It’s 4pm in the afternoon and I’ve found myself at one of Tokyo’s many quaint neighbourhood stations.
Tokyo is massive, it’s busy and it’s crowded. Yet it still manages to house little pockets of calm in between the crowded trains, compact apartment blocks and ever-active streets. I don’t often find myself away from the ‘buzz’ in Tokyo. I love areas like Shibuya where the air is thick with energy and the crowds are a party of individuality. But for a change of pace and a breath of fresh air, I was glad to find myself at a quiet station to meet the photographer-turn-kimono-stylist, Stasia.
From the station we took a quick stroll through the pink-lantern-lit streets, it was Hanami time in Tokyo. About a kilometre away we ascended a staircase and stepped into her Japanese apartment. As per the Japanese style, upon entering a residence one is usually greeted with a row of shoes, usually slip on sneakers and slippers, Stasia’s apartment greeted me with a row of dainty Geta in various sizes, styles and colours. This wasn’t going to be a game of dress up, it was going to be an experience in the art of kimono.
Wandering into her Kimono room felt like stepping into a mini museum of antique fabrics and craft. Kimonos lined the walls, folded and draped from tatami to ceiling, accessories scattered across the surfaces, a variety of ribbons, ties and padding burst between the layered fabrics. Kimono, when worn correctly, appears to be two simple pieces of fabric origami’d to form a final look that despite the effort, looks absolutely effortless. Unbeknownst to the untrained eye, there are countless ties, clips and extra bits of padding as well as layers upon layers below the simple surface look. I immediately likened her dressing room to the layers beneath a kimono, intricacy concealed by composure.
Her kimonos are all vintage; a means of celebrating the past as well as promoting re-use and sustainability (values which seem to extend further than her kimono styling). Laid out on the tatami mat floor were two sets of kimono which she’d styled for me; in accordance with the colours and style of my instagram feed. My visual aesthetic tends towards darker colours and neo-noir styles which guided the shoot’s art direction. Blade Runner meets Memoirs of a Geisha, if you will. She dressed me delicately and did my hair all the while speaking me through the history of Kimono. It’s really quite amazing to think that kimono was the predominant form of clothing in Japan up until the 1930s or so.
That evening we weaved through the streets of her neighbourhood, finding hidden locations illuminated by lanterns and barbershop poles. I felt like I’d been transported to a new paradigm that blended 1950s Japan with a futuristic 2049. Kimono always has the most profound ability to enable me to feel like the most glamorous, elegant and feminine version of myself. I’m not sure if it’s the feeling of the luxe fabrics, the rich colours and symbolism of it all or if it’s simply the somewhat constricting layering which makes walking and movements in general all the more small and dainty. Either way, I have yet to find another set of garments that make me feel as exquisite as kimono does. I won’t go into all of those details because I’ve already written a piece about my first encounter with kimono and the depth of my love for it. I really do recommend wearing kimono to anyone traveling to Japan. There are numerous places to rent kimono (for a day or a few hours). They’re mostly scattered near bigger tourist spots like the major shrines, temples or castles. If you decide to go for it; make sure to take the time to find one with good recommendations and perhaps a slightly higher fee. A lot of kimono rental places have started doing simple “tourist friendly” options which don’t come anywhere near the authentic experience with all the layers in between. The times I’ve worn kimono in Japan have been some of the most culturally rich experiences of my time here. Unless you’re Kim Kardashian, Japanese people for the most part, seem to enjoy watching foreign people embrace their culture so I’ve felt comfortable to learn about it any chance I’ve had. Stasia provides a great example of how to embrace a culture without appropriating it. She’s done her research and shows nothing but the utmost respect and support of Kimono culture – as one should when visiting/living in Japan.
Thank you, Stasia. Arigatou, Japan.