[Kimono Style] Saitama’s Wabi Sabi Daisaiten Autumn Festival Returns to Live Celebrations


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This year was a step towards normalcy with live performances, as Wabi Sabi Daisaiten took place in Omiya Park on November 20 and 21. Last year in 2020, the event was limited to an online performance due to COVID-19.

This annual event is a celebration of Japanese culture in Saitama. The leaves at nearby Hikawa Shrine were in all their red autumnal glory, and the color was multiplied by the colorful kimono of little children heading to the shrine with their families for their seven, five, three [years-old] celebrations. There were also several young women in beautiful furisodes, presumably taking pictures for their upcoming coming-of-age celebrations.

While the pandemic probably isn’t over, it was wonderful to at least be able to have a live event after all this time. Chairs were well spaced out and people were reminded to maintain social distancing.

Many ways to celebrate

As in previous years, the kimono fashion show was hosted by Midori Fujii from Kawagoe Kimono Walking Group NPO. The objective of the parade was to show the diversity of the types of kimono and the ways of wearing them, but also of the wearers.

The first part of the show consisted of a formal kimono. To begin, two young girls and two young men modeled furisodes and formal men’s haori and hakama outfits. These are the most formal clothes for young people.

The role models were young people who grew up in child care institutions without parents to give them an official celebration of coming of age when they turned 20. Masaco Yamamoto set up an Accha Project NPO, an organization to support these young people, so they can wear a kimono and have their picture taken during this special rite of passage. This is important to help them feel equal to other people their age who celebrate in this way.

After the fashion show, three women from the Kawagoe Kimono walking group entered wearing kuro tomesode, the formal black attire for married women. These kimonos have five patches, one at the top and another confined to the hem area.

The severity of black with white collars and the beautiful patterns on the hems combined with a beautiful formal obi woven with gold threads, usually from Nishijin in Kyoto, make this a beautiful kimono. Unmatched in elegance and style, they were adorned with patterns to bring joy and happiness. There was a treasure ship, the god of thunder and cranes as well as auspicious flowers on the kimono.

Casual Chic and Jumpsuits

After showing the most formal kimono in the show, the second half presented a demonstration of the variety of everyday wear that the kimono embodies.

Two women from small kimono companies protested wearing kimono mixed with western clothing elements. One wore a shirt and tie and boots under a gray kimono, giving the impression of a suit. The other woman wore a yellow-striped Taisho-era kimono with painted flowers and a felt hat. The kimono was worn short with a pleated skirt underneath. You could feel the freedom of the Taisho period, (the early 1920s) in the outfits.

The couple that followed were young students. Their kimono outfits were cute and colorful. One wore a salmon-pink Showa-era kimono with large, bold flowers, paired with a casual obi showing maples and chrysanthemums to go with the season. She had an embroidered collar and a little hat to accessorize the outfit.

The other girl wore a contemporary pale yellow kimono with a pink jacquard pattern and an obi with a photo of a girl made by illustrator Jessie in collaboration with Tokyo Yuzen artist Keiko Tanabe. Digitally printed, this is an example of new themes and ventures in the kimono industry.

After that, two men demonstrated how colorful and interesting men’s casual wear can be. Michael Kuledge wore a haori with a large pattern of semi-circular patterns, as well as socks and a Dragon Slayer tabi collar. He also sported a beautifully woven maple leaf obi. He was accompanied by Mac Nakata of Steampunk fame, who wore his gadgets as well as hats, belts and a scarf.

Ecological and political transformation

The highlight of the show was when Saitama Governor Motohiro Ono wore a red striped Kawagoe kimono and haori. His speech reminded us of the historical importance of Saitama Prefecture in the production of kimono.

Then on stage, Mac Nakata and his other assistants transformed the Governor into a Steampunker. This was greeted with great delight by the audience and the modeling team, and the show ended to great applause.

We were able to celebrate ecology through the reuse of old kimonos, diversity in the types of kimono and the varieties of models, and equality through the highlighting of Achaproject. And a great time was had by all.

Although the pandemic is not over, I hope to see the kimono become more visible on the streets and at more and more events as we begin to look forward to next year.


Author: Sheila Cliffe

Find other chronicles on the kimono by the author Sheila Cliffe, here.

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