The “Meisen” style silk kimono was the most popular garment during the 1920’s and 1930’s when people still wore kimono daily. It is very different from all the other kimonos which always had a “classy” feel to them. Meisen kimonos were worn as every day wear at home and to do daily tasks. The main characteristic of Meisen is its pattern, made by pre-dyed threads. As the fabric is woven the surface decoration appears as a shimmering, soft-edged pattern. Because of the events such as World War I and the Kanto earthquake of 1923 the price of silk fell heavily and the production and popularity of meisen kimono was at its height. Meisen kimono were affordable, durable, smart attire for everyday wear. Their crazy patterns are very similar to current modern art paintings.
In Chichibu city, Saitama prefecture, there is a special type of Meisen weaving called Chichibu Meisen. This technique involves first weaving the main color and then loosening the fabric to weave the pattern on top. They even have a museum dedicated to the craft where you can try your hands at this special weaving technique (http://www.meisenkan.com/). Because the fabric has same patterns and same looks on both sides, it can be turned inside out when one side becomes dirty.
Wattention staff had the chance to try on real Meisen haori (kimono jacket) from the collection of Kimura Kazue, a cheery lady living in Chichibu city. Parts of her collection have been on display around the world and she has appeared in some kimono magazines. If you want to learn more about kimono and all the rules involved, Wattention has a handy five-part starter’s guide to kimono.
Access to Chichibu Station from Tokyo
80 minutes from Ikebukuro station with the Limited Express train to Chichibu station.