Women in Kimonos

Kimonos at Orinasu-Kan

Since the first time I saw a traditional kimono, I’ve been fascinated by the contrast between the simple construction and the exquisite, ornate decoration on these garments. These days I’m more interested in contemporary Japanese fashion than the traditional, but was still keen to visit Orinasu-Kan which is The Foundation for the Promotion of Hand-woven Textiles in Kyoto.

Despite a rocky start, when I let my unclad foot come to rest on the outside part of the building entrance, our visit to Orinasu-Kan was yet another example of the generosity and kindness of people that we met on this trip to Japan.

This museum and workshop, which was built in traditional Japanese style by an American carpenter, spans two floors that house examples of Japanese textiles, looms, and stunningly beautiful kimonos. On the upper floor there are also handbags recently made from kimono or obi cloth and brochures promoting cabinets to house a ceremonial wardrobe.

We were alone during our visit, save for the attendant who was helpful without hovering and, conscious that most westerners don’t have the time for traditional kimono dressing, offered to show how one is worn, in very quick time. We chose one each and he deftly wrapped them around us, bunching fabric at the back and using large clips to keep everything in place.  True to his word, it took moments and still allowed us to appreciate the intricacy and luxury of these garments.

Another day we wandered into a bridal shop selling both ceremonial kimonos and white wedding dresses. Here we learned that most young women favour the two piece version of the kimono which allows for quicker dressing and more freedom of movement. We did see at least one bride in traditional dress and she was a rare treat.

Sadly, vintage kimonos are often discarded and find their way into bulk sales to be cut up for craftwork and dressmaking; it’s unfortunate that these beautifully crafted garments have come to such an abject end, but it is gratifying to see that the yukata and less traditional version of a kimono is out and about every day.

Young woman in a modern kimono

Directions to Orinasu-Kan – Address: 693 Daikoku-cho, Kamigyo-ku

You can take a city bus. Look for one that stops at Horikawa Imadegawa (corner of Horikawa and Imadegawa Streets). Watch the sign on the windshield as it shows four stops at a time and you’ll be able to see when yours is coming up. It’s a flat fare so have your change on hand as you disembark (230 Yen in October 2017).

From the bus stop, walk back towards the intersection and turn right. Meander down Imadegawa-dori until you reach Daikoku-cho. If you’re hungry, take tea at the Japanese sweet shop or pick up a pastry at the French bakery.

The area is lovely, take the time to wander around in some of the small streets nearby.


Photograph below is from SHIRAMINE JINGUH which you will see if you turn left (and cross the road) instead of turning right at Imadegawa-dori.

Photo of offerings at a Shinto Shrine