Kimono Experience in Kamakura

The kimono – much like the bonnet, or the corset – is a respected landmark in fashion history. Since the Meiji Era in the 19th century, Western suits or jackets have increased in popularity while the kimono is reserved more and more for special occasions, such as a Wedding, Coming of Age Day, or Tea Ceremony. It remains, however, a quintessential symbol, a relic of Japan’s culture. Many Japanese locals and international visitors chose the ancient capital – Kamakura – to enjoy a unique kimono fitting experience. Eventually, I too gave into the lure of the many, many layers and tried a Kimono Experience. Here’s why you should too!


It is easy to see why Kamakua is so popular for kimono experiences – approximately an hour from Tokyo – the concentration of quaint gardens, adorned bridges, and bamboo forests, all lend themselves to fantastic photo opportunities. So with its bustling stalls, kimono shops, not to mention grand temples; Kamakura’s narrow streets are ideal for an afternoon well spent, roaming in a kimono.

Kimonos as we know them today have been around since the Heian period from the year 794 to 1192. Kimonos were traditional garments suitable for everyday life, and those worn by men and women didn’t differ wildly. During the Kamakura period (1192-1338) colorful kimonos became the height of fashion for young women. Colours and decorative motifs were highly significant; indicating age, gender, wealth and taste. Inevitably, new trends evolved with time. Take the length of sleeves: in the mid-Edo period, it became fashionable for women to wear kimono sleeves long, but to shorten these once married. Popular motifs – for example, the image of a crane representing longevity or good fortune – are still seen today. Seasonal symbolism is at play too; cherry blossoms in spring, or plums promising the changing season in winter. The integration of powerful imagery on a kimono became an art form – reflecting the occasion, or indeed the emotions or aspirations of the wearer. Even warriors wore kimonos: a sombre fashion parade that identified allegiance by colour.


So what can visitors expect from a kimono experience? Tucked away in one of the many kimono fitting shops in Kamakura – a walk in wardrobe the size of a small house – the fun begins. The effervescent excitement of choosing your kimono is infectious. Visitors scan rail after rail of colours, and patterns. Next, we are invited to choose the kimono accessories from a varied and colourful selection: a decorative sash-like accessory known as an obi, obijime fastenings (similar to a thin rope) and finally a bag. To clash spectacularly, deliberately even, or to compliment carefully? There are sizes for all – satin, silk, or polyester, bold and bright, rich or subdued, patterns and hues for every mood. The prices vary depending on material and style, usually costing between 4000-8000 yen for daily rental, allowing wearers to enjoy a full day out in the city.


The women in charge of dressing customers – all nimble fingers and complex knotting – complete the fitting with military precision within the hour. Dressed and well attended to, there is an opportunity to continue the pampering for those who opt for a traditional hair-do. Once the transformation is complete, there is the footwear to consider. The white socks, known as tabi, separate the big toe from the others and are surprisingly comfortable. Finally, it is time to totter out in traditional footwear (zori), for a once in a lifetime debut in Kamakura!

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