A Japanese couple wearing kimono. Painting (1899) by Uemura Shōen 上村 松園
Has the 1,000 year-old Japanese kimono tradition come to the end of the road? In a BBC Radio 4 programme yesterday, Roland Buerk, BBC’s Japan Correspondent, looks at the crises facing the kimono industry and the crafts related to it.
The kimono may be one of Japan’s most enduring cultural symbols, but the kimono industry is now in steep decline, and soon there could be no craftsmen left with the skills to make them. Younger Japanese prefer Western clothes to eye-wateringly expensive and impractical traditional kimonos. As kimonos have gone out of fashion, the number of companies making them has also plummeted. There can be a thousand processes or more involved in making one kimono, each carried out by specialist craftsmen. It takes years to master a single technique, but most craftsmen today are over 80 and within the next 10 years, many will pass away. Can the kimono survive?

Mastering the Art of the Kimono. Producer: Ruth Evans. A Ruth Evans production for BBC Radio 4.