I went to Koomon, (3-8-16 Nihombashi, tel +81 3-5202-5737) for a kimono fitting last time I was in Japan. It’s the most memorable thing I did by far.
When the idea was suggested to me, I thought “Fine, but there’s no way I’m going outside in it.” After the fitting, which took a couple of hours, I couldn’t get out of the door in full regalia fast enough.
A bridal kimono is made up of 12 separate layers. My fitting was 6 layers. All I can say is that Japanese women must be very strong – 12 layers weighs 20kgs. It is also highly advisable to nip to the ladies before the enrobing process starts.
The first task, whilst you can still bend, is to put the 2-toe socks on, designed to be worn with the wooden flip-flop style Japanese shoes. The shoes aren’t easy to walk in and the kimono is quite tight so the tiny-stepped walk typical of Japanese girls is more of a necessity than anything. It’s also considered a bit unladylike to take big strides when you’re a girl.
The shoes are left at the door, and you enter a paper-walled room with an assistant to help with choosing and fitting the kimono. This is the point when you are trussed up tight like a chicken. A cleavage is not what you want in Japan, the back of the neck is the attractive part to display.
And it was tight. With towels to flatten your cleavage. Katie Price might best be advised to give a kimono a miss.
You then put on a cotton petticoat, tied at the waist, before choosing the kimono colour, the sash colour, and the false collar panel. There were hundreds of colours and patterns to choose from.
The false collar shows only by about a centimetre at either side of the v-front of the Kimono. And whatever you do, make sure and fold the collar and kimono left over right. Otherwise you are dead. Dead people are laid to rest right over left.
Once the kimono is on and held in place with a temporary tie and clothes pegs, you need to tie the sash. It’s 4 metres long. This is the tricky part. I fancied the “flower” tie but I was told I was too old. At least, I thought, they put the collar left over right. I got the wife of samurai bow instead, more becoming for someone of my age. A few wraps and flicks, and a cord tie, and the whole thing was held in place and the clothes pegs removed.
So now the focus is on the back of the neck. My hair was tied up and clips and decorations added.
And then we were off!! We went to a big department store along the road. Along the way, with my kimono fitter out in front – I was having a bit of a struggle with the tiny-step waddle, she stopped and told me to take off my watch. “A bit naff” is a rough translation I imagine of what she said, and she told me to stick it down the front of my sash.
I felt a bit like a film star in the shop. I was accompanies by two work colleagues and the kimono fitter, so walking out in front, a foreigner in a kimono, I could see people looking and saying “Who is she?? The one with red hair waddling like a duck?”