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Kitsuke: A Glimpse Into The Fascinating World of Wearing Kimono

When we think about traditional Japanese clothing, naturally, the kimono comes to mind. Before my kitsuke (kimono wearing) trial at NIHONWASOU USA, INC., a company which introduces kimono culture in the U.S., Ms. Hisako Kasuya, Kimono Master in the organization, briefly explained the history of kimono.  According to Kasuya-sensei, a long time ago, women wore kimono to do everything, including cleaning, laundry, and other household chores.  Times changed and more women started working outside of the home. Western-style clothes such as pants and skirts were introduced, and eventually, wearing kimono was not practical for both working and household chores.

Sampling of what is needed to wear a kimono.

During the kimono wearing trial, I first saw three sets of beautiful kimono and obi sash were laid in front of me to choose from: red, black, and yellow. I told Kasuya-sensei that I don’t look good in yellow. She said, “Color coordination of kimono and western clothing are so different.  You’d be surprised that you look great in colors you usually avoid.  Something magical happens when wearing kimono. So keep an open mind,” as she persuaded me to wear yellow.  And then my adventure began…

One of several sashes is used to hold the kimono in place.

I walked into a tatami room with all of the pieces of the kimono carefully laid out on the floor. Kasuya-sensei instructed me on the names and function of each of the 17 pieces, including a special zip-up bra, several types of pads, sashes, ropes, belts, and finally, the kimono itself. I thought, “You’re going to put all of those things on my body?” She rhythmically chanted the name of each garment to be attached to my body. I was thinking to myself, “Another layer? Another pad? Another sash? What else on my body will be pressed down and plumped up?” And then the moment came when she pulled on the obi. I felt like someone had knocked the wind out of me. It immediately made me stand up straight with perfect posture. And soon, one very long piece of fabric, the obi, became the centerpiece of my entire kimono.

Measuring and creating the obi shape.

While helping me put on the kimono, Kasuya-sensei shared the must-know rules.  Make sure that the left side is always on the top. If you get this wrong, it signifies “death.”  Long sleeves, known as “furisode,” indicate an unmarried woman while shorter sleeves, known as “tomesode,” indicate a married woman.  She also gave me advice on how to wear a kimono properly and beautifully. The distance from the back of your neck to the collar should be the size of one fist.  Make sure that the “V” in the front of your collar aligns with the middle of your chin. I didn’t realize what precision was needed to wear kimono. And everything must maintain perfect proportions.

After tying my hair up and some brightly-colored lipstick to complement the colors in my kimono, I was taught how to walk in kimono and how to pose.  I couldn’t believe that after all of those pads and sashes, somehow, my body had been molded into a lovely shape.  I felt like a proper “lady.”

An amazing transformation after just one hour.

The kimono-wearing session was educational and fun: it was like a history lesson, language lesson and fashion show all in one! I was truly honored to have been dressed in kimono by such an expert Kimono Master and would recommend this unique experience to anyone.

——— Reported by Kia Cheleen


As a subsidiary office of one of the biggest kimono organizations in Japan, Nihonwasou Holdings, they propagate kimono culture in the U.S. by holding kimono wearing lessons, lectures, and events.  In addition to their regular classes conducted in Japanese, they arrange private lessons with an interpreter.

~Special for Chopsticks NY Readers~
Until March 3rd (“Girl’s Day” in Japan) NIHONWASOU USA offers a kimono-wearing lesson with a Japanese-English interpreter and photo taking session. The fee is $50 if you bring your own kimono and undergarments and $90 if you rent them. To apply, email with your name and phone number.

1410 Broadway, Suite 2618
New York, NY 10018
TEL: 212-869-0500