An evening of kimono dressing

Fumiko Horan, a kimono-dressing specialist will be demonstrating traditional kimono dressing at the O Hanami Festival Apr. 5–Apr. 6 at the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre.

Horan, raised in Nakano, a municipality of Tokyo, introduces the culture of oiran kimono dressing and processions and the festivities in Japan associated with the oncoming of cherry blossoms- known as Sakura.

“‘O hanami’ means ‘I’m going to see the flowers,’” says Horan.

Kimono schooling

Fumiko Horan | Photo courtesy of Fumiko Horan

At 22, Horan began her career by modelling kimonos and wondered why there were so many schools for kimono dressing in Tokyo when kimonos seemed so simple.

“But it’s very difficult [to tie a kimono]. They have four layers and no buttons, just rope,” she says.

Horan goes on to explain that there are different sleeves, lengths and colours to consider with kimono dressing, as well as the obi, a 12-foot long piece of fabric used as a sash. To learn the art, she studied for two years at Hakubi, a prestigious kimono school in Tokyo where she went on to receive her kimono dressing license.

Horan describes how her mother assembled traditional flower arrangements, referred to as ikebana, and they would prepare sado, a ceremonial tea for special events in Japan. She was able to contribute with her specialization in kimono dressing. She says that kimonos are a focal point for many events in Japan, including weddings, coming of age ceremonies and festivals.

As a former dancer, Horan joined a traditional Japanese dancing group at the Nikkei Centre in Vancouver where she then accepted a role as a professional kimono dresser.

“In Japan, [kimono dressing] was not my job. [My family] owned a restaurant. My friend had a hair salon, and I worked there sometimes to help people wear kimonos. When I came to Canada, I never thought I was going to dress in kimonos again. I gave them away,” she says.

Since becoming a professional kimono dresser, she has collected a large array of kimonos, including cotton kimonos, called yukata, and hair accessories she has made.

Oiran kimono procession

Horan explains that oiran in Japan are courtesans, similar to geishas except that the customers
choose Geishas, but oiran choose their customers; they have the power. She describes oiran as being educated in speaking, writing, calligraphy, art and

‘They walk the street slowly and all the women come to see the oiran fashion. If they would wear a red kimono, after that, every woman would wear a red kimono,” she says.

She likens the parades to fashion shows and enjoys oiran kimonos for their beauty and influence.

Horan progressed from traditional kimono dressing shows to oiran processions at the North Vancouver Cultural Centre after a request for even more than the dressing demonstrations she had previously hosted.

“I thought that if they want something different and interesting, I can give them an oiran parade,” she says.

The Nikkei Centre then requested for the oiran kimono dressing and parade to be demonstrated at the O Hanami Festival to complement the celebration of Japanese rituals and traditions during Sakura.

O Hanami Festival

In Japan, the news tells us exactly what dates the Sakura will be opening in each city,” Horan says.

In Nakano, Horan’s family and many others celebrate by preparing food, drinks and rice bowls. They place tatamis, traditional mats, under the sakura trees where they eat, dance, sing and drink.

“Sakura time in Japan is very traditional. It shows how life is very short, and it’s a time of rebirth,” she says.

She says that during Sakura festivals, women wear kimonos with obis featuring cherry blossoms to celebrate the opening.

At the O Hanami Festival, Horan will demonstrate kimono dressing first, showing how to tie both hair and kimonos before beginning the oiran procession, which will circle the hall. The procession will include traditional lanterns and parasols, two ‘oiran,’ two ‘geishas’ and two ‘maikos’ – geishas in training. She describes the walking style as slow and mesmerizing.

Horan emphasizes that her focus is on showcasing the intricacy of oiran kimono dressing and the elegance of oiran processions in alignment with the culture in Japan.

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