1st Edition

Selling the Kimono An Ethnography of Crisis, Creativity and Hope

By Julie Valk Copyright 2021
    196 Pages 25 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    196 Pages 25 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Based on twelve months of in-depth ethnographic research in Japan with retailers, customers, wholesalers, writers and craftspeople, Selling the Kimono is a journey behind the scenes of a struggle to adapt to difficult economic conditions and declining demand for the kimono.

    The kimono is an iconic piece of clothing, instantly recognised as a symbol of traditional Japanese culture. Yet, little is known about the industry that makes and sells the kimono, in particular the crisis this industry is currently facing. Since the 1970s, kimono sales have dropped dramatically, craftspeople are struggling to find apprentices, and retailers have closed up shop.

    Illuminating recent academic investigations into the lived experience of economic crisis, this volume presents a story of an industry in crisis, and the narratives of hope, creativity and resilience that have emerged in response. The ethnographic depth and theoretical contribution to understanding the effects of economic crisis and the transformation of traditional culture will be of broad interest to students, academics and the general public.

    1. Kimono in Crisis? The Paradox of Contemporary Kimono Culture

    2. The Kimono and the Kimono Industry

    3. The Rise of the Formal Kimono in the Post-War Years: Selling Status and Commercialising Knowledge

    4. The Path of Resilience: Weathering the Economic Crisis and Managing Public Perceptions

    5. Azumaya: The ‘Nail That Stuck up so Far that No One Could Hammer it Down’

    6. The Kimono as Fashion: Lifestyle, Taste and Individuated Consumption

    7. New Directions: Second-Hand Retail and New Business Models

    8. Crisis and Hope Interwoven: The Future of the Kimono Industry


    Julie Valk is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at King's College London. She is a social anthropologist who has produced a substantial body of work on the Japanese kimono industry and contemporary kimono culture. Her work has appeared in HAU: the Journal of Ethnographic Theory (2020), the Journal of Material Culture (2020) and Fashion Theory (2018). She has research interests in economic anthropology, the sociology of expertise, financial systems, Japanese society and culture, as well as clothing and fashion.