For centuries, the kimono has been worn by Japanese women, men and children as an everyday garment or as a formal attire for ceremonial events. In either case, it is more than a piece of clothing. It is a work of art that embodies Japanese aesthetics, the craftmanship of weavers and designers, and the Japanese love for nature. The following kimonos are striking in their incorporation of sea and other water images.

Click here to read Britannica’s short but informative article about the kimono.

With its straight seams and right-angled edges the kimono, unlike most western fashion, is cut to neither trace nor exaggerate the human form.

— Jess Cartner-Morley, ‘V&A hosts Europe’s first major exhibition on kimono‘, The Guardian (9 October 2019)

Boy’s miyamairi kimono with bouncing carp, 1920 – 1940
Courtesy of Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

According to the Rijksmuseum annotation, this is a formal kimono for a boy on his first visit to a Shinto shrine. The two carp leaping from stylised waves, the rocks, bamboo, and stylised clouds together symbolise academic aspiration and success.

Boy’s miyamairi kimono with the battle of the Fuji River, 1920 – 1940
Courtesy of Rijiksmuseum, Amsterdam

Like the foregoing, this is a miyamairi kimono worn by Japanese boys for their first visit to a Shinto shrine. Rijksmuseum says it probably depicts a scene from the 1180 battle of the Fuji River. At any rate, young boys are usually fascinated by battle scenes. So the design seems quite appropriate, especially given Japan’s traditional martial culture.

Kimono, 1800–1941
Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The design accentuating the lower part of this black kimono is reminiscent of a traditional Japanese woodblock print. The motion of water swirling around the rocks and cranes flying overhead complements the soft, fluid lines of the garment.

Kimono with Stylized Flowing Water, second quarter of the 20th century
Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Simplicity and elegance are wedded in this lovely kimono. “The virtuosity of the weavers and dyers who collaborated on this kimono is best revealed when the garment is viewed in a raking light, and the gold- and silver-painted stream shimmers against the underlying woven water pattern,” The MET points out in its annotation.

Women’s kimono with flying duck, 1950 – 1970
Courtesy of Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

A solitary white duck flying against a backdrop of concentric white lines gives this kimono a wow factor.

Men’s nagajuban with rising dragon, 1920 – 1940
Courtesy of Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

A nagajuban is a kimono-shaped robe worn underneath the outer garment. This one bears the beauty of traditional Japanese ink paintings and depicts a green dragon rising from the ocean waves. To the Japanese, as is the case with other cultures, green is a symbol of spring and life.

Set of three women’s kimonos with cranes
(furisode with cranes over the sea), 1920 – 1940
Courtey of Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

What woman wouldn’t be tempted to try on these gorgeous kimonos?

~ Barista Uno

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