Strolling Akizuki in a kimono

Photos by Yashira M. Rodríguez Sierra
Photos by Yashira M. Rodríguez Sierra

Strolling Akizuki in a kimono

by Yashira M. Rodríguez Sierra
Stripes Japan

The kimono is the most traditional dress in Japan and is recognized for its influence in the world of fashion. In Japan, however, the kimono is not just a piece of fabric. It’s a legacy passed down generation-to-generation beginning in the Heian Period (794-1192). A representation of longevity and good fortune, the kimono is, above all, a memory of the country’s ancestry.

Seeking to experience the long history and beauty of Japan’s kimono, I visited Akizuki, a castle town only a 45-minute drive from Fukuoka City with an 800-year royal history.

Here, I went to a kimono dressing store, Roman no Michi, which offers a kimono dressing experience for tourists.

While traditional music trickled in from the live musicians outside, I walked around the shop and chose which kimono I would wear. There were many to choose from, but I chose a white kimono with an orange floral pattern.

The staff helped me into the kimono and with the elaborate tying wearing such a garment requires. The kimono was not as uncomfortable as I had thought it would be and wearing it made me feel elegant. That’s the beauty of kimono, it is powerful and it commands feeling.

As the ladies in the shop helped me, I could feel their pride in sharing this tradition. They were very friendly and patient with everyone in their store.

Before coming here, I didn’t realize there was much to learn about kimono as every piece of cloth and knot involved has a meaning. For example, the undergarment is called hadajuban and the unique socks that divide the toes are called tabi. The obi is the wide sash of different fabric and there are many types of obi, each for various occasions. The string with which the obi is tied is a Japanese braid in a technique called Kumihimo. There are more than 40 basic forms of braiding. Also, this cord symbolize power and was used by the samurais to tie up their armor.

While kimono are no longer an everyday outfit for many Japanese people, they are still used for special occasions like graduation ceremonies, funerals and weddings.

In the kimono rental, it was nice to walk through the historic streets of Akizuki wearing the wooden sandals, or geta.

Akizuki has a calm atmosphere and is surround by lush scenery, antique bridges, many historic ruins and shrines. The people are friendly, and the locals had lovely reactions to foreigners wearing kimono. If you decide to come to Akizuki, enjoy the local pastries, restaurants, tea houses, souvenirs shops and homemade seasonal ice cream flavors on sale throughout the town. I enjoyed Kuromon Suiyo Shrine and some of the other small temples along my walk.

Your experience will also depend on the season. If it is in autumn, you can experience koyo, or changing of the leaves to autumn colors. In the spring, be amazed by all the cherry blossoms trees in bloom and experience the viewing of flowers called hanami.

My kimono experience ended learning how influential clothing is on a culture and how the dressers in Japan, like those at the shop, are keeping the tradition alive. I learned that the kimono is all about expertise, craftsmanship, dedication, art, people and legacy. A worthwhile experience to have during my time in Japan.

Yashira M. Rodriguez Sierra is originally from Puerto Rico and is currently stationed at Sasebo Naval Base. Rodriguez Sierra enjoys nature and moving to Japan is a dream come true. She volunteers at a local orphanage and before joining the Navy she was an artisan and journalist.

Roman no Michi
Address: 283 Akizuki, Asakura City, Fukuoka Pref. 
Phone: 0946-25-1160

How to get there
Akizuki Castle is a 45-minute drive from the city of Fukuoka. 
If you’re going by train, take the JR Kagoshima line from Hakata Station to Kiyama Station and change to the Amagi Railway to reach Amagi Station. Take the bus from Amagi Station. (Information from Japan Travel)
Akizuki: 663 Akizukinotori, Asakura-ahí, Fukuoka Pref.

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