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Kimono archive entwined with human emotion

Photo by Taku Yaginuma / Special to The Yomiuri Shimbun

Keizo Suzuki, director of the Ome Kimono Museum, shows the clothing worn by an Imperial family member at a ceremony to mark the enthronement of Emperor Taisho.

By Miho Matsuzaki / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer The Ome Kimono Museum houses around 500 pieces of clothing related to the Imperial family and samurai families in an old private house and other items in a residential area in the mountains in Ome, Tokyo. The items date from the Edo period (1603-1867) to the Showa era (1926-1989).

After the end of World War II, Tosao Suzuki, the first director of the museum, collected court and historical clothing while managing a Japanese dressmaking school. Some were donated or bought from former Imperial family members and aristocrats. Suzuki established the museum 25 years ago to preserve these items and pass on Japanese kimono culture to future generations.

A 160-year-old building currently displays the clothing that Prince Nashimoto-no-Miya Morimasa and Princess Itsuko wore during Emperor Taisho’s enthronement. The outfit that Princess Itsuko wore, known as “itsutsuginu kouchigi,” weighs about 13 kilograms.

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  • Photo by Taku Yaginuma / Special to The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Items related to the Imperial family are exhibited inside the building.

  • Photo by Taku Yaginuma / Special to The Yomiuri Shimbun

    The building in which the collection of clothing is displayed

  • Photo by Taku Yaginuma / Special to The Yomiuri Shimbun

    An example of uchikake, a type of bridal robe embroidered with chrysanthemums and other patterns that were favored by samurai families, on display at the museum

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

Itsutsuginu literally means five pieces of clothing, which were formerly layered on top of each other. Eventually, however, the five pieces were sewn into one outfit to prevent the layered clothes from losing their shape.

According to Keizo Suzuki, 63, the second director of the museum, the enthronement ceremony was held to convey that Japan had become an advanced country. Suzuki said: “Several members of the Imperial family wore the same kind of outfit, but some were destroyed in a fire during the war. So the surviving one is very precious.”

Western clothes made by the Empress Emerita for the current Emperor when he was young are also on display. These were donated by Minoru Hamao, a former chamberlain to the crown prince. The buttons were sewn with a chicken-foot stitch, not a cross-stitch, to prevent them from coming off.

Clothing worn by samurai, kuge aristocratic families and townspeople of the Edo period are also on display through July. Both patterns and techniques of kimono are said to have differed according to social status and position — samurai wore kimono with embroidery, townspeople, including merchants, wore it with dyed patterns. Both types of clothing overwhelm the viewer with their vivid colors and intricate handwork.

Hinata Sawahashi, an 18-year-old vocational school student living in Chigasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, said, “It’s interesting how the colors are different from modern times.”

Suzuki said, “I want people to know that each kimono pattern contains its own meaning and human emotion.”

■ Ome Kimono Museum

Opened in March 1994. Historical clothing is on exhibit through July, and a Silk Road exhibition featuring clothing from China and the Middle East will be held from August to September. It is a 15-minute walk from Hinatawada Station and a 15-minute drive from Ome Station. Both stations are on the JR Ome Line.

Address: 4-629 Baigo, Ome, Tokyo

Open: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays (Closed from December to February)

Admission: ¥800 for high school students and older; ¥500 for junior high and elementary school students

Information: (0428) 76-2019Speech

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