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Traditional kimono updates to modern society

Date Posted: 2005-02-04

Shick, colorful kimonos are the traditional Japanese dress.

The kimono. Beautiful, stylish, and frustrating for women who must wrestle through the nine steps of putting one on.

The kimono is synonymous to India’s sara, Korea’s hanbok, or China’s silk dress.

An Okinawa woman has captured the magic of simplifying the process though, without sacrificing any of the traditions in which the kimono is steeped. Japanese women are discovering the “easy on” kimono now, queuing up to be fitted for one.

Foreigners who’ve been intimidated by the cumbersome rituals of donning the traditional kimono are now excited at being able to own one they can put on alone. Quickly.

The new “easy on” kimono goes on in three minutes, as compared to the 40 minutes process passed down through the centuries. The transformation from jeans to ningo kibun is the idea of Yumae No Ya kimono shop owner Takara Kimiko.

The custom-designed kimono has portions of the undergarments and vest built into the gown itself, with belts and slips easily tied. The traditional obi goes on in two easy moves, with the makura (pillow) inserted to fluff out the roll, while the obi agae, a decorative stretch material, is fitted in place. An obi jimae, a rope, decoratively and functionally ties it all in place.

The 44-year-old Takara began the business 18 years ago, and now operates with the assistance of her son and daughter, along with a sister. Yumae No Ya, which means “House of Dreams”, captures the essence of Takara’s goals. It’s almost a crusade for her to get women to spend more time wearing the colorful kimono.

The customer makes the choices, beginning with selecting colors and patterns from more than 2,000 in stock. Each is handmade to individual specifications and measurements. Then there’s choice of liners. The kimono comes as a package, right down to the handcrafted shoes which integrate the same colors and materials, and the decorative accessories.

A handmade kimono is taking about 40 days to make, says Takara. Kimonos with long dangling sleeves are a fashion statement proclaiming the woman is single. A short, squared off sleeve indicates a married woman.

Kimonos, while similar in cut and style, are designed to reflect the wearer’s personality. They run ¥144,000 ~ ¥210,000 each, including all accessories and shoes. Takara understands the requirements for dealing with the somewhat different bodies of western women, and encourages them to wear kimonos.

Takara Ayu, 24, is the owner’s daughter and kimono model. She boasts seven kimonos for each of the four seasons, and says she wears one for most activities except going to the dance clubs.

In addition to Yumae No Ya designing new kimonos, Takara’s team converts traditional kimonos to the new easy-to-put-on style.

Yumae No Ya is located in Ameko-Shintoshin in Naha, on Nishidorisan. To get there, travel south on Highway 58 to Ameku. At the Lawson convenience store, turn left (only choice). The kimono shop is only 200 meters away, next to the Kitchen and Café, which has a bright red and white sign in English.

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