A tailor transforms the kimono left by the deceased into family memories

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IZUMO, Shimane Prefecture–For these memory-filled kimonos left behind by the deceased, a clothing designer here offers to transform them into bags, stuffed animals and other daily accessories.

These keepsakes help families remember their loved ones in their daily lives.

Artisans whose workload has diminished due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other reasons also hope that this effort can help perpetuate their techniques for future generations.

Clothing designer Sanae Abe, 63, runs Omoideya, a cafe transformed from a traditional “kura” warehouse of a long-established family. She started the business on her own in 2001 before transforming it into a workers’ cooperative.

One of its main operations is to remake old kimono sitting in the closet into clothes to promote the charms of traditional attire.

Abe listens carefully to his clients to draw inspiration from his creations.

The designer has revamped nearly 4,000 pieces of kimono over the past 20 years.

She also organizes fashion shows to present her works across the country.

In March this year, Abe launched the Omoide Box (memory box) service to receive kimono and obi belts previously worn by the deceased to transform into everyday items. These include 27 varieties, such as bags, plush toys, “fukusa” cloth, Buddhist rosary containers, eyeglass cases, beanbags and picture holders.

Customers can select the items they want the kimono to be redone in according to their budget.

Redone items are packaged in a box to be given to loved ones of the deceased as keepsakes before a memorial service commemorating the 49th day or first anniversary of the death.

Abe came up with the idea after hearing many people say that they didn’t know what to do with so many kimono donated by their parents and in-laws and it was a heavy burden to inherit them.

The designer originally conceived the idea as part of a business to sort through the personal belongings of the deceased.

She was hesitant at first because she didn’t know the business field. But Abe was encouraged when she asked an acquaintance at a funeral home for advice and received a positive response.

The tailoring is done by top-notch specialists in traditional and western clothing tailoring.

Each is a skilled craftsman working in the prefecture who prioritizes quality.

But their workload has decreased significantly as ready-to-wear and rental kimonos are widely worn these days, not to mention the number of weddings and Coming of Age Day ceremonies have also decreased due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

But because the Omoide Box service handles a variety of items, they can make the most of their expertise and pass on their traditional techniques to future generations, Abe said.

“The kimono is best when worn, but if it’s not possible, I want to pass the baton to the next generation in a different way,” she added. “Reviving personal items cherished by the deceased can help you find a sense of closure and sort out your feelings. I’m just helping you.

Omoideya offers three options for customers to choose between 3 and 10 accessories from 27 choices to remake the old kimono, with each option priced at 30,000 yen ($224), 50,000 yen or 100,000 yen including tax.

Finished items will be delivered in one month at the earliest.

Orders are accepted from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Omoideya is closed on Tuesday and Wednesday.

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