A little while ago I helped my friend to choose her wedding dress for her big day. While we were checking out those lovely gowns, she asked me about Japanese weddings and bridal wears.
Her questions gave me an idea to write this article.
There are two main wedding styles in Japan. Many young girls are crazy about western culture, and they want to have white gowns and a Christian church wedding. Others stick with more traditional Japanese style ceremonies. Also, some people manage to combine these traditions for a truly memorable day.
Let’s take a closer look at the dress worn by a traditional Japanese bride. The innermost layer of the gown is called the naga-juban and is essentially a thin white kimono. On top of that she wears a white shiro-kakeshita kimono or a colorful iro-kakeshita kimono, tied at the waist with a sash called an obi. The outermost layer consists of an open kimono that’s either a white shiro-uchikake or a colorful iro-uchikake that is not tied together with an obi.
If the bride’s gown is completely white it is called a shiromuku. Once it had a symbolic meaning. It represented the young wife who entered her new home as pure and white as freshly fallen snow, and it was up to her husband’s family “to color her,” meaning that the bride would adopt the values and traditions of her new family. This is the oldest type of bridal gowns.
The idea of the colored wedding dress, the iro-uchikake, came later and it was intended to bring the young couple good luck and happiness. The colors (red, in particular) and the patterns on the dress were designed to bring good fortune for the newlyweds.
The third type of traditional dress, the hikifurisode, was the latest to evolve. It is a long-sleeved kimono tied together with an obi at the waist.
Wedding dresses have usually been worn together with a triangular white headwear called the tsuno-kakushi. This is traditionally meant to veil the bride’s horns of jealousy, ego and selfishness. It also symbolizes the bride's resolve to become a gentle and obedient wife. Another variant of the headwear is the wataboshi hood which is supposed to conceal the bride's face to everyone except the groom. Other head covering options include a large wig or bun, and a variety of lovely accessories.
While I was living in Japan, I had a student who was kind enough to let me try on her wedding dress. It took us more than two hours to dress, since it consisted of so many layers. It was also quite heavy, but when I saw the end result, I was genuinely amazed. I felt like a Japanese hime-sama (princess) in that beautiful, very expensive, and one-of-a-kind wedding kimono.
The people in the land of the rising sun really know how to make that special day truly unforgettable.
Well, my dear readers! If the big day comes, would you like to say your “I dos” in a Japanese kimono?
Photos: 3., 8., 9. and 10. are my own.
The sources of other pictures, in the order in which they appear: