Glossary of Kimono

Historical periods used in Kimono dating:
Edo Period (1603 to 1868)
Meiji Period (1868 to 1912)
Taishō Period (1912 to 1926)
Shōwa Period (1926 to 1989)


Aizome (藍染め) (pronounced eye-zoh-may) a Japanese term for indigo dye, a dark blue natural dye used mostly on cotton, in combination with other techniques.

Asanoha  (asa = hemp: no = of: ha = leaf) a geometric pattern based on a regular hexagon, and is named because of the similar shape of a hemp leaf.

Awase (袷) are lined kimono for the colder months (Autumn through Spring).

Bingata (紅型) is a traditional stenciled resist dyeing technique originating in Okinawa Prefecture. It typically features a busy pattern of repeating nature motifs such as fish, flowers and fauna, in a number of bright colors.

Bokashi (ぼかし) (lit. "shading off" or "gradation") is a gradation dyeing technique on silk using an alternating combination of round brush dye application and wax.

Boro (ぼろ) are a class of textiles that have been mended or patched together, using sashiko. The term is derived from the Japanese term "boroboro", meaning something tattered or repaired. These items are usually cotton, linen, and/or hemp, mostly hand-woven by peasant farmers, that have been stitched or re-woven together to create an often many-layered material used for warm, practical clothing. 

Botan (牡丹) meaning peony. A popular kimono motif.

Chirimen (ちりめん) (pronounced chee-ree-men) is a silk crepe (can also be wool or synthetic). It is a medium to heavyweight silk with a smooth and pleasant texture. It is also less prone to wrinkles.

Damask is a lustrous fabric (as of linen, cotton, silk, or rayon) made with flat patterns in a satin weave on a plain-woven ground on jacquard looms. See Rinzu def.

Dochugi is a kimono style jacket that crosses over and closes with inner and outer ties. These can have a generous fit, easily accommodating larger sizes. If you remove the ties, it can be worn open like a swing coat, or loose haori.

Furisode  (振袖, lit., "swinging sleeves") (pronounced foo-ree-so-day) is a style of kimono distinguishable by its long sleeves, which range in length from around 85cm (75-87cm)  (29"-34") for a kofurisode, to 91-106cm ( 36"-42") for a chufurisode, to 114cm-125cm (45"-49") for an  ōfurisode. Furisode are the most formal style of kimono traditionally worn by young, unmarried women. Any level of mon can be applied, either one, three, or five.

Habutai ((羽二重), literally "feather-two-layer"), pronounced [hah-buh-tahy], is a smooth, thick silk weave with a slight sheen. Most men's black haori jackets are made of habutai.

Han-eri (はん えり) is a removable collar/neckband sewn onto a Juban that can be seen when wearing kimono in a traditional fashion. They can be plain white, or elaborately decorated with embroidery.

Hanten (反転) is a unisex, short winter jacket that is often worn during the colder months. With cotton padding for warmth and a tailored collar, it is suitable for every-day wear.

Happi (法被/半被) is casual, lightweight cotton jacket. Originally worn by house-servants, they were later adopted by shopkeepers, laborers, and firefighters. Today they are mostly worn at festivals. Easily identified due to their bright colors and bold graphics and writing, displaying neighborhood names, logos, club memberships, or mon. 

Haori (羽織) is a traditional Japanese hip- or thigh-length kimono-style jacket. The haori does not close, but is worn open or kept closed by a string that connects the lapels.

Hitoe (一重) meaning "single" is an unlined kimono, traditionally worn from June to September, because they are lighter and cooler.

Homongi (訪問着) (lit. “visiting wear”) a semi-formal kimono. You can identify a homongi easily, because its large design is matched across the side and back seams, meaning that the panels of cloth have been sewn together very accurately to create a single spanning design. The sleeve length varies and unmarried women wear longer sleeves. One, three or five mon can be present.

Jinbei (甚平) or Hippari (ひっぱり), is usually a lightweight cotton jacket that wraps and ties on the side. Sometimes there is a matching set of shorts. These are usually worn in summer only.

Juban or Nagajuban (長襦袢) is a garment worn underneath a kimono, similar to a camisole, to prevent dirt and keep shape to a kimono worn traditionally. They traditionally have a removable collar called han-eri. Juban make easy to wear robes and jackets, as they are typically cut mid-length and are made from lightweight silks, often with bold, graphic patterns.

Kakeshita is a wedding kimono with a slightly padded hem. They can be very colorful, or all white (called a shiro kakeshita). This kimono also has long sleeves like a furisode and can have padding around the hem, the reason they do this is so, as the bride is walking, it drags on the ground in an appealing way. The patterning is typically sparse around the mid-section, as this would be covered with a formal obi belt.

Kanoko (鹿の子) is a shibori design meaning 'fawn spots', due to its resemblance to the spots on the back of a baby deer.

Karako (唐子) is a Japanese term used in art with the depiction of Chinese children playing. The children tend to be depicted with a particular hairstyle that is knotted at the top and shaved on both sides of the head.

Karakusa (唐草, winding plant) also known as 'Arabesque', is the name of a traditional pattern used in Japanese textiles, featuring an arabesque of tangled vines.

Katazome (型染め) (pronounced kah-tah-zoh-may) is a Japanese method of dyeing fabrics using a resist paste applied through a stencil. A rice flour mixture is applied using a brush or a tool such as a palette knife. Pigment is added by hand-painting, immersion or both.

Kikkō  (亀甲) a pattern made of hexagons that evokes the shape of turtle shells. This shape was used in pieces of armor used by samurai and ashigaru (foot soldiers) of feudal Japan.

Kimono (きもの/着物) (lit., "thing to wear" – from the verb "to wear (on the shoulders)" (着, ki) and the noun "thing" (物, mono))  a long, loose robe with wide sleeves and tied with a sash, originally worn as a formal garment in Japan and now also used elsewhere as a robe.The kimono is a T-shaped, wrapped-front garment with square sleeves and a rectangular body, and is worn left side wrapped over right, unless the wearer is deceased.

Kin-koma (きん こま) is a Japanese embroidery technique that involves the couching of metal threads.

Kinsai (金彩) is the application of gold leaf to fabric. Ginsai is silver leaf.

Kinsha is a fine, fluid, lightweight silk crepe. Rarely, if ever, produced in modern day Japan. Often used in juban.

Komon (顧問, "small print”) is a kind of kimono with an all-over dyed design. Some are pattern dyed, some are hand-drawn.

Maekake (前掛け) is a Japanese traditional waist apron.

Matsukawabishi (松皮菱) is a zigzag pattern which forms a decorative band resembling a series of lozenge shapes.

Meisen (銘仙) is a moderately lightweight, smooth, durable, somewhat crisp silk. It was most popular between 1910-1950s, so it often has bright, graphic patterns, that are also soft and blurred due to the weaving technique.

Michiyuki (道行き) is a closed jacket traditionally worn over a kimono. The close with inner ties, buttons or snaps. They typically have square necks. They make lovely modern jackets or dresses are are cut slim in the hips.

Mon (紋) and Kamon(家紋) are crests used to decorate and identify an individual or family, and show lineage and social status. Kimono can have one, three or five mon; the more mon, the more formal. You will find them on tomesode, iro-tomesode, and some haori.

Momi (紅絹) is a thin silk fabric dyed in beni (べに, crimson red) with benibana (紅花, safflower flowers) pigment to fix the red color. Traditionally used as linings or for juban. Uncommon after WWII. Typically not color-fast. 

Noragi (野良着) is a traditional Japanese garment which farmers used to wear to work. 'Nora' means farm and 'gi' means clothing or uniform in Japanese. 

Obijime (帯締め) is a thin rope tied around an obi. It is often hand-woven silk, but can also be leather or synthetic. They are either flaw woven or round. 

Obi (帯) is a broad sash worn around the waist of a Japanese kimono.

Omeshi (お召) is a heavy crepe silk woven with strongly twisted threads, and is firmer in texture than chirimen.

Rinzu (綸子) is a silk satin damask fabric, with a shiny, subtle pattern against a matte background. It can be lightweight or heavy. 

Ro (ろ) is a semi-sheer, soft, lightweight silk used for summer kimono. 

Sarasa (更紗) is calico/chintz fabric. When Portuguese traders imported calicos from India in the 1600s, they were enormously popular, but expensive. Japanese dye makers devised ways to replicate it, using a mix of traditional techniques, thereby making new patterns combining the different cultural designs. 

Sashiko (刺し子, lit., "little stabs") is a type of traditional Japanese embroidery or stitching used for the decorative and/or functional reinforcement of cloth and clothing. Boro is the result of continuous repetition of sashiko.

Sayagata is a kind of geometric design with a series of manji(万字,Buddhist cross) patterns. It is very common and ancient pattern that arrive to Japan via China which arrived via India.

Seigaiha (青海波) is a wave design made of the arches of concentric circles superimposed upon one another so that only the upper portion of each set of circles is visible. The waves or water represent surges of good luck. It can also signify power and resilience.

Sha is a semi-sheer silk gauze fabric that has a crisp, stiff feel.

Shibori (しぼり/絞り) is a Japanese term for several methods of resist dyeing cloth with a pattern by binding, stitching, folding, twisting, compressing it, or capping. Some of these methods are known in the West as tie-dye.

Shishi (石獅) the Japanese term for Chinese Imperial guardian lions. Also known in colloquial English as lion dogs or foodogs/fudogs. The concept, which originated and became popular in Chinese Buddhism, features a pair of highly stylized lions —often one male with a ball and one female with a cub—which were thought to protect the building from harmful spiritual influences and harmful people that might be a threat.

Shitsuke-ito (しつけー糸) is white basting thread that is attached to prevent shape collapse. It should be removed before wearing. 

Shochikubai (松竹梅) is a combination of pine, bamboo, and blossoms, especially associated with the New Year in Japan.

Tomesode (pronounced toe-may-so-day, with no stress on any syllable) is the most formal kimono, traditionally worn by married women at a wedding and celebrations. The most common are black (kuro tomesode). All other colors are called iro-tomesode. Patterns appear at the bottom and mon delineate the formality.

Tsukesage (付下げ) is a semi-formal kimono. Similar to a houmongi, but the smaller pattern does not cross the seams unbroken. There can be one or three kamon, but never five.

Tsumugi (紬) (pronounced tsoo-moo-gee) is a woven silk (or blend with cotton or rayon) fabric that can be nubby and uneven in texture, appearing quite rustic due to the uneven thread widths. Casual kimono is often made with tsumugi. They can be still but soften with wear and are very durable.

Uchikake (打ち掛け) is a highly formal kimono worn only by a bride or at a stage performance. It is often heavily brocaded and is supposed to be worn outside the actual kimono and obi, as a sort of coat, so it is never closed with an obi. It trails along the floor, so it is heavily padded along the hem. Generally has a red base.

Urushi (漆) is Japanese lacquer. Silk thread is coated in urushi and most often see on haori in shiny metallic colors (especially gold and silver), as well as more subdued colors.

Yukata (浴衣, lit., "bathrobe")is an unlined cotton summer kimono worn in casual settings such as summer festivals and bathhouses.

Yūzen (友禅染) (pronounced yoo-zen) is a Japanese resist dyeing technique involving the application of rice paste to fabric to prevent color transfer of dye to areas of the fabric. The most common forms are “kata yuzen” where patterns are used to dye kimono, and “tegaki-yuzen” to dye with hand-painted patterns. Because a pattern is being used, kata yuzen makes it is easier to mass-create the same kimono. Tegaki-yuzen is a kimono with patterns hand-painted by the artisan, thus each one is unique.

Yabane (矢羽) (pronounced ya-bah-nay) is a pattern depicting fletchings, the feathers of an arrow.