By Niek Ceylan
The kimono is an iconic garment of Japan. It is a traditional Japanese dress most often worn by women, but men and children may also be seen wearing kimono on special occasions. Constructed with exceptional skill from fine materials, such as silk, it is also regarded as great works of art. In Kyoto, you may come across maiko or geisha wearing kimono paired with ornate pieces from head to toe. For these reasons, many foreigners love the idea of their chance to dress in kimono and desire photos taken as a keepsake of their visit to beautiful Japan. Kimono Photo Studio Wa (和) in Tokyo makes this possible.
Kimono Photo Studio Wa first opened for business in October 2014. It is owned and operated by Ms. Hisami Nakahara and assisted by Ms. Maho Kondo. From the moment I booked my appointment through their user-friendly website, these two lovely ladies were so very helpful. An immediate exchange of emails confirmed my visit and provided answers to all of my questions. Located just within a 1-minute walking distance from Meguro train station, they even offered to meet me there to avoid getting lost.
I pre-selected the promotion of the month called, “Special Kimono Experience Plan,” and showed up on time with my hair and make-up photo ready. To my surprise, my hairstyle was completely changed (for the better) by the studio staff. Palettes of lip color and eye shadow were also made available for my use at no additional charge, if I so desired.
Basic kimono. As part of my package, the portfolio of basic kimono designs was presented so I could make a selection. I had trouble deciding on the best color to compliment my dark complexion, so my top two picks were brought over for comparison. Red won! For a nominal fee, you can upgrade to a Luxury Kimono, which offers full embroidery patterns instead of partially printed patterns as seen on the Basic Kimono options.
Hair ornament. Also known as “Kanzashi,” it is a handcrafted flower made of cloth material. Ms. Kondo personally handmade several of the large and small kanzashi flowers, like the beautiful blush colored piece I chose to wear. The complete display of hair ornaments offers a variety of flower clips in many colors and designs. They were so kawaii, I wanted to purchase them!
Kimono dressing. Another surprise and to my delight, the layers of kimono on display in the closet looked so much more luxurious in person than in photos. From the “juban” undergarment to the “obi” belt, the fabric selections were pretty substantial and specifically designed to fall appropriately when worn and photographed. As each layer was wrapped onto my body, left side over right, it was difficult to contain my excitement. Dressing up in an authentic Japanese kimono was truly something special! It was explained to me that the last layer of kimono dressing is called "Uchikake.” It is worn like a robe without an obi belt and gracefully trails behind you. Today, it is a highly formal kimono mainly worn by a bride or for a stage performance. Back then, it was the style worn by aristocratic women living in castles during the feudal era.
Photo shoot. By the time hair, make-up, and dressing was complete, we were about 30-minutes into the 1-hour session. Feeling a bit lost on how to pose in kimono, Ms. Nakahara put me to ease. Her direction on where to look, smile, tilt head, stand, and place my hands made the photo shoot much more smooth and fun. The parasol, fan, and flower props were a nice addition, too!
Complimentary tea & sweets. After the photo shoot and back into my casual clothing, Ms. Nakahara asked if I wanted to experience tea making. Of course! She brought over a tray containing a bowl of matcha tea and two sweets. I tried my hand at the whisk until the tea appeared nice and frothy. Turned out not too shabby! It was a nice treat.
Photo selection. Seated directly in front of the computer, you’ll have a chance to browse through all of the photos taken. My package included 1 – 5x7 printed photo. For an additional fee, I also chose to purchase all images saved to a digital CD. Such a wonderful souvenir that I will treasure forever!
Kimono Photo Studio 和(wa) offers a variety of packages for women, men, and families at such an affordable price. Whether you decide on an in-studio session or outdoors in front of Tokyo landmarks, portraits in a special kimono is an unforgettable experience.
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Originally from San Diego, California, I lived in Japan for 4-1/2 years and now I am currently based out of Honolulu, Hawaii. In December 2010, I arrived in Yokosuka with a new outlook on my future. Mainly, to refocus on family and let my curiosities take us to places we’ve only dreamt of. Along the way, we’d hopefully develop new friendships and simply collect memories to last a lifetime. Then, there was the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. I will never forget that experience and the devastating effects it had on the entire country. I asked the community, “What can I do to help?” Collecting, sorting, and packing donations, was the least I could do. I also ended up going back to California for one month, raised a small monetary donation for Red Cross, and secured a few phone interviews to help spread the word on how others from the United States could assist. I was determined to show my family, friends, and folks across the world that it would be okay to return to Japan. After all, I wanted them to know that all of the little things that make up this beautiful country still existed. What better way than to use a platform such as JapanTravel.com to share photos and stories full of life, history, and culture. It is a pleasure to say I have contributed more than 150 articles to a database that now collectively holds more than 15,000! This journey has not only allowed me to realize my initial goals, but I’d like to think that it has somehow played a role in sparking an interest locally and across the globe for others to experience all that is published here and more. I invite you to also share your wonderful stories, offer comments, and ask questions right here on JapanTravel. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Safe travels! ٩( ๑╹ ꇴ╹)۶