Kimono are worn as formalwear and in cultural pursuits, but few men don them and the market has shrunk. Various initiatives aim to reverse this trend. One man sells outfits to dispel the image of kimono being expensive and bothersome. Another aims to revive the bold, showy style favored over 400 years ago. A connoisseur repurposes old kimono, adding the subtle flair of later fashion. An artist dyes kimono to suit the wearer's tastes. Discover how they strive to revive the appeal of men's kimono.
Until modern times, everyone in daily life wore clothing that resemble today's kimono.
Now the kimono enjoys a pride of place as Japan's national garment.
It is often worn at ceremonies marking personal milestones, such as a child attaining a certain age, or at weddings.
Kimono are intertwined with elements of traditional culture such as tea gatherings and flower arrangement.
Even in Kyoto, where tradition is meticulously upheld, the Westernization of lifestyles has decreased opportunities for enjoying kimono.
Men are even less likely to be seen sporting the classic attire.
However, individuals troubled by the trend and bent on reversing it are emphasizing the appeal of men's kimono.
I want everyone to know that people
really wore these showy kimono.
I want people to know that men's kimono
are not rigid and should be enjoyed freely.
Core Kyoto examines individuals whose fresh ideas bring renewed value to men's kimono.
This historic kimono shop was founded almost 440 years ago.
The kimono on display are all for women.
The men's corner simply features bolts of cloth waiting to be tailored.
Kamei Akira attributes the sharp drop in demand for men's kimono to workplace transformations.
The main reason for the post-WWII plunge
was that men were always working.
The shift to Western attire suited
Western-style business interactions.
Nevertheless, Kamei finds men's kimono indispensable in Kyoto.
Kyoto is where tradition, culture,
and crafts converge.
Especially as they serve the needs
of tea and ikebana circles, kimono shops have a major role
in handling men's attire.
One company specializes in men's kimono with the aim of increasing male wearers.
Its primary focus is its online store.
Kato Daisuke was born and raised into a family of kimono dyers.
Working for a travel agency after graduating college, he interacted with many people from overseas and he began to reconsider the kimono business.
Despite being reared in the
traditional kimono dyeing industry, I knew nothing about Japanese culture.
I found that overseas people were
well steeped in their own culture, and I became more aware of mine
and decided to enter the trade.
Kato entered the family business and consciously focused on men's kimono.
I began by selling women's kimono.
I opted to specialize after customers told me there
were few places they could buy men's kimono.
Kato displays and sells kimono in Higashiyama, an area popular with tourists.
This customer is so taken by Kyoto that he visits several times a month from eastern Japan.
However, this is his first kimono purchase.
I'd like to enjoy being Japanese
by wearing kimono on my days off, as I usually wear Western clothes.
Kato sells kimono as an outfit and includes the "obi" and footwear, simplifying the purchase especially for first-time customers.
While kimono fabric sold elsewhere is usually expensive silk, Kato also offers a wide range of polyester as it is washable and easier to handle.
On Kato's recommendation, the customer chose a navy kimono and "haori" jacket.
I'm thoroughly satisfied
with my purchase.
Kato also rents kimono to encourage more men to try them.
He has assembled a diverse range to answer the needs of every physique and occasion.
Kimono styles vary depending on their intended use.
Everyday kimono are worn over undergarments and attached with an "obi."
Adding a "haori" elevates the outfit for fancier outings, much like a sports coat in Western wardrobes.
A black kimono and "haori," both emblazoned with the family crest, and "hakama" create a formal ensemble.
Kato suggests pairing a kimono with Western items such as sneakers or a stole for stylish modern flair.
Freely coordinating a casual or stylish outfit
without traditional constraints can be liberating.
Some men wear kimono year round.
Kitai Hidemasa, who makes and sells Japanese arts and crafts, wears kimono in his daily life as well as at work.
I concluded that Western clothes do not suit
my diminutive, short-legged, Japanese physique.
However, I discovered that kimono are
perfect for men with Japanese builds.
At around 20 years of age, Kitai purchased an antique garment at a shrine market for several hundred yen, spurring his interest in kimono.
Now, over 20 years later, Kitai would not be without his kimono.
This chest of drawers holds around 50.
He has his particular favorites.
One is a stylish kimono for outings.
This one is rather simple,
but the "obi" has a playful design.
The "haori" is a glossy dark gray.
This winter outfit partners an antique kimono and "obi," with a padded winter coat.
The coat is padded with cotton,
so it's warm and comfortable in winter.
I wear it like a "haori" at home.
I can even wear it to accessorize
a kimono when going out.
Men's kimono are characterized by subdued colors and designs, and the style seldom varies.
However, Kitai finds that appealing.
Men's kimono are truly simple.
For daily wear, it's a kimono, "obi,"
"haori," haori fastener, and footwear.
You have leeway to enjoy fashion.
The world of men's kimono is indeed deep
with various materials, colors, and accessories.
That's why I find it appealing.
This is a replica of a 16th-century man's kimono that has all the glamour of a woman's kimono.
During the 15th and 16th centuries, samurai battled for dominion.
Eccentric samurai ruffians, referred to as "kabukimono," would swagger through town in flamboyant kimono.
Yamaguchi Genbei has made it his mission to revive the kimono worn by these "kabukimono."
Yamaguchi unearthed their designs by studying paintings and reference materials, and set about reintroducing the lost kimono designs to the world.
He organized a fashion show of men's kimono, some 70 percent of which were reproductions of those actually worn by "kabukimono."
Yamaguchi's own kimono features one such design.
The pattern known as "torn lattice" depicts a disrupted grid, which symbolizes opposition to power and authority.
Almost nobody wore patterns that
didn't have some significance.
They expanded their potential to new
horizons and shattered convention.
I think they wore the
designs with that intent.
"Amaterasu Omikami" and "Konda Hachimangu,"
please make this a blessed day.
Yamaguchi is the 10th generation head of a more-than-280-year-old family business which produces and sells "obi."
Yamaguchi infuses the samurai spirit into the men's and women's "obi" he creates.
One features a dragonfly, beloved by samurai for its aggressive forward plunge.
They nicknamed them "winning insects" and embossed their favorite weapons with images of dragonflies.
The positioning of the "obi" is key.
It proclaims readiness.
As the phrase "to have guts" implies,
you literally tighten your abdomen.
I cannot overestimate
the importance of this.
Yamaguchi creates novel "obi," many of which are exhilarating.
He turns peacock feathers into threads to be woven into "obi."
The threads change color as light strikes from different angles.
Meanwhile, another "obi" features lapis lazuli, crushed into powder.
Who'd believe weaving lapis lazuli
into an "obi" was possible?
It's incredible that craftspeople
could actually make that happen.
At any rate, it's small-minded to focus
only on producing "obi" that will sell.
Yamaguchi's "obi" incorporate Kyoto's distinctive Nishijin weaving skills.
He conveys the ideas that pop into his head to trusted Nishijin craftsmen.
I don't know about this.
But the expression of the leaves
is amazing, maybe a shade lighter.
The blend of Yamaguchi's vision and master techniques transform the impossible into reality.
Nishijin, where Kyoto's luxurious Nishijin brocade is produced.
Konishi Katsumi, a weaver with 50 years' experience behind him, collaborates with Yamaguchi on the "obi."
His requests are challenging. I can't
just weave his "obi" like others.
I sometimes need to sleep on the problem
and a solution will come to me.
My work is a combination of
ideas, skill, and patience.
It's a joy when
they come together.
Throughout its 1200-year history, Kyoto has continued producing "obi" and kimono spurred by the unconventional spirit of artisans and producers alike.
Kyoto has suffered its share of
epidemics, earthquakes, and tragedies.
Yet the people persevered
for 1,000 years.
If I suddenly declared that I was quitting,
obi-making techniques would vanish.
I absolutely do not want
to interrupt this tradition.
Japan's period of inner turmoil ended in the early 17th century.
The Edo shogunate assumed power and in time decreed sumptuary laws which prohibited wasteful extravagance and luxury in every facet of life, including fashion.
As can be imagined, people devised methods of enjoying fashion secretly.
The usually hidden lining of "haori," often worn on outings, provided the perfect place for a splashy pattern.
"Haori" are repeatedly removed and donned, providing ample opportunity for brief displays, so men vied for the most stylish designs.
This shop collects and sells antiques.
Sano Masanao is a purveyor of vintage kimono.
Some 90% of all the kimono you see
were purchased from old Kyoto homes.
Kyoto and kimono are inseparable.
The city escaped burning during WWII,
so the kimono survived.
The shop stocks a variety of "haori."
One has a classic design featuring tea utensils.
Another depicts a stormy sea and Mt. Fuji.
Western culture and attire gained popularity in Japan after the samurai period ended in the late 19th century.
That broadened the repertoire of designs, introducing a burst of new "haori" styles in the 20th century.
The notion of hiding vogue in one's garment prevailed long after the law was repealed.
The focus expanded from "haori" lining to kimono undergarments which also escaped the public eye.
This undergarment features the motif of a bar in Tokyo's fashionable Ginza district.
Sano points out that whimsical enjoyment of hidden fashion reveals individual taste.
I think this undergarment
was order-made in Kyoto.
I imagine the man had a fascination
with Ginza, and its bars and cabarets.
"Konnichi wa, Tanaka-san. Osewa ni natte masu, itsumo."
Sano focuses on restoring antique kimono and textiles.
I think it's a man's undergarment,
and I want it made into a "haori" lining.
The workshop belongs to Tanaka Yumiko, a kimono seamstress.
The fabric of the undergarment Sano gave her is embellished with records and beverage glasses.
She carefully plucks the stitching.
I imagine that the normally unseen lining
may peek through when the "haori" is removed, so I consider what would look stylish
when revealed and the overall balance.
Antique kimono are often reborn as new garments.
Sano feels the passion behind the hidden lining of these "haori."
He is keen on having men enjoy them and understand that the aesthetics are still relevant today.
"Haori" linings are certainly
a wonderful tradition, but I also see them as
a key part of fashion.
I'd like to convey the fashion, history and
merits of "haori" to the younger generation.
One creator strives to achieve his dream of making new-style kimono for young men to wear.
Kato Yohei runs a studio which has been producing hand-painted kimono for some 150 years.
The theme of our workshop
We like to capture on kimono the unexplored
breezes unique to each customer.
Depicting breezes on this women's kimono requires color gradation, a skill distinctive to this workshop.
Kato specializes in the use of a wide range of brilliant colors.
These nine basic colors can be combined to create over 3,000 shades.
Expressing delicate, graceful gradations depends on the proper use of a variety of brushes.
Another feature of Kato's workshop is its dainty hand-painted designs which are added directly onto the fabric.
Hand-painted kimono typically encase designs in a border of glue, which provides masking to prevent the paint bleeding.
Kato works without glue, requiring meticulous care to paint within the lines.
He achieves his gradation through skillful use of the brush tip.
This is one of his creations for men.
A current of air blows across the deep red fabric, reflecting the morning sun.
The variety of men's kimono is limited, and
I feel men want something special.
They prefer to wear an uncommon
design, to buy something distinctive.
So I'm motivated to paint unusual
and personal designs for each individual.
Kato originally aspired to be a manga artist.
He submitted drawings to a renowned manga publication and his skill was exceptional enough to land him a prize.
But despite this, he found it difficult to enter the industry and decided to join the family business.
Kato includes the playfulness of manga in his kimono designs.
This men's kimono features stars, a glass of champagne, and wrapped gifts.
The design evokes a party atmosphere.
Kato uses his creativity to bring the customer's penchants and wishes to life for a one-of-a-kind kimono.
This customer from eastern Japan is captivated by Kato's designs.
He discussed his vision in detail with Kato before he placed his order on the spot.
The pattern features his favorite cats gamboling playfully about.
my favorite things - we went back and forth about
each detail, before I made my decision.
I fell in love with the kimono
the minute I saw it.
It's meant to last a lifetime,
so I look forward to wearing it.
Kato is busy with a new men's kimono design.
His conversation with the customer inspired him.
He produced a quick, rough sketch of the image that popped into his head, and the customer formalized the order, straight away.
He is a passionate individual,
and flames seemed to reflect that.
He also showed a very gentle side,
depicted in the shades of the blue flames.
I ended up with
a distinctive, fiery design.
The dyeing took three weeks to complete.
The basting is now done.
The customer's inner feelings are concealed in the brightly burning blue flame.
I've had many experiences
where wearing a kimono - has forged new friendships,
or sparked fruitful conversations.
I view kimono as
a man's secret weapon, and I hope to continue
creating new designs.
The approach of each of these Kyoto gentlemen may differ but they share a firm commitment to the revival of men's kimono.
Stylish aesthetics that were refined through the ages are still in mode today.