LOOK: Kimonos inspired by nations competing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Published August 5, 2021, 12:40 PM

by John Legaspi

The Kimono Project took four years to complete

Kimonos are among the recognizable articles of clothing in the world. Japan’s traditional garb has so much charm and history in it that it successfully crossed over from the costume realm as a geisha uniform to become a contemporary piece presented on international runways.

Kimono Project

As part of the celebration of Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Japan is paying homage to its kimono and its visiting nations through the Kimono Project. Launched by Japan’s international outreach organization, Imagine One World, the initiative started in 2014. With Japanese designer Yoshimasa Takakura leading it, the project is able to complete over 200 kimonos with designs representing the countries competing in this year’s prestigious games.

A lot went into the creation of the custom-made kimonos and obis. Japanese artisans, from dyers to weavers, made sure the kimono sets embody cultural references, history, and natural and architectural beauty of the countries they are inspired by. According to the organization’s spokesperson Orie Shimizu each kimono set costs a whopping ¥2 million (almost $20,000 and over P900,000).

“We wanted to show that Japanese elaborate dyeing and weaving techniques are not just ancient art forms, but a living art that we still have today, with many artisans active throughout Japan,” Orie says.

“I’ve always wanted to restore the pride and confidence of craftspeople,” says Yoshimasa in a story by Japan Inside. “My dream is to see the people leading delegations wearing (the kimonos) at the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Games.”

Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the planned wardrobe didn’t pan out. While these kimonos didn’t get the appreciation they deserved in the Olympic stage, their beauty will be presented at the Osaka and Kansai Expo in 2025.

The Philippines-inspired kimono and obi

For the Philippines-inspired kimono, Hiroshi Nakamachi played with the theme “sound of the wind.” The designer looked into the palm tree, which has been essential in Filipinos’ lives since the beginning, describing the plant as “a building that builds, replenishes water and nutrition, and supports life.” Tinted in vibrant blue, green, and with light touches red and orange, the kimono mimics sunshine and wind passing through a forest of palms.

Completing the set is an obi crafted by Chikuzen textile. The belt presents multiple patterns and colors that echo the palm-printed kimono.

Here are some of Kimono Project’s top designs.

United Arab Emirates




Great Britain

United States of America

See more of the kimonos here.