Thursday, 24 January 2008

Aoyama Kimono Gakuin DVDs

I was given a small kimono collection just before my wedding and was dressed professionally for the big day (by Mie at Moga)

That was enough to get hooked. I just don't have it in me to let these garments sit and rot, unused, in a drawer. Figuring out how to wear them is neither intuitive nor straightforward so I quickly realised I had a challenge on my hands.

I bought "The Book of Kimono" by Norio Yamanaka - which, whilst it did answer some questions, just left me more confused than ever. On too many occasions, following his directions with an obi belt in hand resulted in a joyless exercise in frustration.

Knowing there had to be a better way, I found the website for the Aoyama Kimono School in Tokyo. They teach kitsuke - how to dress - techniques.

Aoyama Kimono offer three DVDs

The main one
Is a comprehensive guide which shows you all the basics - which underwear you need, padding options, how to sew on collars, how to put on both an all-in-one 'undergown' juban and the two-part kind. It shows you how to put on, adjust, and create a fold in a kimono, how to make a drum bow with a Nagoya obi as well as a full obi and instructions for two half-obi (hanhaba obi) bows/ties are also included. The hanhaba ties are also suitable to wear with yukata (cotton kimono for the summer months).

The instructions are very clear and can be easily followed by someone with no knowledge of Japanese.

The link shows a preview video. This DVD runs for 90 minutes and costs ¥3,800 - a very reasonable price taken into context (Japanese DVDs are generally more expensive than elsewhere)

For those who expect to only wear a yukata I would recommend this DVD
There is a preview in the Aoyama Kimono web page, but someone has uploaded two segments onto youtube
putting on a yukata
tying a bow
Seeing these youtube clips is what convinced me to buy the entire set.

Two of the bows featured in the Yukata DVD are also in the main kimono DVD, but there are eight bows in all and three additional techniques for customising your obi, so it's still worth getting.

DVD runs for 64 minutes and costs ¥2,940. Again, this is suitable for those with no Japanese language ability.

Link to alternative free online yukata instructions
Underwear advice & more yukata tips
How to tie, neaten & arrange a fashionable 'soft' obi
More soft obi bows and folding kimono for storage

The last DVD is for serious enthusiasts only.

It shows you how to make three difficult bows - one of these would be unadvisable to tie by yourself. The rest of the DVD gives advice about belts and patterns and requires translation.

Nevertheless, the bow instructions are invaluable and can be followed by a non-Japanese speaker. I'm personally very glad to have this DVD.

It runs for 55 minutes and costs ¥2,940.

These DVDs are sold on a cash on delivery basis within Japan.
I bought mine through . This involved a ¥2,000 fee plus postage. The comission wasn't too bad for me as I bought all three DVDs. There are other online companies offering a similar service, some will be cheaper.

Each time I put on a kimono or yukata I seem to get a bit better at it, so there's no substitute for practice. But I believe that these DVDs will teach you all the basics and make an excellent foundation for anyone who wants to learn, easing you to a degree of competency in no time.

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