But today, as a result of globalization and rapidly changing demographics, the kimono business has collapsed, its future in question. Sales are expected to sink to an all-time low this year, even as Japan has emerged from recession to experience its longest economic boom since World War II.

The kimono's big problem is that it is in a downward spiral. The less it is worn, the more unusual it is to wear it; the more unusual it is to wear it, the less appealing it is as a wardrobe choice (except for situations where it is specifically required or accepted as a standard option). It also doesn't help that as sales volume goes down, prices go up.

(Kimono do have a reputation for being objectively more difficult and inconvenient to wear, but this is just a side effect of having being edged out into the formalwear ghetto. As everyday clothing, without all the optional extras, kimono are no harder to put on than a shirt and a pair of pants. Even tying your own obi isn't any more difficult than tying your own necktie, if you stick to the simple knots (in both cases). But kimono aren't everyday clothing any more, so most people only experience the heavy, complicated, formal version.)

You might draw an interesting analogy with (Western) art music: once upon a time, it encompassed everything from gigantic multi-movement works to throwaway diversions and settings of folk songs. The only competition was folk music itself. But when pop music came along, it took over the "everyday" niche, and only the greatest achievements of the art music tradition remained in the general cultural consciousness: symphonies, requiems, the "Moonlight" Sonata. Unfortunately, the loss of the simpler everyday stuff (along with the decline in actually performing music rather than just listening to it) meant that people stopped learning how to appreciate the more challenging and rewarding works -- they can't survive on their own, and that's why they're gradually fading away.

(Edited for sobriety.)

Popularity factor: 7


I left my kogojiten at home. Is it really “kimönö”?


I am pretty sure that it is, making these the world's first functional heavy metal umlauts.


"Kimönödämmerung" Synopsis, Act 3

Brünnhilde-ko orders a funeral pyre for kimono culture. She condemns Hello Kitty for her guilt in its death, takes the Obi, and promises it to the spirit of Yukio Mishima. Wrapping it around her waist, she throws a torch onto the pyre and joyfully rushes into the flames. As Mt. Fuji erupts and Tokyo is consumed, the spirit of Yukio Mishima, dragging Shintaro Tsuji (founder of Sanrio and purveyor of the Hello Kitty line) to his death, regain their Kultur, at last purified of its curse. Lava engulfs Hello Kitty headquarters, leaving a Japan redeemed by good taste.

Gaijin Biker:

The popularity of kimono is dwindling not because they're expensive (so are Louis Vuitton bags, after all), but because each new generation of Japanese wants less and less to do with Japan's own past. Why dress like they did centuries ago when Japan was closed off from the world? Don't you want to be a modern, cosmopolitan guy or gal in a Western suit?

The real salvation for kimono makers would be to get Westerners interested in wearing the things. Madonna has made some inroads in this regard; someone needs to pick up her lead.


You know, normally when I come to No-sword day after day and there's nothing new, I frown and mutter. But every time I come and see "Kimönödämmerung," I smile. Heavy metal!


denske, that's brilliant. I'd pay.

GB, I don't know about that. Obviously that was a big part of the reason kimono became less popular in the first place, but now lots of people (especially younger people) are getting more interested in the traditional stuff, as one more well of ideas to draw from if nothing else. It's just that it's too hard to experiment. If you want to branch out into tighter pants, it's a few thousand yen for an easily available pair; if you want to wear a kimono to a party just for kicks, it's a visit to a specialist shop, tens of thousands of yen, a whole new skillset for the actual wearing... there are hardly any entry-level options any more, and the ones that do exist are still much more expensive than a new western-style outfit.


...and that is why we need big fashion labels to start marketing easy to wear, ready-made post-kimono (combining luxury-brand attractivity with mass-produced accessibility). If only Karl Lagerfeld read No-sword.

Still: westerners have tried and failed to embrace kimono already, overcoding it as saucy nightwear for Bond movies. Maybe it's because no-one figured out how to avoid kikuzure?

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