After the Olympics, Japan Made Kimonos for Every Country, Including the Philippines
The kimono, Japan’s traditional garment, is a well-known symbol of the country. The carefully crafted article of clothing has spanned centuries and carries a huge cultural importance, especially when it comes to nationhood and unity.
While it may not be something anyone would think of first when it comes to cultural movements—that such a piece of clothing can be so bold and powerful as to invoke change—but this was exactly the vision of The Kimono Project, which was created specifically for the Tokyo Olympics.
Headed by Japanese organization OneWorld to honor the quadrennial event, the ambitious project takes on the mission of uniting various cultures across the globe with the idea of world peace, which is really what the Olympics is all about. Over 200 sets of kimonos representing all the participating countries and territories were masterfully crafted by talented kimono artists from all over Japan with the spirit of "wa," which means harmony. Through each kimono, people can learn each other’s cultures and form a mutual understanding, which is what the project aims to achieve.
The head of the project, Yoshimasa Takakura, wanted to witness Olympic delegations wearing the kimono. But of course, this dream, unfortunately, could not be fulfilled due to the pandemic. It was meant to be exhibited in such a way that showcases each country’s traditions while also recognizing what makes each nation unique. However, the spirit of harmony is still clearly seen throughout the exquisite designs of each country’s special kimono.
The Philippines by the Kimono Project
For one, the Philippine kimono—created by artist Hiroshi Nakamachi—was inspired by the country’s national leaf: the anahaw. While not usually at the forefront of the most recognizable Philippine symbols (like jeepneys, mangoes, and nipa huts), these leaves gives people a glimpse into the country’s lush forests, which Nakamachi took into account. The artist was particularly inspired by the concept of a palm forest, and how the sun’s rays peek through the leaves as the wind passes by. Patterns of a large palm leaf cut into two and the pattern of the assembled palm were threaded into the meticulous design.
South Korea by the Kimono Project
The kimonos of other countries were also designed just as thoughtfully. South Korea's kimono showed the iconic buildings of Changdeokgung Palace and Suwon Hwaseong, along with bursts of the country’s national colors and gold accents. Meanwhile, the U.S. kimono has designs of the 50 states’ flowers, as well as well-known symbols of baseball, football, and even Hollywood movies. And then there’s the Australian kimono, which was designed based on suggestions from children. It has hues of yellow and green, accompanied by Aboriginal art, a platypus, and the monumental Uluru or Ayers Rock.
U.S.A by the Kimono Project
Australia by the Kimono Project
These kimono designs show how the Olympics, while mainly focused on sports and athleticism, can also be an avenue for showcasing the arts. Any attempt for the sake of global unity is no doubt ambitious, but with it comes a sliver of hope—something we could all use right now.