Our Story

As told by Sheila Cliffe:

One day, I said to Kumiko, “Did you know that they used to have a custom in Japan, that when a woman got married, she would open her closet (tansu) publicly to her new husband’s village or neighbors and her status in the new village would literally be decided on the quality of her kimono? It was called tansu biraki”. This is how this project was started. It was probably not just financial status that was measured. Through the kimono, the hopes of the family for the bride and the way that she was brought up could have been imagined. In reality, the family also showed a lot more than the kimono collections too – sometimes their entire household goods!

And now to today. We can acquire kimono in numerous ways, and in many different price ranges. We can no longer simply read about our family backgrounds through our kimono. The internet is flooding with pictures of people wearing kimono, not only from Japan but also abroad.

But what about the reality of the Japanese tansu. What is really inside them? What kind of kimono do Japanese really have, and how many? Where do they get them and how do they store them? What problems do they experience? My own curiosity spread to Kumiko, lit a fire in her, and she became my research assistant in this “kimono closet – tansu biraki” project. We are going to go into the homes and closets of 50 Japanese women, between the ages of 20 and 70 and explore and document their kimono wardrobes. How many of what types of kimono do they have? Where did they come from, and how do they store them? What special kimono stories do they have? What are their influences? We will be gathering all the detailed data and analyzing it to find out the reality of kimono users today. Ultimately I will be doing a research presentation on this data, but on the way, we thought it would be interesting to reveal the journey, bilingually, to kimono fans online. This is an investigation to document the reality of real kimono and kimono users in the Heisei period.

Some women have already consented to being a part of the investigation and we are very grateful to them. As we are start this journey we are convinced that the stories between women and their kimono are deep and wide, more meaningful than perhaps we can imagine. As the project grows and spreads, who are we going to meet on the journey? We are very excited about it, and about introducing it to you. Its going to be a long journey, but we will go on it step by step. Kumiko is responsible for helping me collect and record the data, and Japanese language: kimono wearer and photographer Todd Fong will be doing all the visuals and helping us get it online; and I am the main researcher, and am responsible for English language, ultimately dealing with the data, figuring out what it means and presenting it, and for trying to make sure we don’t make too many mistakes on the way. Stay with us, the fun starts here.








シーラ・クリフは facebookの 「kimono」で9000名を超すフォロワーを持つ発信者であり、十文字女子大学の教授であり、イギリスの大学でkimonoをファッションの一部として論文を発表しPhD(博士号)を取得した才媛であり、貴重なアンテイークキモノコレクターであり、研究者であり、二人のお嬢さんの七五三に自分で染めた紅型のキモノを用意する母親であり、限りある人生を常に全力疾走しエネルギーを周りに降り注ぐ人です。「シーラの調査なら」と引き受けてくださった方も多いと思います。

来年には彼女の著書「The social life of KIMONO」も発行されます。彼女の20年に渡るキモノに関するすべてが入った渾身の一冊です。