The Daily Telegraph - Travel - - FRONT PAGE -

There’s far more to ki­monos than meets the eye. Sub­tle vari­a­tions in style, colour, pat­tern and ma­te­rial, even the depth of sleeve and type of belt ( obi) have dif­fer­ent mean­ings.

The silk komon dec­o­rated with small pat­terns is used for ev­ery­day wear, while the fu­risode, an eye-catch­ingly colour­ful and pat­terned ki­mono with sleeves so deep they al­most touch the floor, is worn for for­mal oc­ca­sions by un­mar­ried women.

The for­mal wear for mar­ried women is a tome­sode, which has shal­lower sleeves and pat­terns be­low the obi. The male equiv­a­lent is a more som­bre, silk mon­suke.

Tea cer­e­monies re­quire an iro­muji, a plainly dyed, silk ki­mono, while the mo­fuku is black and used by both male and fe­male mourn­ers. By con­trast, the yukata is a brightly coloured, un­lined ki­mono, made of cot­ton and worn for warmer sum­mer­time oc­ca­sions.

Mean­while, the hik­izuri is the flam­boy­antly dec­o­rated ki­mono with a trail­ing skirt, worn by geishas and maiko dance per­form­ers. groves and lived the life of a Bud­dhist monk. I was be­gin­ning to get a feel for Ja­panese cul­ture. But there were some in­sights that were more dif­fi­cult to come to terms with. One was the

Robot restau­rant in the Shin­juku dis­trict of Tokyo where Kiy­omi took us for a cabaret-style per­for­mance fea­tur­ing neon-lit floats, pump­ing am­pli­fied mu­sic and fu­tur­is­ti­cally cos­tumed dancers, which some­how just didn’t do it for me.

How­ever, per­haps the strangest ex­pe­ri­ence of all was the visit to a maid café – a bizarre con­cept based on the Ja­panese con­cept of moe, the big-eyed, in­no­cent-look­ing fe­male char­ac­ters of car­toon anime – in Ak­i­habara, the hi-tech area of Tokyo. Given an­i­mal ears to wear, I was served iced cof­fee and cheese­cake by a sim­per­ing wait­ress in pet­ti­coat, pinafore and stock­ings while an­other per­formed ad hoc karaoke. An­other fas­ci­nat­ing in­sight into this con­tra­dic­tory cul­ture, per­haps. But I couldn’t help wish­ing I was back at the sumo.

A 13-day Trails of Ja­pan tour from Wendy Wu (0800 902 0888; wendy­wu­tours.co.uk) costs from £5,490 in­clud­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion, some meals, in­ter­na­tional flights, all trans­port and en­trance fees

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