Japanese Art and Traditional Dress of Females

Japanese Art and Traditional Dress of Females

Tomoko Hara

Modern Tokyo Times


Ukiyo-e art in Japan focused on many themes during its “golden period” in the Edo period and this was replicated during the Meiji era. Therefore, the world of old Japan comes alive visually within many areas of ukiyo-e art because of the subjects covered. It matters not if this art applies to the rich cultural aspects of Japan – or the floating world that was truly dramatic.

Sometimes in modern Japan, you will see ladies in traditional Japanese clothes during special occasions. When this happens it is often like “looking into a mirror of ukiyo-e” and seeing “a ghost from the past.” However, this “mirror” and “ghost” is truly part of modern Japan even if in the shadows.


This in itself highlights the richness of ukiyo-e in the field of showing traditional ladies in their splendid best. It is also evidence that while Japan is ultra modern, the old world remains powerful even if “mirages” of the original meaning. Either way, if based on tradition or “mirages,” it is still a noteworthy connection with the past.

Ogata Gekko (image below) produced many stunning images of elegant ladies posing in traditional dress. Of course, countless other amazing ukiyo-e artists also focused on the same theme. Therefore, the richness of ukiyo-e art depicts many images of art related to women. This applies to high culture, erotic art (shunga), beautiful ladies (bijinga), ghosts, and other themes, that are covered within the world of Japanese woodblock prints and the floating world of ukiyo-e.


Lee Jay Walker at Modern Tokyo says, “The real power in these images, I believe, applies to simplicity and how space, time, cultural richness, and modern Japanese women, were being portrayed in the context of culture. Indeed, the ideal image in a sense can still be seen in modern Japan when ladies dress in traditional styles. This can be seen clearly because a lot of thought, high-quality materials, color schemes, and other important areas, are connecting with the world of Japanese woodblock prints and the floating world of ukiyo-e.”

Lee Jay Walker further states: “The world of Ogata Gekko, like many other artists during the same time period, witnessed many changes because of the onset of modernity. However, if Ogata Gekko was to come back today, then he would witness glimpses of the old world based on traditional dress styles that still persist. Likewise, Torii Kiyonaga (1752-1815) excelled in the area of bijinga because of his amazing details and intricacies.”


Torii Kiyonaga is one of the many amazing artists that belonged to the Torii school of art. He emphasized many aspects of women and traditional dress. This applies to high culture, stratification, sexuality, morality, natural elegance, shunga, bijinga and other important areas. The art of Torii Kiyonaga is still widely appreciated in modern Japan.

Torii Kiyonaga also highlighted exquisite color schemes and amazing embroidery. This aspect of his art would also fit in naturally with elegant boutiques that bless modern cities. Therefore, during special occasions in modern day Japan you can see aspects of the world of ukiyo-e artists in relation to traditional Japanese dress.


In places like the Meiji shrine in Harajuku and sophisticated parts of Japan that focus on tradition like Kyoto, Nara, Nikko, and many other parts of this fascinating nation, the old world can be witnessed. In a sense, you can peer into the world of ukiyo-e artists and this notably applies to areas related to bijinga and traditional dress styles. The ghosts of the past, therefore, remain within “a living tradition” that comes alive during special occasions – or in specific parts of Japan where high culture and tradition remains strong.

Lee Jay Walker gave guidance to Tomoko Hara


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Some Japanese art and cultural articles by Modern Tokyo Times are republished based on the need to inform our growing international readership about the unique reality of Japan.

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