Written by: Nicole Castro
Published on: August 6, 2021 at 15:01 PHT (GMT+8) | Updated: August 10, 2021 at 13:07 PHT (GMT+8)
To celebrate the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Japan is paying homage to its kimono and its visiting nations through the Kimono Project. Every country competing in the Games is represented by a kimono and obi, the country’s national dress and the accompanying broad sash.
The Kimono Project was launched in August 2014 by a Japanese organization called Imagine One World. It took six years to complete over 200 custom kimono that drew inspiration from each country's culture, history, or architectural beauty.
The 213 kimonos and obis include countries that Japan has diplomatic relations with but without Olympic committees, including Niue and Vatican City.
The kimonos and obis are not on public display, as was initially planned, due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, it is hoped that they will be shown during Expo 2025, which is due to be held in Osaka, Japan.
A full set for each country cost around ¥2 million ($18,300), consisting of the kimono, obi, and smaller accessories. They have all been handmade with traditional methods, each taking between one and two years to craft.
"We wanted to show that Japanese elaborate dyeing and weaving techniques are not just ancient art forms, but a living art that we still have today, with many artisans active throughout Japan," the Kimono Project says.
Below are some of the kimono and an explanation of their designs from the official website.
Creators: Sakae Sakahara 坂原栄 & Watabun Co., Ltd. 渡文
Greece, the birthplace of the Olympics. The kimono expresses the ancient civilization of Greece using the Parthenon, Greek letters, olives, the national flower acanthus, pigeons (a symbol of peace), and the owl, a symbol of intelligence.
Creators: Hiroshi Nakamachi 中町博志 & Chikuzen Orimono Co., Ltd. 筑前織物
What made an impression to Nakamachi-san about the Philippines was the "sound of the wind." Palms have been an indispensable part of Filipinos' lives since ancient times. The color of the sunshine when looking up at the palm forest and the sound of the wind passing through the palm forest became the motif for this kimono.
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Creators: Sachi Manabe 眞鍋 沙智 & Shiko Co., Ltd. 紫紘
The main themes of the design are the English Garden and the Union Jack. Manabe's creations are inspired by literature and music, such as the Thames, London night view, Sherlock Holmes, Shakespeare's masterpieces, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Hamlet, and Wonderland. Britain is drawn with motifs such as "Alice" and "007".
Creators: Satoru Akaji 赤地 暁 & Nishijin-Maizuru 西陣まいづる
The artists pay tribute to the biodiversity of Ecuador, the tropical climate of the Amazon, the alpine climate of the Andes, the warm climate of the coastline, and the climate unique to the Galapagos Islands, as well as Ecuador's wilderness of flora and fauna.
Creators: Chiso Co., Ltd. 千總 & Kisaburo Ogawa 小川 規三郎
The red colors and maple leaves are highly symbolic of the Canadian character. The flowers of Prince Edward Island are drawn like a wreath, while the four-leaf clover is a symbol of love and peace.
For the kimono designs of all 213 participating groups and countries, check the official Kimono Project website.
Note: This article was updated on August 10, 2021 due to some issues covering the KIMONO Project. In addition, we have clarified that the Kimono Project is still waiting for confirmation whether they can showcase the kimonos in the Expo 2025.