Traditional Occasions for Wearing Kimonos

There are many festivals, events, and circumstances where it is traditional to wear a kimono in Japan. Even though Western clothes have become prevalent in much of day to day wear:

1. Birth of a child. Wearing Kimonos

In Japanese culture, as in many others, the birth of a child is considered a milestone. When the child is between 30 to 100 days old, the family visits a certain shrine to commemorate the birth. This is called “miyamairi.” If the baby is a girl, she wears a brightly colored velvet kimono. In comparison, a boy wears a black kimono embellished with the family crest.

2. Shichi-Go-San Festival. 

“Shichi-Go-San” stands for Seven-Five-Three. It is a festival usually held on November 15, and it celebrates Japan’s children. For this occasion, parents dress their children in kimonos and take their 3-year old and 5-year old sons and 3-year old and 7-year old daughters to a Shinto shrine to pray for good fortune and health. These ages are celebrated not only because odd numbers are considered lucky numbers in Japan but also because they mark specific cultural milestones in a child’s growth. In the past, the Japanese shaved children’s heads until three, when both boys and girls were allowed to grow their hair. The age of five for young boys marks the wearing of his first hakama and haori, while the age of seven celebrates a young girl’s first obi – the traditional silk kimono belt. Until then, girls tie their kimonos with a simple cord.

3. Coming-of-Age Day. Wearing Kimonos

On the second Monday in January, Japan celebrates the coming of young men and women who are turning twenty. Women usually dress in zori sandals and a furisode, a colorful kimono with very long sleeves for this celebration. At the same time, men wear a traditional dark kimono with hakama and a haori jacket. Despite the formality of its traditional clothing, Coming-of-Age Day is a holiday often celebrated by drinking and parties that go on late into the night. In a pure fashion sense, it is not unlike homecoming or prom, where young adults dress in formal clothes and celebrate on their own, away from parents and older adults.

4. Weddings. Wearing Kimonos

The Japanese also have a traditional garment for wedding ceremonies. The bride wears a shiromuku, an all-white ultra-formal kimono, and a tsunokakushi, a Japanese wedding headpiece. White is a symbol of purity and new beginnings. Sometimes, shiromuku also has white-on-white embroidery of animals like the phoenix, a traditionally feminine symbol of elegance and nobility. For a colorful splash during the reception, brides can wear an uchikake, a brilliantly colorful kimono left untied. The groom, on the other hand, wears several layers. Kimono undergarments, a black and white kimono with the family crest, and a haori and hakama pants as outerwear. The bride’s female relatives and friends wear furisode or tomesode depending on marital status.

5. Parties and personal ceremonies.

For formal parties and traditional Japanese ceremonies like flower arranging and tea ceremonies, the “tsukesage” is the historical kimono of choice. It has patterns following the hemlines and extending up the sleeves—an elegantly subdued alternative to some of the more brilliant and heavily patterned kimonos. The “houmongi,” meaning “visiting kimono,” is for women going out to visit their friends and colleagues formally. Email us here with questions.

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