Monday, June 21, 2010

Kimono and Obi

One of my joys in living in Japan is to see kimono. Good kimono and obi are arts. I enjoy the designs and the contrasts that obi and kimono make. The Japanese colors are basically all come from the indigenous plants. The dyeing technique is called kusaki-zome. They are very vivid and beautiful.

In wearing kimono(no singular or plural form in Japanese), the contrasts are enjoyable to look at such as different colors, dark vs. light, small prints vs. large prints, natural motif vs. geometric motif, and dyeing or printing textile vs. woven textile. There are rules to wear kimono, but they are common sense for traditional artists. One rule is not to wear hand-woven textile kimono with a hand-
woven obi. If we wear a kimono of hand-woven material, we wear an obi that went through dyeing or printing process, and vice versa. That’s an effective contrast in texture.

But nowadays, the strict rules do not apply. Many kimono lovers break the rules and enjoy their kimono. I forgot her name, but a young woman with PhD in arts has been making geometric designs using the computer graphic. Her kimono and obi are both geometric although the designs and the size of the designs vary. So, people try all kinds of things to challenge the tradition, but the classic designs and the way to contrast among an obi sash, a kimono, undergarments, linings, a band, an obi-scarf gives kimono lovers immense pleasure. It’s fun to plan the combination as well as just to look at.


Vincent said...

Till your post I never understood what an obi was. I saw a little decorative knapsack at the back and never realized it was a bow!

But I did appreciate that the kimono plus obi, and the little steps taken by women wearing this ensemble, is probably the most feminine outfit I have ever seen. But now I learn (by looking it up) that there are male versions too, presumably not feminine.

keiko amano said...


That’s right. You’re looking at the standard bow of female obi. Although the bow is a decoration, we use the front of obi to store a fan and other small items. Also, we can use kimono sleeves for that purpose.

Rebb said...

Keiko, You seem to have many beautiful arts to see in Japan. I did not know that the bow is called obi and that you can store little things inside.

There is another nearby Japanese restaurant where two women serving food wear a kimono and obi. One of the women looks like she's in charge. There are other younger women servers, but they wear black pants and white shirts.

keiko amano said...


I’m very interested in the traditional arts because I was away from Japan for so long.

No, bow is not obi. Obi is/are long sash/es. It tied usually in the back as you see it. Maybe, accent is a better word than bow or decoration.

Traditional kimono and obi are hand-made. Each is unique. The blue kimono this ocha teacher (we have three) is wearing was dyed by one of her friend. There are many specialists involved in making traditional kimono and obi.

Yes, you can store small items in the front, not the back, and at the bottom of the sleeves.