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My Kimonojourney - Part 1

Dear all, many of you know that I am incredibly fond of an ancient and yet everyday part of Japanese culture. I'm not talking about the onsen or the tea ceremony, no, I'm talking about kimonos. The traditional garment involves a little more than just putting it on once and walking through the streets of an old Japanese town.


For me, kimonos mean a deep connection with the people here in Japan and their history. At this point, I would like to take you on a journey from 2015 to today, starting in 2024. I want to take you on my journey and tell you about the wonders I have experienced.

 

Let's start with my first trip to Japan. After my somewhat bumpy start to my first trip, during my stay with my first host family, I met a girl with, I think, Vietnamese roots but who had grown up in Germany. You can reread the whole post in the article "Quick time or take what you can" on my old blog.


Before I went on to Nagoya, we had planned to take another tour of Tokyo. We were in the Sunshine City shopping center in Ikebukuro when we passed a kimono store. And I'm quoting myself:

"Before we left the center, we headed into a kimono store. Originally, we just wanted to see how mucho, a kimono costs, but in the end, Yumo and I each tried on a kimo and I bought a kimono and an obi (belt). It's incredibly lovely to wear a kimono, especially when it belongs to you. "


I think this was the first moment when I was simply in love! I felt beautiful, like a princess who had found her glass slipper. If I were to tell sweet little Tanja from back then what has happened to date just in relation to our kimono trip, she wouldn't believe me.

I wore this kimono for the first time in 2016 for Hatsumode, the first shrine visit of the new year, and yes, there are pictures of that, too!



These two moments were a seminal moment that paved the way for my life today and ignited my enthusiasm for this piece of Japanese culture.


It was a few years before I wore a kimono again after my return from Japan, and I can't tell you what triggered me to reach into my kimono box again. It could well be that the deep desire to travel to Japan again triggered the inner need to wear this garment again, as it represented such a strong connection for me. In the summer of 2021, I found my yukata, which I had bought with the red obi from Jean in Wakayama in 2016. Unfortunately, I no longer have any old pictures of it. It felt nostalgic to put on the Yukata that had been buried in my closet for so long. This was to be the start of an extraordinary journey.



Apart from the green yukata, my black kimono, the red obi, and the cherry blossom obi, I didn't have any other kimonos, let alone know how to wear them correctly. So YouTube and Instagram got busy, and I soon found teachers, friends, and a community who welcomed me into their ranks with open arms and with whom I am still in close contact today.

I want to highlight one friend in particular at this point. Nicole is originally from Italy and lives with her husband and child in Japan. She was the one who sent me my first box of kimonos to Germany. Thanks to her, I had the opportunity to practice how to dress and get to know the different types of fabrics we don't see so often in Germany.


And as with tattoos or other drugs, once you've started with kimonos and experienced the beauty, practicality, and closeness to nature, there's no going back. I read up on different types of obi and ways of tying them. I watched YouTube videos and tried until I had a nervous breakdown, drenched in sweat. My goal was to wear a kimono at Christmas and look reasonably neat. Anyone who knows me knows I often have high expectations of myself and my performance. Once again, I had to surpass myself. (Thanks at this point to Chris, who saved me more than once from "Oh, I'm going to give it all up!").



Now, I can proudly say that our family knows how to celebrate in style. And yes, I am very proud of my first genuine attempt at dressing myself. After that, of course, the journey continued.

When Japan finally opened its borders in March 2022, not only had my Japanese skills vastly improved, but so had my kimono dressing skills. I started to buy kimonos and the necessary accessories from second-hand stores and put them on at every opportunity. Since I began tea ceremony classes shortly after I started my language classes in April, I had the chance to wear a kimono and yukata. In the beginning, mainly yukata, my skills did not go beyond tying half an obi.



I started my part-time job at the tourist information center in Nihonabshi in April or May, where I wore a kimono and yukata during my working hours, which gave me a slight advantage in learning. Of course, our obi were usually pre-tied, but putting on the kimono myself and the daily repetition did the rest for quick and visible progress.


Another milestone in my kimono journey was, I think it was in June or July when my host mother asked me if I would like to go to kimono class with her at the community hall. This was an option that I couldn't pass up, of course, let alone know where it would take me.



This allowed me to expand my skills and improve my knowledge under guidance and sometimes somewhat strict supervision. I didn't realize this would lead me to a kimono contest and enroll in a kimono school. These things developed step by step.

 

At this point, I would like to take a shortcut. We are not yet halfway, but this is a good start for the first post. Maybe I'll get the rest into a second post, or possibly there will be two more posts. In any case, you can look forward to hearing more from me on kimonos.


If you have any questions or ideas that I could write about, let me know in the comments below.

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