The L.A. Kimono Club performed during the Little Tokyo Oshogatsu festival on New Year’s Day 2023. After the pandemic, it had been three years since they had held a kimono contest.
The participants’ gorgeous kimonos and the mood of the Japanese New Year appealed to the viewers. The L.A. Kimono Club worked behind the scenes to revive the custom.
Due to COVID-19 and the top leader’s retirement, the club’s activities had been put on hold for the previous three years, so they were inspired to get back to work this year. The contest was successfully run by the present members.
Vice President of the club Akane Mashimo admits, “We hustled.”
She recalls that it took some time to decide to hold the New Year’s event at Weller Court. When the club was requested to return, it was already the first day of December.
“From that point on, the contest was constantly on my mind. Only the four core individuals who are still active participated in weekly Zoom meetings where we planned and carried out all of our business. Everyone was extremely busy with their daily jobs, housework, and parenting. They really put in a lot of effort by contacting several people and placing advertisements in various locations. We exerted a lot of effort.
The Kimono Club has held kimono contests in the past. Mashimo, though, had some fresh concepts.
“This time, when I assumed the initiative, I really wanted to include a system for audience voting. They can cast a vote using a QR code from their smartphones, and the vote will count toward the verdict. Additionally, I wanted to improve accessibility for contestants’ admission requirements.
“Up until last time, we only had the Mr. Kimono competition for single men and the Miss Kimono competition for single women. The minimum legal age was set at sixteen. It was impossible to assemble enough individuals quickly even if we abided by the regulations. So, regardless of gender, age, or ethnicity, I decided to base the evaluation criterion only on the performance on stage.
As a consequence, they not only received audience votes but also a variety of pleasant comments from everyone. Many teenagers, a mother and daughter, and even a man who wished to don a kimono made up the contestants.
Mashimo exclaims, “I am proud that this contest has evolved into a totally new kind and is highly appropriate for the times.
About half of the participants were dressed by me in the morning, but the three winners arrived dressed independently or with assistance from their families at home. The grading criteria did not take into account whether or not they clothed themselves, but I believe their knowledge with and strong passion for kimonos showed in the outcomes.
“Taking advantage of this success, I want to hold more events this year and broaden the range of activities by adding more participants. The next step is to host a New Year’s lunch party at the start of February to talk about the club’s goals for the next year.
“I fervently hope that L.A. Kimono Club will develop into a kimono haven for everyone who loves kimonos in Los Angeles, especially the younger generation, who are particularly adept at promoting the culture and creating fresh trends.”
Lily Sumida, who came in first, exclaimed, “I’m thrilled to be Miss Kimono L.A. 2023! I am a junior at Newbury Park High School and 16 years old. When I first started performing as a Japanese dancer at the age of three at the Azuma Kotobuki Kai, I initially donned a kimono. Dance participation sparked my interest in kimonos, which developed in 2022 when I discovered kitsuke, the skill of donning one.
“I appreciate wearing kimonos because they help me feel more a part of my culture and teach me about Japan’s past. My other major love, which is music, is something I convey through classical singing, playing the piano, and studying the Tsugaru shamisen with Mitsuru Sasaki Sensei of the Sasaki Mitsuyoshi Ryu. I infuse Japanese culture and classical music into my recitals and other occasions by donning kimonos. I also started writing music that draws on both Western and Japanese elements.
I’m excited to represent Miss Kimono L.A. to the best of my ability by participating in events, promoting Japanese culture, and inspiring people to wear and learn about kimonos. I had a lovely time at the contest and got to know some amazing folks who share my passion for kimonos and Japanese culture.
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