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In contemporary Japanese settings, kimono is often shorthand for "this character appreciated the traditional Good Old Ways". Even people who wouldn't normally even think of abandoning the comfort of Western wear, will go out of their way to wear fancy kimono for formal celebrations and events. For more information about kimono, see the useful notes. For specifically kimono-flavoured Fan Service, both sexual and not so, see Kimono Fanservice.
Kimono is a likely wear-of-choice for Yamato Nadeshiko, and will underline her such qualities Up to Eleven. An elderly character wearing kimono will likely represent the traditional ways, demanding respect as the iron-fisted matri- or patriarch of their family. Sometimes the whole family is dressed this way, and might seem stuck in the Middle Ages when it comes to values.
If the Shrinking Violet fianceé or would-be-so is shown in kimono, expect her to have been brought up in "Kyoto style". In short, character wearing a kimono daily means that they will most likely follow the expected ideal of a Japanese person of their age, sex and position. In a notable exception, however, a working age male daily wearer reads as somewhat of a rebel, as he most likely won't be a white-collar salaryman.
In modern Japan, the skill of dressing up in a kimono and carrying it is largely limited to dancers, geisha and such, and afficinandos. Being able to dress oneself up in a kimono is oh-so-WOW, while yukata-wearing skill is more like a citizen responsibility. Kimonos are also not cheap by any means. Thus, daily kimono wearer characters have a certain aura of elite in the Japanese mind.
Note that simply wearing yukata does not qualify a character to be Traditional In Kimono -- it's considered a different type of garment altogether in Japan, and has different connotations. Similarly on the opposite end, wearing an uchikake, i.e. a loose, unfastened outer kimono on top of the normal kimono, in normal conditions (outside weddings) multiplies all the traditionalness, class, and wealth indications the kimono itself gives to a character.
Anime and Manga
- In Azumanga Daioh, of the six students and two teachers, only Sakaki and eleven-year-old Chiyo knew how to put on a kimono, and had to teach the rest. Kagura's parents bought her one for the occasion.
- In Hidamari Sketch, not only does Hiro lend Miyako her old yukata, but it's mentioned that Sae put hers on like a guy at first.
- In Ichigo Mashimaro, it's discovered that Ana doesn't have a yukata, so she temporarily "borrow" one off of Miu. As in, Miu had been wearing it when she borrowed it. Then Chika remembers Nobue's old one, which Miu ends up wearing to the matsuri.
- In Lucky Star, the girls talk about the tying of the obi. Kagami's assumption was that Miyuki had tied it herself, but instead, the person at the store tied it. Konata's obi was tied by her father, a fact which disturbs Tsukasa.
- Saotome Nodoka in Ranma ½ almost always wears a kimono, and is a walking parody of the Yamato Nadeshiko archetype.
- Kyouko from Maison Ikkoku: wedding kimono. Akane from Ranma ½: western wedding dress. Three guesses which one is the Cute Bruiser and which one is the Yamato Nadeshiko.
- However, Akane is forced into a wedding kimono earlier on in the arc. It's not until later that she willingly dons a western wedding dress. Perhaps it's symbolic of her character?
- Ichiki from Nabari no Ou is always seen wearing a traditional kimono.
- Japan of Axis Powers Hetalia, quite fittingly, is often seen wearing a yukata and once cleans his house while wearing traditionally female kimono and apron wear. Needless to say, fans love to break out the Kimono Fanservice for him in fanworks.
- Kohaku from Tsukihime is a Meido who wears a kimono with an apron. It offers contrast with her sister Hisui, who wears a more Western Meido dress.
- Ryougi Shiki from Karano Kyoukai wears nothing but kimono, except for a red leather jacket over it.
- Kaibara of Oishinbo is a renowned artist who practices several traditional artforms, as well as a hard-line traditionalist in other areas and almost always wears a kimono. Older characters also frequently wear kimonos.
- In Niji No Nataasha, Natasha's rival is Umeko, a very traditionally brought up high class girl, and you guessed it, she always wears splendid kimono. Her mother, practically a queen at home, never needs to lift a finger to get everything done (they have many servants), and she wears kimono + uchikake.
- Goemon Ishikawa of Lupin III, unless in disguise, is always seen in a kimono and hakama, reflecting his Samurai honor and traditional ways.
- The kimono is standard garb for Nozomu Itoshiki, the despairing teacher in Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei, who's also from a very rich family. Same goes for his Stalker with a Crush, Matoi Tsunetsuki, since she always dresses like her current love.
- Katakura Kojuurou in Gate 7 is always showed wearing a kimono and hakama and uchikake.
- Kyojin no Hoshi: Chuuta Ban's father Daizou aka the director of Seiun School is almost always seen in a traditional black male kimono.
- After Hyuuma's older sister Akiko marries his rather rich rival Mitsuru in Shin, she begins to wear kimonos instead of her old pink jumpers as a symbol of her higher social standing.
- Also in Shin, the older and somewhat calmer Ittetsu Hoshi is also seen wearing kimonos. But unlike Mr. Ban's ones, he wears simple ones that resemble yukata.
- Tsuruya in Kyon: Big Damn Hero wears a kimono out of school nearly all the time for this reason.
Live Action TV
- On Quantum Leap, Sam leaped into a man who had a Japanese War Bride he brought home from his stint in Japan, and she wore a kimono all the time. The year was 1953.
- In the context, her constant kimono wearing might be related to either not wanting to give up clothes reminding of home and pre-war times, and not needing to do so, or the production wanting to underline her otherness... Or probably that she plain didn't have any non-kimono clothing yet.
- In The Mikado, a play set in Japan, the cast is wearing kimonos. Specifically, the Three Little Maids are often in pastel shades of pink, blue, and yellow. Many productions seem to not do research on the costume (on purpose or not).
- Early in Persona 4, the transfer student first runs into Yukiko Amagi while she's wearing a kimono. It's used as visual shorthand for how she's following her family's traditions and becoming the next head of the Amagi Inn.
- Grumpy Old Man Victor Kudo from Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations not only wears one, but once embroidered kimonos as his job.
- In Xenosaga Episode II, Jin Uzuki wears kimono in a world thousands of years removed from Japan's existence on a destroyed Earth. He is not merely a Fan of the Past, but holds to a very old-fashioned sense of propriety, and is a practitioner, to Charles Atlas Superpower levels, of traditional martial arts.
- In the Pokémon Red and Blue games, Gym Leader Erika always wears a traditional kimono. Four generations later, she remains the gentlest and most polite of all female Gym Leaders. She runs a perfume shop as her day job and tends to flowers as her hobby.
- There is also a quintet known as the Kimono Girls. These are the only characters in the games from which they originate to keep their Japanese names (though mixed up among them). Their role is to perform an old ritual to bring Ho-oh to the top of Ecruteak City's Bell Tower. Note that the entire Johto region, where they live, has a strong feudal Japanese look, with old-fashioned wooden houses and paper doors, temples with guardian monks, and a culture deeply reverent of tradition.
- In Tsunami Channel, Haruna is presented as a very traditional girl from an extremely wealthy and traditional family, having been groomed like a samurai wife (naginata wielding and all), so she naturally wears kimono all the time.