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Kawaii Lesson Episode 7 – How to say NO in Japanese

Have you been following Kawaii Lesson diligently and learning your Japanese?

You want to say no, am I right? But you don’t know how to say no in Japanese? Well let’s fix this!

Saying no in Japanese

Saying no in Japanese isn’t an easy thing to do, as you rarely ever use the real word for no, which literally would be “iie” (いいえ).

But let’s take a look how the girls from Kawaii Lesson explain this lesson:

The formal and informal ways of saying no in Japanese


uun = ううん

dame = だめ


iie = いいえ

ikemasen = いけません

Different ways of saying no in Japanese

As explained in the video, Japanese may go great lenghts to give an explanation or excuse, if they can’t do or don’t want do something. This is often hard to understand for people from very direct cultures, which are also called low context cultures. Simply said, it is better to lie to you with a bad excuse, why something can’t be done or isn’t possible, than just directly say no, because somebody doesn’t want to do something. This has a lot to do with saving face, which is best explained with the concepts of honne and tatemae, for example in this article (you should read this).

Between friends, things can be a bit more open and honest. If you are just talking about facts, “uun”, or rather “u-un”, the opposite of “un” (a way of saying yes in Japanese), can be used without problems. For example “Wasn’t it raining yesterday?” – “Uun, the sun was shining!”
You will probably never hear “uun” as a response to the question if someone wants to go to the cinema with you or do whatever activity with you. Whatever the reason is why they can’t or don’t want to, you will rather hear a story as a response than a simple “uun”.

The word “dame” is more used for direct communication between people who know each other well or if you are REALLY serious that you don’t want something to happen. A girl might shout out “DAME!” if a guy come inappropriately close to her, while she pushes him away. Or a guy might say “dame!!!” if his girlfriend suggests that they should go to the next Kyari Pamyu Pamyu concert in Yokohama.

kyari pamyu pamyu kawaii lesson
Not wanting to go to a Kyari concert as a guy is a really good reason to say no in Japanese.

So saying “uun” is the informal way of saying that something is in fact differently, while “dame” is more a reaction to a suggested action. This does not cover 100% of the use cases, but it gives you a good idea about how it is used.

The Japanese word “iie” might be the formal equivalent to “uun”, but you will hardly ever hear it. The most common use is if you are getting thanked for doing something and want to seem modest or humble.
Examples: “Your Japanese is really good!” – “iie! It’s not good at all” or “Thank you so much for teaching English to me!” – “iie! It was a pleasure.”

Ikemasen on the other hand, might be considered to be more or less directly comparable.

Now let’s try together:

きゃりーぱみゅぱみゅの コンサート に行こうか?

きゃりーぱみゅぱみゅ?? だめだよ!!!バカじゃねぇ?!


For more of Kawaii Lesson, check out their Facebook page and their separate social media:

Ami Haruna:

Facebo0k (acting)
Facebook (DJing)

Or just watch out for new episodes on!

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Bearded Men in Silky Kimonos Calendar 2016

Now, a word of warning. If you are expecting perfect kitsuke, please do not keep reading. You will not find it here. What you will find: Bearded men. Silky kimonos. A calendar. All in one thing combined:
The “Bearded Men in Silky Kimonos Calendar”.

A black bearded man in kimono

It seems so obvious to combine these two things, once you say it out loud. Not really when you see it, but hey, can’t have everything.

Bearded man in silken kimono

The idea to create this amazing calendar came Kate Cooper-Owen when she saw her friend’s boy friend walking into the kitchen with a silky kimono…and a full beard. Now, again, these are not “kimono” in the strictest sense. More like very light yukata, if anything. But who wants to get tangled up in technicalities, when you have bearded men wearing these…gowns.

Bearded man in purple kimono

The photos were shot by the professional photographer Woland, who did an absolutely stunning job, considering the content.

Bearded man in yellow kimono in coffeeshop

And honestly, why should a kimono or yukata only be something for women? Or unbearded people in general? I demand, if beards aren’t exclusive to men anymore, then kimono and yukata shouldn’t be an issue for heavily bearded men! Just look at them, aren’t they glorious?

Bearded man in kimono with radio

It being a pin-up calendar, you can see some bits of cheeky nudity here and there. Nothing too wild, but it definitely reminds the viewer of the calendars of old.

Blue kimono and bearded man

I know what you’re thinking now: “Where can I get this calendar?!?!” – probably among many other questions.

You can only directly get it from the Kalendah Beards in Kimono guys, from their Website (of course).

I hope you enjoyed these pics as much as we did and now consider ordering one of these extraordinary calendars.

You can also find them on Facebook: Bearded Men in Silky Kimonos Facebook Page

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Dressing as a Maiko for one hour in Asakusa

What do you think, how it feels to be the center of attention, walking through the streets of Tokyo?

If you are above 6 feet tall (above 1,80cm), have blond hair and blue eyes, you probably know a little bit, what it means.

But what if you were dressed in real geisha or maiko garments, with professionally done make-up?

Random opportunity: Experience being a maiko in public

Blogwriter and world traveller Hanie Hidayah had the opportunity to try this herself.

Instead of getting invited for lunch, her Japanese Airbnb host decided to lead her to Cocomo, a professional kimono rental and photo studio. There she was given the choice to get transformed into a geisha or a maiko for one day. She decided to become a maiko for one hour, because it fitted her youth better.

This was a short experience but an hour being totally unrecognisable behind that makeup and outfit was an out-of-body experience. I was expecting something interesting but I never expected that much attention was given. The studio owner said that she’s had many customers but most of them are Westerners, so they weren’t very convincing as a real Geisha or Maiko. Thanks to my Asian features, I probably made someone’s day by just a single photo.

If you don’t have any Asian features, you probably won’t fool anyone. But as Hanie is from Malaysia and many people probably haven’t met a real geisha or maiko, a lot of people believed to meet “the real thing”.

Hanie getting maiko make-up

Dressing up as a maiko or geisha has been a sensible topic in the kimono scene for a long time. Opinions range from “you shouldn’t do it, if you’re not a real maiko or geisha” and “no westerner should dress up like this” to “it’s great to keep this kind of culture and style alive!“.

I think Hanie did it in a decent and well mannered way. Especially when she declined to go into a McDonalds and buy a burger in her maiko dress.

The boys tried to convince me to walk into McDonald’s and buy a meal but I refused as I knew it would draw much more attention and the thought of possibly ending up on 9gag was not how I’d want my 15 minutes of fame to be like.

We thank Hanie for this great video and her insights.

If you want to read the full post, go over to their “whatevertherewas”-Blog. You will find many more reports from Hanie and her partner from all over the world.

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The Kyoto Photo Gallery by Jeremy Hoare and Chizuko Kimura

As we roam the internet for news, pictures and events surrounding the art of kitsuke and the geisha-culture, we sometimes stumble over real gems that we absolutely want to present to our audience. One of these gems is the Kyoto Photo Gallery by Jeremy Hoare and Chizuko Kimura.

The title basically gives it all away: Jeremy is a photographer with a profound love for Kyoto. When we asked him to introduce himself and his work to he gladly obliged (everything from Jeremy is written in cursive):

I am the English photographer Jeremy Hoare and with my Japanese partner Chizuko Kimura we live mostly in London and sometimes in Kyoto at the Kimura family home close to Shinnyodo Temple.

I first visited Kyoto on my own in 1987 and thought it was wonderful with all the amazing culture around. So it was fate that Chizuko came from there and we have visited many times since together.

Prior to 1991, when I became a fulltime freelance travel and portrait photographer, my career had been as television cameraman and lighting director working on mostly drama and light entertainment UK network and international programmes.

Chizuko came to London to learn Queen’s English in 1991 and we met at a Japan Festival event in Covent Garden. She is a kimono maker and Urasenke tea master and is often making or altering kimonos for clients in the UK. We have also performed tea ceremonies in many different places in the UK for a variety of clients.

I started taking photos from a very early age as my father would hand me his camera and get me to take them. Then he showed me how to process film and make prints in a darkroom; the magic of seeing a print come up slowly from a sheet of white paper is magic that can never be forgotten.

My whole professional life has progressed by creating images of one sort or another with almost all types of camera for audiences ranging from a single person for a personal photograph to billions with international TV programmes. But in many ways this is not so much a passion as an addiction and my photography workshops are entitled ‘Addicted to Light’ because of it. I also give TV Camera & Lighting workshops which Chizuko assists with and I have done these not only in the UK but also in Fiji, Brazil, Australia and the Philippines.

The idea for Kyoto Photo Gallery came to me after photographing the Jidai Matsuri one October a few years ago. I sat with a coffee in stylish Iyemon Café in Sanjo-dori close to Karasuma-dori and it popped into my head. It has taken time to get to where it is today and we continue to make adjustments. The website is being continually improved and we have had two KPG exhibitions so far, the first in London very close to the British Museum and the second in Kyoto close to the Heian Shrine torii gate, both places being iconic landmarks.

In 2015 we will attend Art Fairs in London and have another exhibition in Kyoto; we are planning for another London exhibition in 2016.


You can find his work from Kyoto directly at the Kyoto Photo Gallery Website. Other pictures and galleries can be found at Jeremy Hoare Photography. You can even order high quality prints of his pictures in the Kyoto Photo Gallery Print Shop. While not cheap, I can see myself hanging one or two of those on my own walls. You can also follow him on Facebook for fresh photos from Japan for your newsfeed.

‘KYOTO – city of dreams’ Kyoto Exhibition from Jeremy Hoare on Vimeo.

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Kawaii Lesson Episode 6 – How to say “Yes” in Japanese

As you have been gathering quite the sentence repertoire, if you have been following Kawaii Lesson so far, it’s time to learn how to properly say YES in Japanese.

I mean, if you are offered some super delicious look sushi, it would be terrible to not be able to say that you actually want some, right?

So let’s give you the basics on how to say Yes in Japanese!


un = うん

iiyo = いいよ = 良いよ


hai = はい

iidesuyo = いいですよ = 良いですよ


Of course there are more ways to say Yes in Japanese, like saying “daijoubu” (だいじょうぶ = 大丈夫), which means “alright” or “it’s okay”. It’s also used to describe the state of something as okay or alright. It’s very versatile and should definitely be added to your vocabulary!


For more of Kawaii Lesson, check out their Facebook page and their separate social media:

Ami Haruna:

Facebo0k (acting)
Facebook (DJing)

Or just watch out for new episodes on!

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Kimono Showcase: Naomi’s Pregnancy Kitsuke

Many of you may be wondering how you can still wear beautiful kimono when pregnant. Indeed, it may seem challenging to achieve an elegant look with a baby bump, especially since the kimono is supposed to present a slim figure.

Hence, we are delighted to have Naomi – from ‘Naomi no Kimono Asobi’ – show us that it’s actually rather easy to look splendid in a kimono throughout pregnancy: all you need are a few simple tweaks in your kitsuke!

Her kitsuke at 9 weeks 

Naomi didn’t have a bump in this early stage of her pregnancy, but she did not feel comfortable with anything around her waist. Hence, Naomi adjusted her kitsuke by tying the juban and obi just below her bust instead:

Naomi at 9 weeks in a full ro ensemble, with just one tweak to her kitsuke.

Naomi found this to be extremely comfortable, with the bonus of achieving a high-waisted, Taisho look.

Here, Naomi is dressed in a full ro ensemble, featuring: a ro Taisho era purple lily komon, ro Taisho era mandarin duck juban, ro Hakata obi, and ro embroidered haneri.

Her kitsuke at 15 weeks

It was love at first sight for Naomi with this Taisho meisen komon, even though it was far too short for her to wear.  Her growing belly also made it impossible to achieve even a small ohashori in the kimono.

Instead, Naomi modified her kitsuke by using a safety pin and adding a lot of padding under the bust. She also kept her collar higher than usual due to the length of the kimono.

Naomi at 15 weeks, with a slight baby bump

I’m sure you’ll agree that Naomi looks gorgeous in this outfit – and the numerous compliments she received that day are no surprise!

Her kitsuke at 27 weeks of pregnancy

By this stage, Naomi’s juban no longer wrapped around her as much as it previously did, and her himo and datehime were significantly shorter than before.

As she did from the start of her pregnancy, Naomi tied the himo directly under her bust. She also wrapped her sarashi over the kimono bra and around her belly for additional support – which made Naomi feel extremely comfortable. Naturally, she also had to double the padding used to fill the gap between her bust and belly.

To achieve this beautiful otaiko, Naomi used a ‘biyosugata‘ – which some describe as a ‘magic obi aid’. In fact, Naomi thinks that this should be every pregnant woman’s best friend!

Her kitsuke at 30 weeks of pregnancy

In this later stage of her pregnancy, Naomi decided to go for something bolder instead and opted for this eye-catching number:

This tachibana meisen kimono is exceptionally wide and long for a Taisho meisen, which suited Naomi’s figure perfectly. She also needed a haori for the cold weather, and went with this shibori haori from her collection which best suited the ensemble.

Throughout her pregnancy, Naomi found kitsuke to be rather easy. In fact, Naomi mostly did kitsuke as per normal, apart from a few adjustments in finding kimono, juban and himo that fitted her growing figure.

As you can see, Naomi’s pregnancy kitsuke looked quite effortless, so rest assured that you’ll be able to look as stunning in a kimono as always while pregnant – Naomi most certainly did!


If you now feel that you want to share your pictures as well, just send us an email to with what you would like to showcase here or just directly send your pictures with some background information.

Make sure to also follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or just directly subscribe (see bottom left of this site) to this blog to not miss any news, showcases or events!


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The Kimono Queen Contest 2015

Much like every country around the world has one of those “Miss”-elections, Japan has their own event for choosing who looks best in a kimono. Although to be fair, the Miss Japan Election does exist here as well and is more geared to looking good in swimwear than traditional clothing.

If you are more interested in seeing well-worn kimono than seeing girls in bikinis, then the “Kimono Queen Contest 2015” might be just for you. It is going to be held in the Asakusa Public Hall (浅草公会堂 / あさくさこうかいどう) on March 22nd.

To participate, you only have to be over 16 years and be a resident of either the Kanto region (including all its prefectures), the Shizuoka prefecture or the Nagano prefecture. Or let’s say, these would have been the requirements, if the application period didn’t end already on January 31st. So we’re a little bit late to tell you about it. Sorry for that.

Each contestant who enters the competition and walks down the “catwalk” in a kimono is graded by the judge in overall presentation, including their kitsuke (how the kimono is worn), their facial expression (smile!), their walking and overall performance.

The contest itself is split in three categories:

  • 振袖の部 (furisode no bu) – the main category for furisode kimono
  • 礼装の部 (reisou no bu) – the “formal dress” category, which includes tsukesage, houmongi and tomesode kimono (irotomesode & kurotomesode)
  • カジュアル・アンティクの部 (casual / antique no bu) – the category for everything that doesn’t fit into the 2 other categories, including antique and casual kimono

In 2014, there were 6657 entries from which 320 were selected to present themselves in front of the judges.

Footage from 2014:

winners of kimono queen contest 2014The kimono queen winner Misato Ozawa (3rd from the right) and the runner-ups of the main furisode category, together with Ayame Goriki (on the right) and Fuuka Koshiba (on the left) and the Oscar promotion winner (2nd from the right)

The winner of the main furisode category is going to be involved in various public appearances, including modelling at kimono shows, modelling for posters and presenting kimono at international ceremonies. The winners of the other categories as well as the runner-ups will also be called to participate in modelling activities.

You can find out more about the event itself on its homepage. Although everything is in Japanese and sadly, you can’t even buy tickets to go there. Invitation only!

But we are lucky enough to know one of the contestants of this year. So keep your eyes open for our first-hand report from the event!

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“Yui’s kitsuke world” kimono blog on

This is a new column of daily kimono life at

I am Yui from Tokyo, Japan and I work as kimono dresser and kimono teacher.

I want many people to know about kimono, especially easy daily kimono life. That’s why I start this column.

A lot of people think kitsuke has a lot of rules and those rules make wearing kimono more complicated. That is true there are a lot of rules for kimono, but you do not have to follow the rules. It’s your choice to you follow all of the rules, pick few rules or you decide your rules for kimono. Of course if you start kimono and you do not follow the rules, sometimes people may force you to follow the rules. But you do not need to care. Do not forget about kimono is just a type of clothing, even though it is very beautiful and looks special. In this column, I will write about a lot of kind of kimono as daily clothes and kimono life styles. I hope people can find their own kimono style from my column.

Yui sensei blogs now

And if you want to learn how to wear Kimono by your self, I open Kimono wearing lessons at Tokyo. If you want to join the lesson, contact me:

Please free to ask about kimono, via email or in the comments.


If you now feel that you want to share your experiences in your own blog on as well, just send us an email to with information about yourself and your idea for a kimono blog.

Make sure to also follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or just directly subscribe (see bottom left of this site) to this blog to not miss any news, showcases or events!

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Kawaii Lesson Episode 5 – How to say “How have you been” in Japanese

In the last lesson from Kawaii Lesson, we learned how to say “How are you?” in Japanese. But what do you say, when you haven’t seen someone for a long time? “How have you been?” is the right answer in English, but what about Japanese?

So let’s see that written, what we learned today:

Informal:  Hisashiburi = ひさしぶり = 久しぶり

Formal: Ohisashiburi desu = おひさしぶりです = お久しぶりです

Instead of the question “How are you?” which is used in English, you should understand “hisashiburi” more as a way of saying “Haven’t seen you in a while!”, which will often be answered with “hisashiburi desu neeeee”, which translates loosely into “It’s true, we really haven’t seen each other for a while!”.

Adding the “o” at the beginning of genki is a typical form of creating more formality for a word or an often used sentence.


For more of Kawaii Lesson, check out their Facebook page and their separate social media:

Ami Haruna:

Facebo0k (acting)
Facebook (DJing)

Or just watch out for new episodes on!

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What’s the difference between a Geisha, a Maiko and a Geiko?

Geisha or Maiko, Real or Fake? Learn the differences between them here!

You may have heard others talk about how they spotted geisha while travelling in Kyoto – but did they really see a geisha, or was it a maiko they saw instead? Or was it even a tourist who paid to dress up in a geisha outfit just for the experience? The differences may be subtle, but let’s see how you can distinguish between them. Let’s clairfy the differences between a geisha and a maiko and between a geisha and a geiko.

First of all:

Geisha vs. Geiko

Literally translating to ‘arts person’, geisha (芸者) are highly trained in Japanese traditional arts, including music, singing and dancing. By contrast, geiko (芸子) is primarily used to refer to geisha from Kyoto. Although geisha formerly referred to only those from Tokyo and its surrounding areas, it has now become the general term for all geisha.

Geiko vs. Maiko

Maiko (舞妓) translates to ‘dancing girl’ or ‘child’, and refers to apprentice geiko. They undergo about 5 years of training in various arts, before graduating to become geiko. Outside of Kyoto, the hangyoku (半玉) in Tokyo would be the closest equivalents to maiko. Hangyoku literally means ‘half jewel’ and are trainee geisha, although little is known about their training process. So summed up, the difference between geiko and maiko can be described as the difference between accomplished “master” of their art and an apprentice.

Now that we’ve clarified the terminology, what are the differences between geisha and maiko?

1. Hair style

Geishas usually wear a simple wig over their natural hair, usually in the typical style seen below. However, maikos style their own hair into elaborate arrangements that vary depending on the stage of training they are in.

Typical Geisha HairstyleA typical geisha hairstyle

Typical Maiko HairstyleOne of the several hairstyles that maiko sport during their apprentice stage

2. Hair accessories

Maikos wear several elaborate hair ornaments, or kanzashi, such as fan or ball-shaped ornaments and combs. There is also the hanakanzashi – an ornament with silk flowers dangling from the maiko’s head to her chin.  While this is one of the most recognisable hair ornaments, it is only worn during the first year Minarai stage of a maiko’s training.

In contrast, geisha wear simpler ornaments or decorative combs in their hair.

Typical Geisha Hair AccessoriesA set of kanzashi for the month of May, featuring purple irises and wisteria

Geisha MamehanaThe far simpler hair ornaments worn by a geisha

3. Make up

As maikos do not wear wigs, they will have a noticeable band of unpainted skin at their hairline. Their eyebrows will be coloured with red or pink, while their eyes will be outlined in red and black. First year maikos will have only their lower lip painted red, while maikos in the second year of training and beyond will have both lips painted. By comparison, as geishas normally wear wigs, there will not be any band of bare skin at their hairline. Their eyebrows will only have a touch of red, while their eyes are only outlined in black. Both their lips will be painted bright red.


4. Kimono

Maiko often wear brightly coloured, long-sleeved kimono with a wide obi or sash that is arranged into a bow at their back and extends to their feet. The collar of their kimono will hang low at the back of their neck and is thick and embroidered, containing only red, gold and white (or cream) colours. The geisha are older, hence wear more mature kimono, usually in solid colours and shorter sleeves. Their obi are narrower and tied in a square knot, while their collars are completely white and sit higher at the back of their neck.

Maiko and GeishaThe simple, shorter sleeved kimono with narrow obi worn by the geiko contrasts with the more elaborate outfit of the maiko

5. Footwear

Maiko normally wear very high okobo(おこぼ), or wooden sandals. Geisha wear shorter zori (草履) or geta(下駄), although maiko may also wear those on special occasions.

 Three Maiko and one GeishaThe footwear worn by the geisha on the right is far lower than that of the maikos


In addition, we found an explanation of the differences between maiko and geiko directly from a geiko:

Real Geisha vs. Tourist Maiko / Tourist Geisha

With those differences between geisha and maiko in mind, how do we tell whether a white painted-faced, kimono-clad person sporting a traditional hairstyle is actually a maiko or geisha, instead of a tourist dressed up as one in disguise? Here are some tell-tale signs:

1. Hair ornaments and makeup

As the long, dangly hanakanzashi is only worn by maiko in their first year of training, which corresponds to when they have only their lower lip painted red, a person wearing hanakanzashi with both lips painted is not the real thing.

Hana-Kanzashi on a tourist maikoA dress-up maiko with 3 tell-tale signs: ‘hana-kanzashi’ paired with both lips painted; the presence of colours other than red, gold and white on the collar; and the relative lack of red on the collar.

2. Time of day

Maiko and geisha start their workday in the evening, hence a person in full regalia in the middle of the day is most likely a tourist.

3. Location

As maiko and geisha hold celebrity status, they will usually avoid crowded places and tend to use the backstreets to get from place to place.

4. Photo-taking

Customers pay for the time required for maiko and geisha to get from place to place, hence they will not stop to take photos with tourists.

5. Walking

While the okobo worn by maiko can be very high and difficult to walk in, maiko are trained to be able to move around in them and will not require the assistance of others for balance.

6. Seasonal motifs

Geisha and maiko wear kimono with patterns that correspond to the seasons. Likewise, the motifs on their hair ornaments are aligned to the time of year too. If you see someone wearing an autumn kimono in spring, then she is most definitely a fake!

With all these in mind, you should now be able to easily distinguish between geisha and maiko, and between the real and the fake!

Although fake shouldn’t be seen with a negative connotation in this context. As we saw in Octavia’s Maiko Kimono Showcase, you can look good dressed up as maiko, even without working for an okiya in Kyoto!


The author of this article is Joanne, who is a former Osaka City JET whose love affair with Japan started when a friend in university asked to take a beginner’s Japanese language course together. Originally from Singapore, Joanne has been in Northern Ireland for two years but would love to live in Japan again. Joanne is the creator and current curator of rotation curation Twitter account @We_JapanShe has her own personal blog “Bits and Bobs”, where she writes about her personal interests, as well as traveling, Japan, ballet and living in Northern Ireland as a Singaporean.

If you now feel that you want to write for as well, just send us an email to with what you would like to write about or just directly send your posts/articles with some background information.

Make sure to also follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or just directly subscribe (see bottom left of this site) to this blog to not miss any news, showcases or events!