The Kimono is a traditional Japanese garment, the word literally meaning “wearing (Ki) and thing (mono)”. What is the history behind these garments and how has their use developed in the modern age?
The earliest written recorded history of Japan is from around 300 to 538 CE and is known as the Kofun period. It is an era of cultural imports that led to a shared culture right across the southern Korean Peninsula. The Chinese introduced Buddhism and writing were introduced towards the end of this period. The Yamato clan rose to power in southwestern Japan, establishing the Imperial House that controlled trade routes across the region. It is believed that during this period the Kimono was derived from Chinese clothing in the Wu region. Originally the Kimono was worn with a half apron (called a mo) over the front of it and with hakama (trousers or a divided skirt). It became more stylised during the Hefian period (794 -1194 CE) but still with the mo. During the period 1336-1573 CE (known as the Muromachi age) it began being worn as a single one piece garment, but as underwear, without the hakama, but with the addition of an Obi (belt) to hold it closely together. Between 1603 and 1867 CE (known as the Edo period) the sleeves grew longer, especially for unmarried women and the Obi became wider. The styles became diverse with various styles of Obi knots. Since that era the Kimono has remained virtually unchanged.
The Japanese replaced the Kimono with more convenient Western clothes from the 1870’s. Also, the Kimono made by traditional methods became too expensive for the average family, today costing over $1000 dollars for a Kimono and Obi. Even on special occasions, such as weddings and coming of age ceremonies most people choose to rent one. Cheaper, manufactured quality Kimono are now available and help keep this important part of Japanese culture and history alive.
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