of the kimono. 

Houmongi is primarily for married women. They usually wear them in tea ceremonies, family gatherings, or ceremonial visits. The houmongi is similar to a beautiful painting as its patterns are all connected to create a big picture. In the past, Japanese parents usually considered Houmongi as a gift to their daughter when she got married.

A woman wearing a soft, light blue houmongi kimono with an ornate gold sash.
Married women usually wear Houmongi kimono. Image via Shutterstock

Tsukesage is traditionally for parties, flower arrangements, and friends’ weddings. It has a single and bright pattern running along the body and back of the shirt.

Komon is worn on regular days and is decorated entirely with small and gentle motifs.

Tsumugi is worn on casual occasions but with brighter and more simple patterns. 

A woman near Tokyo Station wearing a light green, casual tsumugi kimono, which is a form of traditional Japanese clothing.
Tsumugi kimono is worn every day. Image via Shutterstock

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Uchikake and Shiromuku

Uchikake is used as a jacket over the Japanese bride’s kimono on the wedding day. It’s usually red and designed with floral motifs, lovebirds, and cranes. In Japanese mythology, cranes are thousand-year-old creatures that symbolize longevity, bringing luck to couples. 

Today, most Japanese brides choose the traditional white Japanese uchikake dress because of its pure and elegant beauty.

A bride and groom at a traditional Shinto wedding. The groom is wearing a black kimono and grey hakama, while the bride is wearing a white uchikake jacket and a white shiromuku kimono.muku
The uchikake jacket and the shiromuku kimono are essential parts of Japanese bridal clothing. Image via Shutterstock

Under the uchikake, the brides wear shiromuku – the most formal, pure white kimono. Although simple, it has a deep meaning: to present the bride’s beauty in her purest form and to symbolize the beginning of a new journey. 

Shiromuku has a round tail and is long enough to reach the ground. It also comes with a white cloth headband called tsunokakushi.

Yukata

Yukata has a similar shape to kimono but uses cotton fabric, thin and light, easy to absorb sweat, and brings comfort to the wearer. Thus, the yukata is for summer and spring due to warmer weather and more effortless movement. 

Two women wearing yukata with their backs facing the camera. The one on the left is wearing red with a yellow obi sash, while the one on the right is wearing a cream yukata with a grey obi.
Yukata is a lighter summer kimono that people wear at summer festivals. Image via Shutterstock

Nowadays, yukata are at summer festivals or after bathing. In the past, Japanese people wore yukatas as pajamas with simple seams and colors, today, it has become a favorite summer outfit of Japanese youth, so it gradually becomes more eye-catching. 

In addition, people wear yukata at Bon-Odori, a famous Japanese summer festival. Japanese tourists can also see people wearing yukata at traditional local inns especially.

Hakama

Hakama are traditional Japanese trousers with pleated, flowing legs. Though woodcutters were the first to wear them, hakama is a mainstay in Japanese fashion.  

A woman wearing a white furisode kimono with bright blue hakama pants.
Women usually wear hakama pants to their graduation ceremony. Image via Shutterstock

Men usually wear them in most situations and female graduates on occasion. Athletes in classic Japanese sports such as archery or judo wear hakama. However, there are also contemporary versions of hakama, and trendsetters wear them with everyday Western clothing.

A man wearing black kimono and gray hakama pants, a form of traditional Japanese clothing.
Men usually wear darker hakama. Image via Shutterstock

Fundoshi

Fundoshi are traditional Japanese men’s clothing with a loincloth commonly worn by men in manual labor. If you can attend the Hakata Gion Yamakasa in Fukuoka, Kyushu Prefecture, you might see men and boys wearing fundoshi during the festival’s activities.

A bunch of men at the "Naked" festival wearing white fundoshi loincloth--a type of tradtional Japanses clothing-- as they hoist wooden buckets.
The fundoshi is a traditional Japanese loincloth. Image via Shutterstock

Hanten

A Hanten shirt is a type of clothing that is very popular among Japanese commoners; that started in the Edo period (1603-1867) and gradually became more widespread in the 18th century.

A woman standing in a river wearing a red, padded hanten winter jacket.
Hanten jackets are usually worn in the winter and are padded. Image via Shutterstock

Hanten is a type of everyday jacket by vendors or artisans in craft villages. This jacket has a collar sewn with black satin fabric, with a tie in the middle, suitable for everyone, regardless of gender. 

Because the Hanten shirt is relatively thin, so to wear it in winter, people will braid a kimono bra both inside and outside to help keep the body warm. 

Happi

Originally domestic helpers wore happi, proving they belonged to a particular family. Later, stores gradually used happi shirts to replace the organization’s uniforms to present a collective. 

A group of men and boys wearing white happi jackets, at an Obon festival.
Happi jackets are summertime clothing. Image via Shutterstock

The first happi shirts came from cotton fabric in brown and indigo, but now to meet current fashion needs, the shirts now have more eye-catching colors. 

Which of these types of traditional Japanese clothing have you heard of before? Have you ever worn them as well? Please share your experience with us in the comments below!

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