Junko Sophie lives in Kyoto, but spends a third of the year abroad.
Junko Sophie often wears kimono when she travels around Japan and internationally for her work to promote Japanese culture.
She has lived in Kyoto for the past four years, but spends a third of the year abroad (before the pandemic), including France and Taiwan, which she calls her second home.
Since she moved to Kyoto, she has more opportunities to wear kimono, especially when entertaining overseas guests.
A Kimono that Decided My Destiny
What kind of kimono inspires Junko Sophie that decided her destiny?
“The most meaningful kimono is one my grandmother customized for me when I was seven years old. It was for the traditional coming of age day.
I remember my grandmother commissioned a special kimono for me to wear for my Shichi-go-san (Seven-five-three) ceremony.
My grandmother had my kimono designed so that I could continue to wear it even when I became an adult. I remember the kimono was a vivid navy blue color with hems that were sewn short so it would fit around my shoulders and waist.
When I became an adult at the age of 20, my grandmother had the kimono re-dyed into a chic darker blue and had the fabric altered to make the garment longer.
Along with the kimono, she also commissioned a new Obi sash with an auspicious pattern in a high-quality weave. As a child, I didn’t like the blue kimono. I thought it was too boyish. I wanted to wear a feminine kimono with pink and red flower patterns like the other girls my age.
Now, however, I realize it was a sign of my grandmother’s refined sensibility which she sought to cultivate in me. The exquisite kimono and Obi sash that she had made for me were full of auspicious patterns, showing her love and tenderness. I am now deeply moved by that foresight.
This is how the kimono that my grandmother made for me looks now. The small kimono I wore when I was a child became bigger, and my grandmother customized the Obi sash accordingly.
I imagined the thoughts of my grandmother that she included in the many auspicious patterns, and I researched all the pattern’s meanings. ”
What Junko Sophie is aiming for- “Beauty is the expression of our life energy”
It is because of the nature of the kimono that we can re-dye the color and re-sew it like this. Also, by knowing the meaning of the patterns, Junko Sophie was able to understand what her grandmother wanted to convey.
This got Junko Sophie interested in historical kimono patterns. She began to search for relevant scholars and graduate school programs who could assist her to deepen her understanding of the connection between kimono patterns and the world of art and culture.
“I give lectures on the beauty of kimono, including demonstrations on how to dress in kimono. When I introduce the Housouge flower which is a kind of imaginary lotus flower pattern, people get really interested.
I first thought that kimono patterns were unique to Japan, but for example, the Housouge flower pattern originated in Persia and crossed to Japan via the Silk Road. A similar pattern with the same roots is called arabesque in Europe. When people hear such stories, many people feel the romance of history.
I thought this design was unique to Japan, but when I look carefully at the details, it is full of exoticism. Not only the patterns but also the weaving, such as a rare nail-scratching weaving technique called Tsumekagituzureori.
This was the Copt weave in Egypt. It is very interesting how these ancient traditions are revealed in the kimono and Obi sash. I want to understand this deeper connection of kimono designs and the cultures that came to Japan.
I am concerned about kimono culture now. Most of the experts on kimono design and history in Japan are old and there are few young people interested in learning from them.
This has inspired me to learn from them while they are still able to teach. This is now my mission. I was even thinking of going to graduate school, but was surprised to find there are no programs to learn kimono culture in Japan, because of the lack of interest.
I remember the words of Yomokichi Sawaki, my great uncle and the Western art historian
“Beauty is the spirit of living. Let’s grasp that realization through deeper learning.” I believe this reflects the sensibility of my family as a whole and what has inspired my ancestors through the many centuries. This is what inspires me too.
I cannot do it alone, but I have a dream to make a kimono museum in Kyoto with the help of others who value kimono culture. I know it is a big dream, but I believe it can be realized. It is surprising really, with all the interest in kimono, that there is no museum specializing in the culture of kimono in Japan.”
If you wear a kimono, wear it beautifully. Wearing a kimono makes us more beautiful.
Junko Sophie’s life is devoted to exploring the spirit of Japanese “Iki” and French “Art de vivre”. Through her elegance and way of thinking, we are inspired by her spirit and her determination to live and convey beauty.
How can we dress beautifully in kimono? We asked Junko Sophie her advice about wearing her kimono.
“What I’m careful about and actually enjoy is the matching of patterns, the colors of the seasons, the matching of Obi sash with kimono, and whether these are appropriate for the venue or occassion. But the most important thing is the overall care and sense of creativity we express in the coordination of the articles we wear. What we wear should be an expression of our thoughts and feelings. This is a way to live life more beautifully.
“I think it’s okay to be free from the basic rules of fashion, but it is important to be aware of the basics. This gives us a foundation to build upon to develop our own style and hopefully come to understand the sophisticated elegance of Japanese women.
To do this I believe it is important to be aware of the historical and cultural influences from abroad that have given Japanese culture inspiration and form.
If you are interested in kimono, it’s easier to buy fine antique kimono and to get them overseas. You can learn how to wear kimono by watching videos. If you have a chance to wear a kimono, please try it. Unlike western clothes, you may find yourself experiencing your body and emotions in a different way. For me this is one of the joys and pleasures of life.”
Artist, Junko Sophie Kakizaki