By TOMOKO NAGAI, Rafu Staff Writer
Wearing traditional kimono is like wearing a beautiful piece of art. But over time, kimono can become dirty, stained or discolored. Are you confident that you know how to clean a kimono and preserve its beauty?
Even in Japan, most people do not know how to properly take care of kimono. The most expensive and traditional way of kimono cleaning is called arai hari ( 洗い張り). This method involves carefully disassembling the garment into panels, gently washing, and sewing the panels back together.
Another way, maru arai (meaning whole-washing), is a dry cleaning method unique to kimono. Yukata, the cotton kimono worn at Obon festivals, may be washed at home, but absolutely do not place them in the dryer. Cleaning expensive kimono made of premium materials such as pure silk, tsumugi, embroidery, or adorned with gold leaf requires a specialist.
In response to this need in the U.S., Mita Sky a.k.a. Mita Kimono in Cerritos has teamed up with a Japanese kimono cleaner, Kimono Totonoe, to start an agency service. Via Mita Sky, kimono are shipped to Japan for professional cleaning, and returned to you.
Saya Kawai, CEO of Mita Sky, wears kimono on a regular basis for her Omotesenke tea ceremony practice. She founded a new business, Mita Kimono, to fulfill the domestic demand for cleaning.
“Kimono accidentally gets stained through the handling of hot water and green tea, or foods,” she says. “I used to take my kimono to Japan for cleaning. I had to wait many months until I have an opportunity to return to my home country. As cleaning wouldn’t be finished during my short stay in Japan, I would have the kimono sent to my elderly parents, who would keep them until my next visit, which is a long time.
“But since the pandemic started, going to Japan is not easy, or is impossible for many of us! At that time, I met with Kimono Totonoe. They are specializing in kimono cleaning in Japan, dry cleaning 60,000 kimono a year from all over Japan. So the idea was adaptable for U.S. customers.”
Professional kimono washing technology is reliable for sending expensive kimono and obi for service. Services that are available include stain removing, recoloring, repairs, and alterations.
Mita-Sky offers a range of ways for customers to send their kimono, including bring-in, send-in, or pick-up service from designated areas in the U.S. (additional charge). The kimono is shipped to Japan, and returned to the U.S. after cleaning. The whole process takes several weeks and kimono washing starts from $115.
Kimono can be picked up at Mita Sky, delivered to an address in the U.S., or sent to an address in Japan. The third option is unique, but useful if, for example, you are planning to attend an event in Japan and want to pick up the kimono at the hotel you are staying in.
Kawai says, “There is no worry about missing shipments as we only use private air freight companies such as OCS.”
Mita-Kimono also sells kimono accessories and yukata through their online platform, and at their office showroom (by appointment only). From the basic items such as kimono hangers (with the long, starched arm bar) and underwear, to the latest convenient items.
The “perfect collar core” is the two-piece plastic collar core (while traditionally it is one-piece), which creates the perfect back-dropped neckline.
Zori (kimono sandal) called “running zori” were developed jointly with running footwear manufacturer Asics, utilizing running soles. The development was aimed at foreign tourists at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics who would want to try wearing at kimono during their visit to Japan.
Locally, Hiromiya Bando is a big fan of Running Zori. A Japanese classical dance teacher in Torrance who often spends a day wearing kimono and zori, she says, “The cushions are so good and comfortably smooth on any surface. Very solid and I had no sign of slipping on the hilly road.”
Kawai says, “Since I started my kimono business, I became aware of so many interesting products. They should be available here.”
Being able to use a remote service of specialists in Japan is epoch-making. “We started the kimono cleaning service so that kimono lovers living in the United States, including myself, can enjoy kimono more easily by removing the stress of maintenance,” says Kawai.
She also wants to expand the base of kimono for Americans through yukata. “Yukata is easier compared to the full-scale kimono. To that end, Mita-Kimono enhanced the English online page and just completed the tutorial video (https://youtu.be/6dezePo1OZk) for men’s easy obi. I hope that Americans who are interested in kimono by the influence of anime, etc. can feel free to try the challenge of wearing yukata,” Kawai says
19112 Gridley Rd. Suite 221, Cerritos, CA 90703