Posted in Kafevend Blog

A fortnight ago on the blog we had a look at the Japanese tea ceremony, known also as the Way of Tea and given the complexities involved, promised to return occasionally to various elements within it. Today is one such day!

Although many tea ceremonies are held in western style dress these days, kimonos remain the traditional mode of apparel and still hold sway at formal ceremonies. In fact many of the set movements of the tea ceremony originated as a result of the need to accommodate the wearing of the kimono by the host, or tea master. Thus, movements are designed to protect the long, wide sleeves- you wouldn't want to detract from the aesthetics by dipping your sleeve in the tea! Students of the Way of Tea will sometimes wear a kimono to practise and hone their skills effectively.

I had always made the assumption that only women wore kimonos, but actually the long, loose robe with wide sleeves is the national costume for both sexes. The literal meaning of the word kimono is a thing to wear, but came to signify a particular style of garment over time.

The belt worn with a kimono and tied at the back is called an obi. Those worn by women tend to be wider and tied in a more complicated bow.

The fukusa, a silk cloth used for the symbolic cleaning of equipment used in the tea ceremony, is tucked into the obi.

Many men will wear their kimono with hakama, a loose kind of trousers with seven deep pleats, two at the back and five at the front. Apart from formal tea ceremonies, weddings and funerals tend to be the other occasions for this traditional mode of dress, although it's worn for some martial arts such as aikido and kendo.

Time certainly hasn't stood still in Japan but the value placed on cultural traditions can be seen in the availability of groups meeting to study the old ways. These days, with the kimono largely consigned to special occasions, people can choose to go to special classes to learn the ins and outs of wearing kimonos and tying the obi, just as they can study the Way of Tea itself.

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