In this “lesson”, I’ll be covering basic kitsuke – kimono dressing – books. These cover a lot of area in good detail, and are great for beginners. As this entry on basic books is already long, I’ll post a second entry on more advanced books. In this list, “Kimono types covered” lists the different kimono for which there are specific directions in each book, likewise for “Obi musubi covered.”
This lesson will use some Japanese terms without any definition in parentheses. These are all terms you should be familiar with in order to wear kimono. A very good glossary can be found at Ichiroya: Glossary of Kimono Terms, and an excellent online Japanese dictionary is Jim Breen’s WWWJDIC. Of most relevance to this lesson is “Translate Words in Japanese Text” in his WWWJDIC: copy-paste any Japanese text (assuming you have Japanese fonts installed on your system, so they display correctly) and it will do a basic translation for you. You’ll have to make sense of it on your own, but it is very useful.
I buy all my books in Japanese from Amazon Japan, but have also heard Kinokuniya recommended. The nice thing with Amazon Japan is that if you’re already familiar with another Amazon site, the layout doesn’t change much, plus Amazon JP now has account and buying information translated in English. Use XE.com’s Currency Converter for continuously updated exchange rates – type in the amount in yen to convert it to your currency of choice.
Recommended Kitsuke Books
1. Ichida Hiromi no Kimono Lesson (Hiromi Ichida’s Kimono Lesson)
You can also find this one on eBay pretty easily, but it’s cheaper to buy it directly from Japan (even with shipping included – SAL shipping is fast and relatively inexpensive). This book has color photograph directions for wearing several types of kimono. If you speak Japanese, there’s also a chart for when to wear what type of kimono and all kinds of informative points. Directions are very clear, you don’t need to speak Japanese to follow them. Just look carefully! Highly recommended as a first kimono book – and maybe the only one you’ll ever need if you don’t plan to wear kimono often.
Kimono types covered: nagajuban, komon, tomesode, furisode, graduation hakama (for women), men’s formal oufit, yukata for women, men, and children, and shichi-go-san kimono.
Obi musubi covered: Nagoya obi taiko, fukuro obi double-fold taiko (formal), hirabunko, fukura suzume, yaguruma daiko, men’s kaku obi; for hanhaba obi, bunko and kai no kuchi, hon musubi (for men), as well as children’s obi musubi.
Also included: Preface with an overview of all kimono and obi types, accessories. Directions on how to make your own “waist widener”, as I like to call it, which is a datejime made from a thin hand towel, worn over the nagajuban. How to sew on han eri and attach date eri. Three ways to tie obijime, two ways to tie/fold obiage, how to fold all kimono and obi types for storage. All kinds of “checks” and “points” on proper kitsuke.
2. My Life Series: Kitsuke Lesson
A really wonderful book, I have to say this is where I turn when I want the simplest, most reliable directions possible. All in color photographs, the author, Mr. Shouichi Amano, shows you how to get a great kimono look while using none of the newer kitsuke contraptions. Another good beginner’s book, although it’s a bit sparser than Ms. Ichida’s.
Kimono types covered: nagajuban, tsumugi, komon, kurotomesode with double lining, furisode, graduation hakama, yukata for women (only), men’s visiting wear, men’s formal outfit, and shichi-go-san kimono.
Obi musubi covered: Fukuro Nagoya obi taiko, Nagoya obi taiko, fukuro obi double-fold taiko (formal), fukura suzume, houou (phoenix), men’s kaku obi; for hanhaba obi, kai no kuchi and bunko.
Also included: Preface with an overview of all kimono and obi types, accessories. Kitsuke points for unmarried and married women, and type of kimono. How to move about in a furisode. How to tie men’s haori cords. How to fold all kimono and obi types for storage.
3. Lesson Series: Kimono no Kitsuke – by SACHI
This book combines chic and modern style with all the basics. Original and fun, it also has directions for nine different hairstyles! Although it’s not inclusive enough to be considered a good all-around book (no info on children’s kimono, and only the very basics for men), it’s still a great extra to have around. Its real strength is the number of different obi musubi. All directions are photographed in full color, except the men’s kimono and women’s hairstyles.
Kimono types covered: nagajuban, tsumugi, komon, houmongi, kurotomesode, yukata, furisode, graduation hakama, men’s casual kimono and formal outfit.
Obi musubi covered: Nagoya obi taiko, fukuro obi double-fold taiko (casual and formal, with two versions of the formal), koiki (meaning “chic”, a taiko variation), fan taiko; for hanhaba obi, pretty ribbon, ageya chou, and bunko. Then there are two very fancy bows for married women’s kimono, and for furisode there are: hana taiko, a fancy tateya variation (whose kanji I can’t read), rose, and one called “illusion”.
Also included: Preface with an overview of all kimono and obi types, accessories. How to sew on han eri. Fancy ways to tie obiage (2) and obijime (4). How to wear a pre-made taiko musubi. Nine different hairstyles, for different hair lengths. Fixing kimono problems (out of place collar, hem, etc.). Cleaning kimono, accessories and proper storage, with directions for folding kimono and obi.
4. Lesson Series: Kitsuke to Obi Musubi (“to” means “and”)
Published by the same company as 3., this is nonetheless a more all-around book that sticks to a more reserved, proper style. While it can be good as an addition to your kitsuke library, I don’t recommend it as a first purchase, because it’s not as clear or varied as the first two. That said, it does have different musubi than the others which can make it worthwhile, depending on your tastes. All directions are photographed in full color, except men’s kimono (again – sorry guys).
Kimono types covered: nagajuban, komon, houmongi, kurotomesode, tsumugi, furisode, graduation hakama, yukata (men and women), shichi-go-san, men’s visiting wear (2 types) and formal outfit.
Obi musubi covered: fukuro Nagoya obi taiko (2 versions), fukuro obi double-fold taiko (formal, 2 versions), fukura suzume, bunko, two different bunko musubi for hanhaba obi, men’s kaku obi.
Also included: Preface with an overview of all kimono and obi types, accessories. Kitsuke points, when to wear, how to move about. Photos of different hairstyles (not photographed directions) in the back, with directions for folding and storing kimono and obi.