Books on Japanese Textiles & Kimono 
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We are asked repeatedly for sources of information on old kimono and Japanese textiles. Below are a few related publications. These cover the historic development of the  textiles, discuss design and technique, give insights into Japanese aesthetics and culture, provide guides to the marketplace, and even offer practical help on how to wear kimono and tie obi.  We do not sell books;  we only offer this bibliographic information for your use.  

Be sure and check out our pages on Vintage Kimono, Japanese Obi, and also Kimono Design Techniques.


Family crests from Norio Yamanaka, Book of Kimono, Tokyo, 1982.


The Book of Kimono: The Complete Guide to Style and Wear.
Norio Yamanaka. Tokyo, 1982. This small book is a good introduction, describing the traditional types of kimono, how they are worn and cared for, how they are made, and even kimono etiquette. A brief history is included. About $28.

Japanese Costume: History and Tradition. 
Alan Kennedy.  Paris, 1990. This book examines the innovations in design and technique that produced Japanese costumes from the 16th through the19th centuries. Separate chapters are devoted to the clothing worn by different sectors of society: samurai, townspeople, actors and Buddhist clerics. Superb examples illustrate the way the costumes were made, the design elements and their origins, and the meaning and uses of motifs. 156 illustrations, 110 in color. 158 pages.  

The Story of the Kimono. 
Jill Liddell.  New York, 1989.  This is an historic account of the development of elegant Japanese costumes. The author traces kimono traditions through Kamakura, Muromachi, Momoyama, Edo and Meiji periods, carefully explaining the garments'  importance in Japanese culture. The book is illustrated not only with kimono examples, but also related arts. It also discusses the kimono in modern  Japan.  Hardbound, 240 pages, 219 illustrations, both black and white and color. This is out of print and difficult to find, so look for it in your library. 
Robes of Elegance: Japanese Kimonos of the 16th - 20th Centuries. Ishimura Hayao and Maruyama Nobuhiko. Raleigh, North Carolina. 1988. Kosode and kosode screens from the Nomura Collection, now in the National Museum of Japanese History in Sakura, are illustrated in color plates. This museum catalog also contains essays by Japanese scholars outlining the history of the kosode and its gradual development into the 20th century kimono. Discussions of the materials and techniques used to achieve a wide range of effects in the making and decoration of kimono are included. Paper, 246 pages, 90 color plates. Out of print, $35-$70.

Japanese Costume and Textile Arts. Volume 16, The Heibonsha Survey of Japanese Art.  Seiroku Noma. New York, 1977. This is a history of the development of kimono art. It focuses on style and kimono aesthetics, beginning with the rise of the kosode in the 12th century. It has sections on Noh and Kabuki costumes. There are extensive discussions of Japanese design concepts, and finally a section on the techniques used in kimono decoration. Hardbound, 168 pages, 191 illustrations (color and black and white). Out of print, $30-$60.
When Art Became Fashion:  Kosode in Edo-Period Japan.  Dale Carolyn Gluckman and Sharon Sadako Takeda, with contributions from others. New York, 1992.  Published in conjunction with an exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, this lavish catalogue features kosode from Japanese collections.  The text focuses on different aspects of the kosode, tracing its evolution, social role, design, construction, and decoration. Included are 162 excellent color photographs of kosode, obi, and ukiyo-e paintings. 352 pages. About $60. 

Four Centuries of Fashion:  Classical Kimono from the Kyoto National Museum.  Norio Fujisawa, Emily Sano, Yoko Woodson, and Shigeki Kawakami.  San Francisco, 1997.  This catalog accompanied an exhibition organized jointly by the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, the Kyoto National Museum, and the Agency for Cultural Affairs.  Short introductory essays present the classical kimono in historical perspective, while the catalog entries help the reader understand design development in the textiles. Paper, 150 pages, 100 plates.  Out of print, about $75.

Geisha: Women of Japan's Flower & Willow World. Tina Skinner & Mary L. Martin.  Atglen, PA, 2005.  238 pages, profusely illustrated with over 500 images.  This publication presents a large collection of historic geisha photographs, most taken from postcards produced between 1900 and 1940. It's an intimate view of these women's public and private lives, that gives us an excellent idea of the kinds of kimono worn by these celebrated entertainers.

Kimono: Vanishing Tradition. Japanese Textiles of the 20th Century. Cheryl Imperatore and Paul Maclardy. Atglen, Pennsylvania, 2001. This publication has lots of color photos and focuses on the kinds of kimono most frequently found in today's marketplace. For many of the pieces, the authors have listed typical price ranges. Unfortunately, this publication fails to distinguish carefully between kimono that are mass-produced printed garments and hand-decorated products that are individual works of textile art. Hardbound, 256 pages. About $50.
Kimono: Fashioning Culture.  Liza Crichfield Dalby. Seattle, 1993.   This study of the kimono by an anthropologist traces its evolution throughout Japanese history to its current status as the national dress of Japan.  Ms. Dalby draws on a variety of period texts, including fascinating 17th century kimono pattern books, to demystify the complex social mores connected with wearing kimono.  Her notes on the merging of Japanese traditional clothing and Western styles in the Meiji period are particularly interesting.  Paper, 384 pages, numerous black and white drawings.  About $18. 

Jodai-Gire: 7th and 8th Century Textiles in Japan from the Shoso-in and Horyu-ji.  Kaneo Matsumoto. Kyoto, 1984.  For anyone interested in the rich textile heritage of Japan, this exquisite publication presents color photos of 136 ancient textile masterpieces from the Shoso-in and Horyu-ji collections. Both patterned weaves and examples of patterned dyeing are shown from the Asuka and Nara periods. The materials and weaves are discussed. The plates are excellent, as are the commentaries on  individual textiles. In Japanese and English.  Paper, 251 pages.  Out of print, about $65.
Arts of Japan 1:  Design Motifs.  Saburo Mizoguchi.  New York, 1973.  This small book surveys the origins and development of traditional Japanese decorative motifs from the Neolithic period to the present day. The author selects motifs representative of each era and discusses their origins, variations in time, and applications to various art forms. He shows the cycles of popularity enjoyed by certain motifs, and the changes of taste revealed by the decline of one manner of decoration and by the emergence of another.  All media are included.  143 pages; 151 photos, both black and white and color. Out of print, $20 to $30.

Japan Crafts Sourcebook:  A Guide to Today's Traditional Handmade ObjectsJapan Craft Forum.  Tokyo, 1996.  This book introduces contemporary Japanese crafts from all genres--textiles, ceramics, wood, bamboo, lacquer, paper and metal. A large textile section explains and illustrates the unique techniques of kimono decoration used throughout the country. 207 pages. Profusely illustrated. $65-100.
The Japanese Kimono.  Hugo Munsterberg. Hong Kong, 1986. This small book traces the history of the kimono from its antecedents twelve centuries ago, through the Momoyama and Edo periods, up to its contemporary influence on designers such as Kenzo and Issey. Chapters on Noh and kabuki robes, religious garments and folk designs are included. It is an easy-to-read account, illustrated with important museum pieces.  74 pages, 20 color plates and many black and white illustrations.  About $18.

Japanese Ikat Weaving: The Techniques of Kasuri.  Jun and Noriko Tomita.  London, 1982. The various Japanese techniques of tying and dyeing warps before weaving are explained in great detail in this small book.  The authors assume that the reader has basic weaving knowledge. Both warp and weft kasuri techniques are described: Tegukuri Gasuri, Surikomi Gasuri, Itajime Gasuri, Orijime Gasuri, Hogushi Gasuri, Kushi-Oshi Gasuri, Fukiyose Gasuri, and Bokashi Gasuri.  Both natural and synthetic indigo processes are described.  88 pages, with numerous black and white illustrations.  Out of print.

Shibori: The Inventive Art of Japanese Shaped Resist Dyeing. Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada, Mary Kellogg Rice and Jane Barton. Tokyo, 1983. This exceptional volume explores the methods of producing resist designs in textiles by shaping and then securing cloth in various ways before dyeing. Japanese textile artisans have devised techniques that involve first shaping the cloth by plucking, pinching, twisting, stitching, folding, pleating, and wrapping it, and then securing the shapes thus made by binding, looping, knotting and clamping. This entire family of techniques is called shibori.  Superb illustrations and explanations thoroughly cover this field, with 104 color and 2908 black and white plates.  Paper, 303 pages.  About $35.

Japanese Design Through Textile Patterns. Frances Blakemore. New York and Tokyo, 1978.  This small book is devoted solely to the stencils sometimes used in dyeing Japanese kimono--the katagami stencils. 198 stencil patterns are reproduced, along with 50 photos of traditional woodblock prints showing the patterns in use.  272 pages, with illustrations in black and white.  Paperback. Out of print, about $37.
Japanese Textiles in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Anna Jackson. Photographs by Ian Thomas.  London, 2000.  Using pieces from the V & A's collection of Japanese textiles and costumes, the various patterning techniques that have been employed by Japanese textile artists are explored. Details are shown from garments, bedding covers, gift covers, doorway curtains and  decorative hangings.  150 color plates; 144 pages. About $22.


Old Japan Rediscovered. 
Hiroyuki Irifune. Photography by Masaharu Uemura. Tokyo, 2000.   A photo collection that presents the distinct cultural characteristics of the various regions of Japan.  The unique festivals, landscapes, costumery, architecture and arts are all included in this beautiful survey.  Paper, 168 pages.

Matsuri!  Japanese Festival Arts.  Gloria Granz Gonick, with contributions by Yo-ichiro Hakomori, Hiroyuki Nagahara, and Herbert Plutschow. Los Angeles, 2002.  This profusely illustrated book was published by the UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History as part of their Textile Series. It describes Shinto festivals and shows the wide variety of festival costumes still worn in Japan. It discusses the symbolic meaning of inscriptions on festival jackets, and imagery and symbolism in festival textiles.  Paper, 256 pages.  About $45.

Country Textiles of Japan:  The Art of Tsutsugaki.
Reiko Mochinaga Brandon. 1986, New York.  This small exhibition catalog gives an excellent summary of Tsutsugaki textiles, thoroughly discussing their use, the motifs, and the dyeing techniques. The excellent examples illustrated are primarily from the collection of the Honolulu Academy of Arts. Paper, 151 pages.  48 plates, 16 in color.  
Japanese Country Textiles.  Anna Jackson. 1997, London. This Victoria and Albert Museum publication surveys the country textiles of Japan--those woven from cotton and bast fibers, and decorated with a range of different dyeing techniques. The textiles are examined within the social, religious, political and economic contexts that shaped their production. 128 pages, 89 illustrations, most in color.

Beyond the Tanabata Bridge:  Traditional Japanese Textiles.  William Jay Rathbun, ed. Seattle, 1993. Included are contributions by several specialists: Louise Allison Cort, Mary Dusenbury, Richard Mellott, Iwao Nagasaki, Cynthia Shaver, and Amanda Mayer Stinchecum. This is a large exhibition catalog devoted to items from the Seattle Art Museum. They include a wide range of Japanese everyday textiles, from all parts of the country.  Paper, 199 pages. 68 illustrations, most in color.
Tsutsugaki Textiles of Japan:  Traditional Freehand Paste Resist Indigo Dyeing Technique of Auspicious Motifs. Gensho Sasakura. Tokyo, 1987.  Illustrations of 189 furoshiki, hanten, yutan, happi, noren, and fukuromono, all decorated with free-hand tsutsugaki techniques. Very brief text and captions in Japanese and English.  Paper, 178 pages.  

Japanese Folk Textiles:  An American Collection. Fifi White.  Kyoto, 1988.  One person's collection of a wide range of Japanese country textiles. Sections are devoted to kyogen and other costumes, fireman's garments, paper garments--kamiko, kasuri and shima, shibori, sashiko, tsutsugaki, and katazome. Very brief text and captions in Japanese and English.  Paper, 170 pages. 140 color illustrations.
Traditional Japanese Design: Five Tastes.  Michael Dunn. New York, 2001. This book takes an aesthetic and cultural approach to the appreciation of traditional Japanese design. A variety of utilitarian objects, including basketry, ceramics, lacquer, metalwork and textiles are presented in five areas of aesthetic taste that describe the essence of Japanese design: Artless Simplicity (Soboku); Zen Austerity (Wabi); Gorgeous Splendor (Karei); and Edo Chic (Iki). An introductory section presents archaeological objects that inspired later design. This publication was produced by the Japan Society Gallery to accompany a New York exhibition.  Paper, 181 pages, 84 color plates.  About $35.

The Kimono of the Geisha-Diva Ichimaru. Barry Till, Michiko Warkentyne and Jidith Patt.  San Francisco, 2006. This small volume illustrates the kimono wardrobe of one famous Japanese 20th century geisha. It also gives some background on geisha lifestyles within the context of the larger world of Japanese culture. 79 pages; both color and black and white photos.

Memoirs of a Geisha.  Arthur Golden.  New York, 1998.  This popular novel tells the story of a young girl's training in the rigorous arts of the Japanese geisha: dance and music, wearing kimono, elaborate makeup and hair, and the art of entertaining wealthy, prominent men from the business and political worlds. It describes in detail the geisha district of Gion in Kyoto, with its teahouses, theaters, temples and artists' houses.  For anyone interested in kimono, this novel is both enjoyable and informative.  Now a film, produced by Columbia Pictures. 

Geisha, A Life.  Mineko Iwasaki, with Rande Brown. New York, 2002.  This is an entertaining autobiography of a prominent geisha who retired not long back at age 29. This is truly an insider's view of the glamorous but hard-working entertainer's life in Gion. Her notes on the place of expensive kimono as both a personal passion and a routine business expense are particularly arresting. She tells of purchasing several kimono each week, most over $7000 each!
Geisha: Beyond the Painted Smile. Ed, Peabody Essex Museum. Salem, MA, 2004.  This publication accompanied an exhibition, and is a compilation of contributions by several specialists on Japanese culture. Each author considers an aspect of geisha tradition and aesthetics, from music and dance to misperceptions of the profession by foreigners. It is illustrated with woodblock prints and paintings as well as historical and contemporary photos. The work covers geisha culture from its origins nearly three centuries ago up to contemporary Japan. 


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