Kimono 着物

“Ki” 着 means to wear.  “Mono” 物 means things. 

Kimono simply means things to wear. 

Maki’s grandmother Kanoe Onodera, dressed only in kimono her entire life and Maki remembers her sewing “obi” (wide kimono sashes) everyday seated on the “engawa” (outside balcony) facing endless fields of rice.

Maki’s mother, Tsuyo Onodera, is a Master Kimono maker who has worked in the kimono industry for more than sixty years. Her parents established a kimono-making school in the northern city of Sendai, Japan, where she was the head of school. Maki remembers growing up with hundreds of “aunties” – the students who were living with them during their five-year apprenticeships to become licensed kimono makers.

Growing up, Maki was surrounded by all things related to sewing kimonos by hand – a rich array of silks, brocades, cottons, pattern books, and special Japanese threads and needles. Learning and practicing these sewing skills were part of Japanese women’s daily household chores for many centuries until Japan became modernized and westernized in the early to mid-20th century.

Now kimono are often worn in Japan only for important public holidays, festivals, and for formal occasions such as weddings and funerals. 

Understandably, Japan’s younger generation is not interested in years of vigorous training in hand sewing to become licensed. The art of authentic kimono sewing is getting lost.

How do we preserve the art of traditional kimono making?

Since 2012, under the guidance of her mother Tsuyo, Maki created a 25-hour workshop in which they taught and presented the techniques and skills in the art of traditional kimono making.

The kimono fabric comes in rolls called tanmono that are 36cm (14″) wide by 12 meters (40″) long. Makers mark the kimono design directly onto these rolls in an age-old design process in which every single piece of the material is utilized.

Tsuyo and Maki have led multiple workshops teaching participants how to sew yukata, casual summer kimono, at the Workshop Residence in San Francisco and at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art. 

In Sonoma, as a special in-depth program, students dye the tanmono fabric in natural indigo dye under the guidance of  Kakuo Kaji, owner/farmer/artist of BUAISOU of Tokushima, Japan. This program includes further instruction by Tsuyo in the art of sewing kimono.

Maki is passionate about keeping these authentic traditions alive through teaching a wide range of kimono related classes. In addition, she is devoted to celebrating the contributions of her mother (now in her late 70s), her grandmother, and all women dedicated to the art of hand-sewing kimono.

Here is a short clip how the kimono making is done.

Photographer for the homepage image: Peter Prato