This week, the New York Times reported that the Japanese kimono trade is in crisis. A shift towards Western fashions combined with Japan’s long economic squeeze has led to plummeting demand, especially for high-end kimonos. Once, traditional kimonos from hand-dyed, hand woven fabric used to fetch prices of over $10,000, but this is no longer the case.
On Amami Oshima, production has fallen so far in the last two decades that only 500 people on an island with 73,000 residents remain employed full-time in kimono production, and many of them are in their 70s or 80s. That’s a dramatic drop from 20,000 people a generation ago, according to the Authentic Amami Oshima Tsumugi Association, the island’s union of kimono producers.
The union says the island’s production of kimono silk has fallen similarly, from enough to make 284,278 kimonos during the height of the postwar boom in 1972, to enough for just 5,340 kimonos last year.
Read more about the kimono crisis here.