A Town With Kimono Pride – Tokamachi's Kimono Craze
Kimonos and Japan have a long and rich history - you could say that kimono are literally woven into the fabric of society here. However, in a day and age where you often see lighter-weight yukata worn in lieu of the more formal and traditional attire, you might be wondering where you can get up close and personal with the nation’s kimono culture for yourself.
Tokamachi, a town in the heart of Niigata’s snow country, has a strong connection with kimono production - the history of garment manufacturing here dates back around 1200 years. To this day the area still produces a vast number of kimono, coming in second only to Japan’s cultural hub of Kyoto. The people of this region are extremely proud of their home grown artisanship, and host a number of events in May showing their deep connection to Japan’s traditional dress.
Tokamachi Kimono Festival
The Tokamachi Kimono Festival is an annual event that takes place on May 3rd. Parts of the downtown Tokamachi area are closed off to vehicle traffic, meaning that you can walk around the streets and fully soak up the festival atmosphere. Food vendors, taiko drummers, choirs and more take their places on the sidelines, but the real drawcard here are the kimonos on display.
Since the event coincides with Tokamachi’s celebration of Coming of Age Day (which is held at a different time of year from other parts of Japan), you’ll see a lot of young women wearing furisode, the most formal type of kimono. They’re identifiable by their long sleeves and intricate patterns - in all colors of the rainbow, no less! Donning a furisode during Coming of Age celebrations is a sign that the wearer is single and available for marriage, and these young ladies look both elegant and glamorous all at once.
Apart from the kimono festival, there are a host of other kimono related events happening in Tokamachi this month that are not to be missed.
Kimono Textile Exhibition
From May 11th to 14th, a Kimono Textile Exhibition is being held at Tokamachi’s Cross 10 Michi No Eki building. The event will have traditional crafts using kimono textiles on display, as well as demonstrations of kimono being made. These observation sessions only accept a limited number of participants, with prior registration required to attend. Registration for the event can be done via phone or email, and the exhibition itself runs from 10am until 5:30pm each day.
Outside the exhibition dates, there are permanent stores at the Cross 10 venue selling kimonos, textile based crafts, and Niigata’s food specialties such as hegi soba, sasa dango and koshihikari rice.
71-26 Utsunomiya, Tokamachi City, Niigata 948-0003
For reservations, call 025-757-5111 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Kimono Factory Visits
From May 17th to 19th, Tokamachi City are running their Gottaku event, which gives an insider’s look into each step of making a kimono. 14 different textile factories from the region are participating, and it’s an exclusive opportunity to see their skills at work - everything from weaving to dyeing and how the intricate designs come together are showcased by these businesses. For many of the factories, this marks the first time they are opening up their doors to outside observers, making for quite the special cultural experience. Advance reservations for these factory visits are required, and can be made on their website or via phone.
Individual factory locations vary
Kimono Quilt Exhibition
Taking place from May 12th to 27th is the Tokamachi Kimono Quilt Exhibition. The event showcases entries that were submitted to a nationwide quilting competition, where you can see the skill and detail involved in the creation of each piece. If you’re curious about how to start quilting yourself, workshops about the process are being hosted during the event. They can only accommodate limited numbers per workshop, so be sure to call ahead and reserve a place.
In addition to the exhibition center events, a number of local businesses will have kimono quilts on display in their storefronts. Maps are available from the Tokamachi Tourist Information Center (situated within Tokamachi Station itself) covering the locations that are participating.
Danjyūrō Cultural Hall
(Workshops held on 2nd Floor Multipurpose Centers)
1 Chomekami-508-2 Honcho, Tokamachi, Niigata Prefecture 948-0000
The area is easily accessed from Tokyo - simply catch the Max Toki Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Echigo-Yuzawa. From there switch to the local Hokuhoku line bound for Naoetsu, and alight at Tokamachi.