According to AP and other news sources, Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase acknowledged that his bank slipped-up $2 billion losses incurred by their trading and that the matter is now under investigation by regulators. Dimon told in NBC’s “Meet the Press”:

“Of course, regulators should look at something like this. It’s their job. We are totally open kimono with regulators. And they will come to their own conclusion and we intend to fix it, learn from it and be a better company when it’s done.”

I am interested in the phrase, “We are totally open kimono with regulators” as I understand ‘Kimono’ is Japanese equivalent to dress.

Is “Open kimono with somebody” a popular English (or American) idiom or phrase?

Can I say “open dress with somebody” instead of using “Kimono”? If not, what are alternative idioms meaning “open up one’s mind”?

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    Two things: 1. I would more likely translate kimono as robe not dress. 2. The meaning is not "to open one's mind" it is to "bare all"- keep no secrets. A more popular expression might be "we are an open book"
    – Jim
    Commented May 15, 2012 at 5:08
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    @Jim. Kenkyusha’s English Japanese Dictionary, the most popular English Japanese dictionary in Japan defines ‘kimono’ as clothes, dress, and clothing in old style expression. Precisely, kimono is classic Japanese costume worn by people roughly before mid-20 century. We distinguish ‘Kimono - 着物’ from ‘Yohuku - 洋服’ literally meaning western clothes and dress. Today Kimono is worn at special occasions of celebration like wedding, and Adult Day and sorrow like funeral, or at home for a relaxation purpose. Commented May 15, 2012 at 6:41
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    I see, you are using dress not as 'a piece of women's clothing' but as 'a manner/style of clothing' I also expect that when westerners say "open kimono" they are not making the subtle distinctions that you are. They merely mean an article of clothing that typically is wrapped around the body and held with a sash or tie such that it can fall open if the sash is removed- much like a robe- because they want to conjure the image of someone standing with their robe open.
    – Jim
    Commented May 15, 2012 at 6:53
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    Never heard such a thing in my life.
    – tchrist
    Commented May 15, 2012 at 12:04
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    It's an inappropriate and sexist expression that some businessmen like. I wouldn't copy it!
    – Simd
    Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 6:02

6 Answers 6


To open the kimono to someone

is a bit of business argot. It is figurative, meaning to give away or be open about a few secrets to entice the buyer and encourage a deal to go forward. In a pitch to an possible investor, the inventor doesn't want to give a way the 'secret sauce' (the important idea behind the invention because the investor might still the idea. But the inventor has to show -something- that will entice them to prove that there is something there that is worthwhile. So the inventor will give some few details that will be convincing.

The metaphor is in reference to a geisha flashing open her robe to a client to engage his interest. Americans (where the phrase presumably originated) are only familiar with the kimono as something worn by geishas and have no idea of the associations (or lack thereof) it has natively.

'Open kimono' is a derivative of this and has come to mean 'to show the innerworkings', less a sneak peak but rather full access. In the OP phrase we are totally open kimono with regulators, the speaker was just trying to get across that they won't be hiding anything from the regulators.

The grammar of 'open kimono' is a bit informal by converting a 'verb noun' pattern to an 'adj-noun' (essentially nouning a verb). Using it as an adjective is even more familiar:

we are X with you

where X is an adjective is not formal or standard English, but is very colloquial (that is, not good for writing, but works in speech). It is not common in general but is recognized in the business world.

  • Does your answer imply that they are only trying to create the impression that they are "open" with regulators? Because if you only flash open your robe, it'll be closed again in no time...
    – Raku
    Commented May 15, 2012 at 14:45
  • The original phrase, not what Jamie Dimon used, is about giving a sneak peek, opening and closing quickly, of something good. I think that what Jamie Dimon said is misused and trying to give the impression that they are totally open with the regulators, unfettered access.
    – Mitch
    Commented May 15, 2012 at 15:17
  • True. ‘Verb (be) + adjective + objective (noun)’ construction of “We are open kimono with regulators” looked ungrammatical to me. So I deleted ‘are’ from my question. However, I’m not sure if ‘open kimono to sb.’ like ‘the inventer fully opened kimono to investors’ passes as a financial business jargon or not. Commented May 15, 2012 at 20:10
  • @YoichiOishi: To get the pattern, it would be: ‘the inventor fully opened the kimono to investors’. And that would work as business speak.
    – Mitch
    Commented May 15, 2012 at 21:52

Open the kimono or flash the kimono is reasonably common in US financial use – meaning to show everything.

To Americans and most westerners, a kimono is a robe (BE dressing gown) so the assumption is that you are naked underneath.

I don't think it's very common among 'normal' people.

  • I don't know too many Americans who use dressing gown- we usually just say robe.
    – Jim
    Commented May 15, 2012 at 5:13
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    I first heard this expression perhaps 1980-1985, from a middle-level manager where I worked (IBM). At that time the implied meaning was "bare all", and there was no implication of, say, being less than honest with regard to this act. Heard the expression only occasionally after that -- it never was common in our circles -- but I have not heard it at all since maybe 2000.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented May 10, 2017 at 2:14

I think it is a widely-understood phrase in business, but perhaps a little pretentious.

You certainly wouldn't translate 'kimono' into its English equivalent.

  • 2
    I wouldn't call it pretentious but rather vulgar. Commented May 16, 2012 at 2:11
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    @HStephenStraight I'd probably call it pretentious, vulgar, and probably sexist and racist, and quite a few other unprintable things!
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Jun 19, 2012 at 2:40

When trying to understand what a word means in English, using a Japanese/English dictionary may not be the best approach. Instead, use an English/English dictionary.

For example, "sake" in English means rice wine (nihonshu), whereas in Japanese it can mean alcoholic beverages in general.

As mentioned by Jim, "kimono" seems to have a different meaning from Japanese's "kimono" (which would literally translate as ki + mono, "wearing thing").

Some westerners believe that women don't wear any underwear underneath a kimono. For example, the author of TV Tropes' page on kimono fanservice. I don't know if this was believed by the users of this idiom, though.

  • 1
    If some westerners believe women in kimono don’t wear underwear underneath kimono, it’s a great misunderstanding. Even in Meiji (1968 -1912) era when Japanese started to wear洋服(western style clothes), women wore腰巻 (literally, waist wrapper), which is bottomless, as an underwear. Off course today’s women wear pantie underneath kimono. In Japanese, we have the phrase, 前をはだけるmeaning “open the front part of kimono (by loosening Obi – belt).” But it means simply slovenly dressed appearance, and has no sense of disclosure. Commented Jun 19, 2012 at 2:30

It's quite common in my industry, software development. Companies, especially US based ones such as Microsoft, like to use it to state that they are now being very open about their processes, software and internal systems.


The alternative is "fully disclose". Today on a meeting I heard: We can be open kimono with XYZ consulting company. In this sentence it meant that we will fully disclose the situation including all the identified issues and potential problems since XYZ has shown a predisposition to work with us and is somewhat sympathetic to us. However, we will ask them not to disclose all this to our client since we wish to package (not reveal all) to the client.

As an American, I understood immediately what this meant although I never heard it before. I immediately found it shocking and sexist because I (incorrectly) associate kimono with prostitution and I pictured our company as a prostitute revealing her nude self to the consulting company. Just not good! I mentioned this phrase to my wife, who is from a South American country and she also immediately understood it and found it fascinatingly in bad taste.

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