by Samuel Boyne
After the harsh winter, DC’s annual National Cherry Blossom Festival welcomed spring with awesome ways to celebrate. From concerts to free interactive cultural experiences, the festival provided quite an array of events to have fun and learn about the beautiful ties between DC and Japan. As many of you may know, the mayor of Tokyo gave the cherry blossom trees surrounding the Tidal Basin as a gift to DC in 1912, providing a symbol of friendship between the US and Japan. Nowadays, besides being an excellent backdrop for your new profile picture, the cherry blossoms symbolize the re-birth of spring in the district.
As part of the many events pertaining to the festival, the Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival, hosted April 11, creates an atmosphere rich in Japanese culture right in the center of the city that symbolizes the US. If you wound your way through the masses that weekend, you would notice the stalls offering fresh takoyaki, sake tasting, and a variety of Japanese wares, from the kawaii to the traditional. Scattered throughout the crowds, various stages exhibit some sort of performance or another. Now, let’s talk about fashion.
One of the exhibitions on stage, a kimono demonstration, provided an excellent example of the diverse beauty found in traditional Japanese clothing. Literally meaning “thing that is worn,” the kimono dates back to ages ago and, at the least, consists of a full-length robe. While the term ‘kimono’ is often simplified in Western culture to the long, sheer cardigan-esque garments you can purchase at Forever 21 or H&M, real kimonos are so much more. The wearing of a kimono is an art involving tremendous amounts of time and patience. Originating as a long strip of fabric split into several segments and sewn together, the kimono maintains a simple structure suitable to people of all shapes and sizes. The difficulty, however, lies in the precise steps that must be undertaken to drape the kimono, tie the sash (obi), and pair with proper footwear. The difficulty is worth it, as it results in a graceful outfit worthy of centuries of cultural development that signifies a harmonization between people and nature.
In the exhibit, various men and women presented an assortment of kimonos, ranging from simple cotton summer kimonos, known as yukata, to more formal, elegant kimonos, such as furisode, meant for unmarried women, and kurotomesode, reserved for married women. The array of patterns, designs, and colors was a small taste of the cultural immensity belonging to the kimono.
Now, while kimono may seem like traditional clothing Japanese people wear to special events, you shouldn’t be intimidated by that idea. Spreading the appreciation for the art of the kimono was the purpose of the exhibit at the Cherry Blossom Festival. If you’re interested in the cultural varieties of fashion, especially such a longstanding fashion of Japanese culture, look into the rich history of the kimono. You might just find a new passion and inspiration for your own personal style.