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[Kimono Style] Highlights From One of Japan's Biggest Kimono Events

The annual Kimono Salone showcases kimono's beautiful diversity for both traditional and modern wear, bringing together producers from all over Japan.



Fashion show at Kimono Salone. (©Sheila Cliffe)

Once again, the Tokyo International Forum hosted this year's Kimono Salone on November 4 and 5, 2023. This annual event is a chance for kimono makers from around Japan to rent a booth, come and show their goods, and meet their customers face to face. 

For kimono fans, it is also a rare chance to see so many makers and kimono brands all together in one place, and to talk directly with the producers. In addition to the booths, there is also a stage on which various events take place throughout the weekend. This includes various talk shows, fashion shows, and dance and stage performances. There are also various displays such as selected kimono designed by students and a photo booth corner. 

Kimono designed by students. (©Sheila Cliffe)

This year, Jotaro Saito had a large presence with talk shows, displays of his own and other related brands, and a small fashion show as well as a booth for sales. He is marketing kimono as fashionable for the future "Kimonoists," who are specially chosen to promote kimono in the media.

(©Sheila Cliffe)

Influences from Abroad

There were around 140 makers of kimono and kimono-related goods, meaning that the show was considerably larger than in previous years. I am not sure if I got around to seeing everything on display. One of the most exciting things is to see the incredible variety of dyeing and weaving techniques from around Japan, and even beyond. Uzbekistan's adras ikat and suzani embroidery were on display as well as weaving by Palestinian women. Kimono has always absorbed influences from abroad so it is a healthy sign that it continues to do so.

Traditional Weaving

On the very traditional end was Showa mura karamushi weaving. Karamushi, or ramie, is a linen-like fibre taken from the stems of plants. The stems are then shredded into fine pieces and tied to make threads. A woman sat making the threads, and obi and kimono bolts dyed in various plant dyes were on display. In a similar vein, Yushisha from Tango displayed their obi with wisteria threads from the mountains, which they collect each year, split into fine threads, and then weave into their obi. Such beautiful works as these are so labor-intensive that it is almost a miracle that they still survive in Japan.

Kyushu and Kyoto

Kuroki Orimono and Okano from Hakata in Kyushu showed their obi. These range from traditional hakata designs, often seen on obi for sumo wrestlers and on yukata, to more original and modern designs, such as traffic signs, warning signs, and animals. Okano has expanded from making obi into making kimono as well. Although the threads are different, the techniques involved in producing the fabric are the same.

Hibaco Group from Kyoto, Ooba, and others brought their Nishijin woven obi to the show demonstrating that fine-quality obi weaving is still alive in Kyoto. Tango Kouju Sasaki brought knitted silk obi and several other Tango workshops were represented showing kimono bolts. 

Gundam on Kimono

Kobayashi Kobo's Tango blue is always popular, and Shibata Orimono was pushing their washable silk nagajuban (kimono silk underwear).

An unusual offering from Kyoto's Nishijin area was from N180, a yuzen-dyed kimono with a Gundam motif. There was a kimono and obi set for women and one for men. An amusing if rather expensive offering for Gundam fans.

Fujioka-san of Fujioka Kumihimo had brought his loom and gathered quite a crowd as he demonstrated how to make kumihimo braiding for obi jime (obi cords). He has developed a new line of thinner obijime, which it is possible to put obidome brooches on. Kiorien, from Yamagata, brought not only obi woven in Yamagata but also its range of colorful cotton bolts for making kimono.

Rumi Rock fans were gathering at her booth to view her latest pret-a-porter kimono, which are colorful and have unique designs. Produced in cotton and ceo alpha polyester they are a reasonably priced option for the fashion-conscious kimono wearer. Ume Saihoujyo in Nishiogikubo brought a range of cotton obi, some reversible, in colorful prints that were cheerful and would look great on plain kimono.

Footwear and Upcycling

Footwear was presented by IWASA and Calen Blosso, perhaps the two most popular footwear brands. But a new and interesting brand was Ryujin, who has produced a zori that looks like a shoe. It has laces on the cords, which is completely without function but gives a humorous touch to the regular look of zori.

Several brands were upcycling or recycling this year. The most interesting was Uz Fabric who has a range of patterns for clothing or bags. You can bring your own kimono that you no longer use to Uz Fabric to be upcycled into a new bag or garment. As they are all individually tailored, they are actually like investing in a new kimono.

Footwear by Ryujin (©Sheila Cliffe)

Kimono for Everyone

I was looking forward to a talk show which featured the four editors of the top kimono magazines in Japan. These are Utsukushii Kimono, Kimono Salon, Nanaoh, and Kimono Anne. It actually brought no surprises, which was a little disappointing. Both Utsukushii Kimono and Kimono Salone are aimed at those who can buy luxurious kimono and want to wear them in traditional ways. 

Whilst the magazines are beautiful, they are not aimed at the regular kimono wearer. For most people, they feel like a separate world. Nanaoh stated its intention to be a resource for people who want to incorporate kimono into their daily lives and to be a place where knowledge and tips about kimono can be shared. Kimono Anne wants to be the entranceway to kimono. It seeks to show the creative dressing possibilities of kimono in order to encourage new and fashionable kimono wearers. 


Each magazine has its place and its own audience. Their differences testify to the enormous variety of kimono and ways of thinking about kimono. It leaves me confident that there will be even more on display at next year's event.


Author: Sheila Cliffe

Read other columns on kimono by the author.

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