So, the picture’s blurry, from behind. Because I’m not a tourist here. And it’ s totally normal to see people wearing kimonos in Tokyo. And because I don’t want anyone to feel like they’re an ethnographic exhibit.
From friends back in Australia, or guidebooks or websites I’ve read, have plenty of views about when or where people wear kimonos in Japan nowadays … mostly implying a kimono is rare sight, a curiosity. It’s not.
I reckon I see a couple of people each day wearing kimonos … and chatting on mobile phones; drinking coffee; carrying shopping; catching trains … doing totally normal, daily stuff. This is when I’m wandering ’round, doing my own daily thing, in Shinjuku or Shibuya (areas not noted for their traditionalism).
And no, it isn’t only little old ladies who wear them – in the Summer, I rarely saw an elderly woman in a kimono, it was always young people. Now it’s Winter, perhaps middle-aged women wearing kimonos predominate … or perhaps not, I’m not being scientific about this, it’s just my impression.
True, I’ve seen more women than men in traditional dress. But definately more young men, elderly men don’t seem to be interested. It’s fun watching young men, with bleached, spiked-up hair, standing at department store mirrors advising each other on which kimono makes them look cool … actually, it’s a novelty for me to see young men clothes shopping together, getting each other the same jeans in a different size, critiquing the fit: men don’t do that in Australia. No wonder the men’s clothes here are so good.
I don’t think wearing kimonos is in danger of dying out here, not yet, anyway. All the department stores here have a kimonos section, with kimono displays in the store windows for Summer. Even the department stores aimed at teenagers. Most of the women’s magazines for December had a kimono feature in them (perhaps in preparation for New Year’s)? Most boring little local shopping streets have a kimono store on them … and although I rarely see a customer inside, they’re also not closing down. And there’s heaps of new books and magazines on kimonos, how to wear them, which colours and patterns match, how to make your own, etc. And showing young models, on contemporary streets, clearly looking like they expect their Japanese readers to act on the advice. My favourite, with a kinda arty flare, is Kimono Hime (interesting article).
P.S. Yes, I know Summer kimonos are yukata and there’s special names for everything, but I’m keeping it simple today.