While the untrained eye may not be able to spot the differences, Japanese kimonos come in a wide range of styles for different occasions and seasons. As warmer weather approaches, kimono instructor Fumiko Horan will offer a workshop at the Nikkei Centre focused on the yukata, a type of casual summer kimono.
“When you wear the kimono, everybody thinks that you look beautiful. So why not wear it? It makes people happy,” she says.
Horan, who learned the art of kimono dressing in Tokyo 25 years ago, now makes her own kimonos and teaches people how to dress in kimonos.
Learning the kimono
Horan says that learning to put on a kimono and an obi – the sash which secures it – is difficult. She explains that many people, rather than learning the process themselves, go to a hair salon where a kimono professional can style their hair and dress them in a kimono.
Those who enjoy dressing in kimonos can go to kimono school and become a kimono professional, which is what Horan did.
Born in Taiwan, Horan moved to Tokyo when she was 16 years old. Once there, her mother wanted her to study Japanese culture and learn to dress in Japanese kimono. Horan worked in a dance company for 10 years, and travelled to Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand. The beautiful costumes she wore in dance performances further inspired her love of kimonos and eventually led her to become a professional.
In two years of kimono school, Horan was taught about the different kinds of material used to make kimonos and the various floral designs for each season in kimono wear.
“For example, in springtime, there are cherry blossom kimonos,” she says.
Students also learn to match the kimono with the obi.
“When you wear a purple kimono, you can match it with a yellow obi and when you have a green kimono, you can complement it with a red obi,” says Horan.
According to Horan, kimono schools remain popular in Japan today just as they were in
Kimonos for every occasion
Kimonos vary in style and material for formal and casual occasions. The furisode is a formal kimono worn for Seijin Shiki, a coming-of-age ceremony for 20-year-old girls. The furisode has long, elegant sleeves that almost touch the floor. Formal kimonos are also worn by 3, 5 and 7-year-old boys and girls at Shichi-Go-San, a celebration for the well-being of children that takes place in Japan every year.
Casual kimonos, on the other hand, can be worn as working clothes.
“It can look like a uniform, and it can be long or short,” Horan says. “Sometimes when you go to a Japanese restaurant, you see the worker wearing a uniform that looks like a kimono.”
Horan also makes casual summer kimonos. The material for this kimono is usually cotton, which makes it comfortable to wear in summer.
“When a student comes to my class, they need to bring the whole kimono set,” says Horan.
If a student doesn’t have their own kimono, they can rent it from her. If they don’t have the other items, such as the obi – the sash used to secure the kimono – or the nagajuban – the slip underneath the kimono – she can teach them how to make it.
Horan’s students come from various backgrounds. Many are Japanese Canadians who wish to reconnect with their Japanese heritage. Some are European ladies who love Japanese culture. Others include the costume staff from movie companies who need to know how to dress their actors in kimonos for film productions.
Horan’s course consists of four weekly workshops where she teaches her students how to put on a kimono and tie the obi step-by-step.
Horan enjoys her role as a kimono expert.
“It’s my hobby. I like to help people dress up. It makes me very happy,” she says.
Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre
June 20, 1–4 p.m.
For more information, visit centre.nikkeiplace.org/yukata