It’s Official! Kimono Prices Are Going Up!

Okay, maybe it’s not “Official” official.  Does anecdotally official count?  Because that’s all I really have.  But it does confirm in my mind what I’ve thought was going to happen for a while.  But first, a little background.

It seems like at least once a month, I come across a news article featuring someone in the kimono community bemoaning the decline of the industry.  The master artisans are retiring or passing away, and nobody wants to learn the craft.  These articles usually talk about their efforts to revitalize the industry by (1) getting younger people interested in kimono (2) making kimono more accessible or (3) creating new objects and projects using the same techniques that are used to create kimono.

Here’s just a short list of articles that I’ve found in the past year or so along these lines.

In my mind, it’s simple supply and demand.  As the artisans retire or pass away, the supply of hand-made silk kimono will dwindle.  At the same time, these kimono activists are trying to increase demand for kimono to keep the industry alive.  Something has to give somewhere and prices will rise accordingly.

I’ve also heard some rumors in the past few months regarding certain secondhand stores (no, I won’t name names).  According to what I’ve heard, a large chain of recycle kimono stores has struck a deal with a large chain of general recycle shops to supply them with kimono (for those outside Japan, recycle is the general term for a second-hand store here.)  Sure enough, I have been noticing a rise in prices at that particular chain of recycle stores over the last few months, especially when it comes to well-crafted pieces like furisode, full shibori, or oshima tsumugi.

However, for me, the final confirmation came this weekend when I was out shopping.  My absolute favourite recycle shop is a local one (not a chain) that operates as an NGO/NPO.  The workers there can’t get a job in the regular workforce for various reasons, so they get work experience at the shop.  They get all their stock through donations, so when they sell it on, it’s really, really, cheap.

Or at least it was.

I would find incredible pieces there for incredibly cheap prices.  One of my favourite formal pieces is from that shop and I only paid ¥2500.  I routinely get kimono there for less than ¥1000, sometimes as cheap as ¥350.  I think the most I ever paid for a single piece was ¥3000.  It was very easy to break my wallet and I never left that store without something in my shopping bag and a grin on my face.

But when I went there this weekend, I was hit with a case of sticker shock.  There were very few pieces lower than ¥2000.  With the fast turnover of this store, I’m betting the ones cheaper than that were just old stock that hadn’t sold yet.  There was a gorgeous furisode that was on sale for ¥8000.  It’s not an unfair price, but before that visit, I would have expected a price of ¥4000 or less.   There was also an oshima tsumugi piece there for the unheard of price (for that shop) of ¥6500.  Gasp!  Shock!  Horror!

Yes, yes, yes, I know.  Those prices aren’t all that bad.  In any other location, I would have been happy to find those pieces at those prices.  Just not at this shop.  It would be like finding anything is a secondhand shop for full price.  Even if it is brand new and still in the box, you don’t expect the price in a secondhand shop to be the same as in a retail location.

Yes, in my mind, the days of cheap kimono are over.  I can only see prices rising from here.  My already expensive hobby is about to become even more expensive.  I’m sorry wallet and bank account.  I think you’re going to be losing a little more weight in the near future.  Or I won’t have to pay for an expensive second closet to hold everything.  Either way, [music plays] “it’s the end of the world as we knooooow it!”

BTW, I never do any kimono shopping online.  If you do, please comment and let me know if you’ve noticed a price increase at all in the past year.  I’d love to hear about your experiences!

Kanoko (鹿の子) Fawn Spots

Name: Kanoko (鹿の子) Fawn Spots

Seasonal Association: None

When to Wear It: All Year

Auspicious: No

History: This motif is especially popular as a shibori motif, although it is possible for it to appear in other media as well. Its name comes from the resemblance to the spots on the back of a baby deer.

Identification: Kanoko can be divided into two broad categories, kanoko that is created using the technique of shibori dyeing, and kanoko that is created using other media.


Shibori Kanoko

There are six different types of shibori kanoko, each with its own name, binding technique, and features.  Not every technique features a photo, but I will update as I find examples.

1) Hon Hitta Kanoko (dots within squares)

This pattern consists of squares with sharp edges, with the smallest possible dot spot of color in the middle. The dots are bound on the bias of the cloth, and when they are completed, they will be viewed on the diagonal in a grid pattern. A kimono fully patterned with hon hitta kanoko (called sou hitta) is a highly prized garment. Hon hitta kanoko is the most difficult type of kanoko shibori to create.

chuu-hitta kanoko

chuu-hitta kanoko

2) Chuu Hitta Kanoko (Medium dots within squares)

This pattern resembles hon hitta kanoko, except for a few key differences. The edges of the squares are not as sharp or crisp as in hon hitta kanoko, and the circles in the middle are larger and more irregular than in hon hitta kanoko.


yokobiki kanoko




3) Yokobiki Kanoko (square ring dots)

This pattern consists of square or rectangular rings that are irregular in size and form.


4) Tatebiki Kanoko (linked dots)

Like its name suggests, this pattern consists of small dots, spaced close together and appear like beads on a string. These dots are usually used to create linear designs.

5) Te-hitome Kanoko (half dots)

This pattern consists of oval or almond shaped resisted (no dye) areas and a spot of dye in the middle that only takes up half the space available.

6) Tsukidashi kanoko (spaced dots)

The pattern is a subtle and more subdued than hon hitta kanoko and is more appropriate for older women. It is also a common pattern to find on shibori obiage.


Kanoko Created With Other Media

The following are examples of the kanoko motif that are not created using shibori.

This kanoko mimics the look of hon-hitta shibori kanoko.

This kanoko mimics the look of hon-hitta shibori kanoko.  It has been woven into the pattern of this obi.

These kanako dots have been dyed.

These kanako dots have been dyed.



Obi Makura (帯枕)

Makura (枕) translates to pillow and this piece of komono (kitsuke accessory) is used to both support and give some volume to a musubi. There is more than one kind of makura, all with slightly different shapes and purposes.  This guide should give you a better idea of the different types of makura available so you can make the right choice when buying yours.

A Note On The Measurements:
length: the horizontal measurement of the makura
width: the depth of the makura (several makura are wider on top)
height: the vertical measurement of the makura

018length: 21 cm
width: 2cm (bottom) 5cm (top)
height:8 cm

This makura could be considered the “standard” makura, but I use that term lightly. This makura is designed for casual musubi. It is particularly suited for tying the otaiko musubi (お太鼓結び) with a Nagoya obi.


020length: 26 cm
width:2 cm (bottom) 4.5 cm (top)
height: 8.5 cm

The makura looks very similar to style (A) but it is longer. This makura is designed to be used when tying the more formal nijyuudaiko musubi (二重太鼓結び) or variants of it. It provides a flatter top to the drum of the musubi.


021length: 19 cm
width:2 cm (bottom) 5 cm (top)
height: 11 cm

This makura will give great volume to any musubi that requires it and it’s particularly suited for traditional furisode musubi such as the fukura suzume musubi (ふくら雀結び).



023length: 21 cm
width: 2 cm
height: 9 cm

This makura is sometimes called a tsunodashi makura. This name refers to its popularity in tying the tsunodashi musubi (角出し結び) although a koshihimo will work just as well. The tsunodashi musubi doesn’t require the volume that is given by the other makura, so this makura is much thinner than the others. It is also much stiffer to provide the support needed. This makura may also be used by older women who do not want much volume in their otaiko musubi.

006length: 19 cm
width: 4 cm
height: 9 cm (makura only) 27 cm (overall)

This makura goes by several different names (including sugata obi makura) and its popularity seems to depend on both the kitsuke school that you study under and personal preference. Personally, I prefer to use a traditional makura as I find that any musubi I tie with this makura does not feel secure on my back for very long.

Some of the advantages of this makura include…
(i) tying obi on yourself that are otherwise difficult or impossible (such a fukura suzume)
(ii) tying Nagoya obi that are too short
(iii) providing back support

007length: 8.5 cm (makura only) 17 cm (overall)
width: 6 cm
height: 8 cm (makura only) 23 cm (overall)

This makura is called a biyosugata, and it was developed by the Sodo School of Kitsuke. This makura is not available in stores and can only be ordered from teachers certified by the Sodo School. It acts in a similar manner to the sugata makura (E), but it has more straps and snaps to hold everything in place. This makes any musubi tied on it more secure than the sugata musubi.


010length: 20cm
width: 2 cm
height: 12 cm

I included this “makura” because it can be very deceiving upon first glance. This is not actually an obi makura. It is padding for the lower back. It looks similar to the tsunodashi makura, but it is missing the stiff middle layer and it has different dimentions. Buyer beware!



Here are all the makura in a side by side comparison.