Bebe Taian: November 2010

November 29, 2010

New kimono!

My mother did buy me a new kimono. It will be here in three months. Hopefully. Hopefully it won't be lost in transit, which can happen with Sea Mail. Thanks, American Customs!

Anyways. My choices were somewhat narrowed by the fact that the purple striped tsumugi I had come to love (which incidentally fit best) was sold two days after I posted about it. LOL! Well, that's how it works when buying kimono. But the gold one, the shortest one, may be able to be creatively tied, and the motifs match the rabbit details perfectly! It is the obvious choice.

So, the new kimono is...

November 28, 2010

Sushi night in kimono!

Tonight I went out for sushi at Ichiban. It is a very small restaurant that often gets overlooked in Tampa, but the regular staff are excellent and the fish is fresh that day or it doesn't get served. The kitchen is also separated from the sushi bar so that the heat from cooking does not warm the fish and spoil it (which is actually a problem in some places here... ack!). That being said, it really is Ichiban- the best!

It was also an opportunity to dress up in winter kimono and take photos. I need to practice taking photos well. It's pointless to write a kimono blog if I never show myself, isn't it? But it's so hard to find a good angle for me in photos. It's like every flaw comes out at once. O.o So it really is a challenge to get great photos, especially in kimono. I have to especially remember to get my neck straighter; it's pretty damaged, but I can hold myself properly for short periods at a time! Actually, I did manage to get some really great full body photos tonight... and then realised that my camera's lens didn't focus properly at any point, so everything came out really, really blurry. AAARRRRGGGGHHHHHHH! (Yield, I tried this time! :P)

Tonight I decided on a dusky blue post-Taisho, pre-WW2 irotomesode kimono with one crest. The colour usage was inspired by clothing I'd seen on geiko Naosome and Katsue, who wore blue/teal and gold. It was too formal for the restaurant, but since I was going to see a musician friends' performance afterwards, I thought it might be alright. I have a 1940's-1950's Nagoya obi which is like a converted maru obi typical of that time, when women were doing exactly that: converting their long, heavy maru obi into Nagoya obi. One maru made two Nagoya obi, which were easier to tie and lighter to wear. Does this mean that my obi has a twin sister somewhere?

Underneath I made somewhat of a mistake. I checked the sleeve length of the juban against the kimono's sleeves. They were about the same, so I thought it would work, especially because of the soft pink colour matching the obiage and silk fabric. However, I foolishly didn't check the width of the shoulders! The kosode (kimono) was wider than the juban by several inches, so the juban sleeves were very apparent. I wore it anyways strictly because of the schedule I was on, and hid the sleeves as best as I could.

The small accessories were modern, more or less. The hairpin was a vintage plastic tortoiseshell repro. The makura and ita are a matched set. They are very old but were largely unused; the makura is styrofoam, covered in fabric, and stitched by hand to thin cardboard with a simple flat cotton tie at each side. The ita is slightly thicker cardboard with a thin layer of silk on each side; the front is neon pink, the back, white, with a small pocket in it. They are hidden. At some point I should take a photo of them. The obi age covered the makura (pillow in back of the obi for shape) and is seen in front. It is a pale pink, nearly white silk obiage with shibori fans, woven with ryozoma and kiku motifs. The obijime is a brown-orange kumihimo, thick and flat-woven with no tassels on the ends. My tabi socks were in the wash, but no matter. I wore knee-high black socks, since I don't own white, and split the toe in front.

For shoes, I originally wore a 1970s pair of gold vinyl flower-patterened zori that I bought on Etsy. I have only worn them twice, actually, but tonight I am glad I brought another pair of shoes in the car with me! Walking around in them at my friends' show, I was admiring how well they fit. At the front, they were just the right length, and at the back, they were just a little short to give that iki too-small appearance. Even the straps fit well, which is a rarity for me. And then... one of the straps broke! O_O So much for that $50. Ugh. Hopefully I can find a way to fix them. I had to get out my black leather zori, which are far too big now that I've lost so much weight, and stumble on those half the night. I tried to at least stumble gracefully...or not walk at all. Lovecraft, my new half-Maine Coon, half-Ocicat child, decided he was going to help with the photos. 

::sighs::

So, checklist for self:
- check juban more closely
- sell black leather zori ($25, anyone want?); fix gold zori; get new zori that fit
- get better camera at some point

November 26, 2010

Photographing Yourself in Kimono?

Photographing oneself in kimono- this is something I have yet to figure out. How do I do this? So many other kimono bloggers look great in photos! Even in their own living rooms! But I haven't been able to do this yet.

I dress in kimono fairly often, for a girl with nowhere to go. Obi are awesome- the makura supports my shoulders and the rest prevents me from letting my posture get too poor. I do have a few synthetic kimono, so I don't worry so much about doing chores in those. There are also one or two items so stained (albeit subtly)  that I really don't care if they get damaged because I can always dye them and make them into something useful.

But there are days when I dress up in a great ensemble, and yet... the photos. The photos are horrible.

I've already established that I HAVE to be wearing makeup in photos. Otherwise, the redness in my face is too apparent. x.x It also needs to NOT be in my apartment. We have virtually zero natural light in here. I think perhaps finding a place nearby that looks beautiful will be key. Perhaps I can begin taking photos at some of the Japanese restaurants around here? And maybe checking my posture more often could help. After too many neck and back injuries, my posture has always been pretty bad. And taking yoga and checking my posture might bring me better well-being overall!

What else could I do to get better photos in kimono?

November 23, 2010

What to wear?

I have a decision to make regarding the rabbit obi. I have a dusty pink iromuji for sale that would look good with it, but pink is not really my colour. What to wear? Or more specifically, what to buy?

The obi is Showa-era jinken (rayon), a wool-like rougher weave with metallic threads. I think it is a little darker in person than the photo, like royal blue. The circles are pale teal, pale grey-blue, and red-purple. Both silver and gold embroidery are shown. I am not sure what the other animal on the obi is. Perhaps a jackal or horse? But the horse-like creature appears to have claws, and the legs turn the wrong way. A mythical creature of some kind? I will have to ask.

The question is what kimono to buy to go with it. My mother wanted to give me something in return for taking care of my youngest sister, I think, and she's as into fashion as I am (although she prefers Western fashion, of course!)... but what to get? Obviously, something inexpensive. But royal blue is an unusual colour for me to wear. After consulting with one of my kimono coordination books, purple-red, dark blue, grey, or a certain shade of brown are appropriate. A paler blue or gold may be possible if it matches the embroidery or is of a lighter value than the main obi colour. Of course, false collars of various colours can be sewn into the lining for extra shades to be worn.

Option 1: Gold Kimono w/ Pampass Grass Pattern

- Pros: Pampass grass is perfect for Rabbit in the Moon festival, silk fabric, cheap, flexible in formality

- Cons: Far too short- by about 10". Will not get an ohashori out of it. Still the most expensive.

Option 2: Purple Tsumugi Striped Kimono

- Pros: Red-purple colour, has approx. same weave of fabric as obi, longest and best-fitting of all, cheap. Stripes are very iki! Lighter-weight fabric might mean less heat when wearing in hot weather.

- Cons: Wool, purple may not match obi as well as in the photos, can wear with fewer obi I already have, formality level not as flexible.

Option 3: Sky Blue Iromuji Kimono

- Pros: Sky-blue colour can lighten the dark obi, most flexible formality level, silk, cloud patterns fit with heavenly moon motif

- Cons: Noted to have "overall discolouration" that I can't see in photos; it could be there, it could not. Who knows? Size shorter than purple kimono, but longer than gold. Most expensive of all kimono.

I'm leaning towards gold, but the other two are also good ideas. What to do?

Rabbit in the Moon Stories

Although it is very late in the season, I wanted to tell about the Rabbit in the Moon after I purchased an obi this week. It was a surprise purchase. I had originally been intent on a new kimono for my birthday in February, knowing that only sea mail was available for most shipping from Japan now, and that can take months. Even my mother tried to help me watch that kimono, but it was not to be. That same night, Ichiroya listed a deep blue obi with rabbit motifs on round pale purple and teal circles. Rabbits are a favourite motif, and are not too commonly seen on higher-end kimono items!

"Moon Rabbit", also known as "Jade Rabbit", is a Japanese folkstory borrowed from China that most people have probably heard of, or have at least heard allusions to, even if they don't know the story. Many allusions are made to Moon Rabbit in Japanese animation and games, and now are sometimes heard in the West, too.

In the West, we look for 'the man in the moon'- a "face" that we see caused by shadows of craters on the moon. In the East, it is a rabbit. There are two stories about the rabbit in the moon.

The first is Chinese in origin. The story has many versions about how the events happened, but all involve the same elements: Chang'e, her husband Houyi (an archer), and ten suns who are the transformed bodies of the Jade Emperors' ten sons.

Chang'e and her husband, Houyi, were first immortals in Heaven. Houyi was a great archer; his wife, a servant in the Heavenly Palace. The Jade Emperors' ten sons for some reason transformed themselves into ten suns, which began to scorch the earth. Unable to stop them, the Jade Emperor sent for Houyi to resolve this matter. Houyi was unable to stop the gods, and decided that in order to save the earth, he must shoot all down but one. The Jade Emperor, being furious over this solution, banished Houyi and Chang'e to earth, both losing their immortality. Chang'e was so distressed with life on earth that Houyi went travelling to look for a way to restore their immortality.

After a long, perilous journey, he met the Queen Mother of the West and received a pill or elixir of immortality. She warned that only half was needed for each person to become immortal, so the one would be enough for both Houyi and his wife. But Houyi slowly became selfish; he began to want only to restore his own life to achieve greatness. Houyi returned home with it and told Chang'e not to look in his case before leaving again. Chang'e, being curious, of course looked through her husbands' things and found the pill. Houyi returned home suddenly. Not wanting to be in trouble for her discovery, Chang'e either accidentally or intentionally swallowed the pill. She overdosed and began to float very high- all the way to the moon! Her husband tried to shoot her down so that she would not fly away, but could not bear to aim at her.

Chang'e now lives on the moon with a rabbit who makes elixirs of life and immortality, as well as a woodcutter punished by being sent to the moon to chop down a tree which heals itself after every cut. Every full moon of the 8th Lunar Month is a day in her honour. This is usually September or October, depending on the year, although the Japanese may sometimes hold it in late August according to the modern calendar.

The Japanese tale of this day is much different, however. It is a Buddhist story, like this:

A poor elderly man begged four animals for food on a day of the full moon (although some say three- rabbit, fox, and monkey). An otter, a jackal, a rabbit, and a monkey were asked to bring him something to eat. Each believing that helping the man would bring good fortune to themselves, they complied with his request. The monkey, being industrious, climbed to the tops of the trees and brought the man fruit to eat. The otter, being quick, caught fish in the river and brought them to the old man. The jackal, being cunning, stole a bottle of milk curd. The rabbit, knowing only how to gather grass, said he could do nothing else for the man but give him himself to eat, and threw himself onto the fire.

But the rabbit did not know that this was no ordinary beggar. He was really the God Taishakuten (Sakra), ruler of the highest level of Heaven still connected to the physical world of mortals. Because of the rabbits' willingness to sacrifice himself, the rabbit did not burn in the fire, and was rewarded by being drawn on the moon by Taishakuten-kami, where his memory became as immortal as the Gods themselves.

November 21, 2010

Yabane: A Kimono I Love

I don't know whether or not to give this one up or not. I am leaning heavily towards "not" because I adore the  colours and pattern, but like most Taisho kimono, it is far too small. I can't get an ohashori out of it- it's length is that of what I need in a juban. x.x What to do?

The pattern is 'yabane', lucky arrows/feathers. The broken feather end of an arrow is said to have protective powers for the person who carries it. You can see this superstition echoed in an episode of 'xxxHolic', where Watanuki gives the broken arrow shaft his friend/rival gave to him to a young fox-spirit. It granted him a favour with the fox family later in that episode when many oni (demons, in a sense) turned against Watanuki.

Once, a long time ago when I knew nothing of kimono, I had an incredible piece that I should have never let slip away. It was a Taisho-era kimono with cream and deep red lining, the outer entirely in two shades of green asa no ha pattern. It is my favourite pattern now, but it wasn't at the time. It was also very damaged. Many, many age spots and tears, both inside and outside. The American family that had purchased it post-war in Japan had treated it poorly, wrapping it in newspaper and stuffing it in an attic for decades. Today, maybe I could have restored it. But then, perhaps not. I still look for a kimono like the one that got away. Those greens, that pattern. Or a bolt of fabric like that. I would happily sew a kimono on my own, if I could remake that one.

I dream of one day owning many Edo-style kimono, and of course, Taisho-era pieces, but I also love new ones. Still, my love always goes back to simple patterns and colours, like the Edo days. Maybe this is part of why I love this kimono so much, even though it is impractical to wear.

November 17, 2010

Notes on Purchasing Kimono from Japan

When buying kimono online, especially from Japan, it is helpful to note that it can be harder than shopping in person. There are special things you must consider when purchasing kimono or Japanese items online before you commit to buying anything!

In person, you have the obvious advantage of being able to handle the silk, seeing exactly what colour it is, the ability to personally check for stains or any kind of damage, and the ability to try the garment on.

Buying kimono can be much more difficult online.

November 15, 2010

Wool Kimono for Sale + Japan is Suspending US Shipping

As reported by The Kimono Lady, Japan is suspending shipping over 16oz. to the US except for known business arrangements. How small an operation can be before it is disqualified is in question. This means that importing kimono or other items from Japan after November 17th can be difficult if not impossible.

For those who read Japanese, the original link is here.

The post office central is moving locations, and some terrorist-related concerns have been voiced leading to the disallowance of SAL, Airmail, and EMS.

Fortunately, I am a US seller of kimono and other Japanese items! I can ship Priority Mail with insurance to reach you within three business days of sending it out. I recommend this method so that it gets to you quickly and both of us are covered if for some reason the post loses or damages the package.

With winter coming, it may be time to examine your kimono closet! Properly, awase (lined) kimono should be worn until spring. However, if you are simply doing errands like laundry or grocery shopping, and you live in an area like mine that is 85F in the dead of winter, layers of lined silks may not be for you. It is much too hot for that, and silk or other fine materials are inappropriate to work in. What to do? Don't worry- just wear unlined wool kimono with the usual juban and accessories. Wool is durable enough to wear for errands while the obi provides back support, and unspecific patterns do not speak much for any one particular month or season, so it can be worn most of the year! Nagoya obi are cheap and easy to wear with these, and if you have a tsuke obi (pre-tied obi) or wider, more durable hanhaba obi it may be acceptable to wear in the home.

Unlined wool kimono would usually be worn in very late spring or very early summer because it is not ro or sha silk, which are both lighter, sheer weaves of summer fabric. In the late spring/early summer though, the weather can be shifty and being able to stay warm or cool with the same dress on it paramount! The weather can be the same here in Florida all throughout the winter. One day it's 65F in the morning and by the afternoon it's 80F outside and raining while the sun is clearly visible. ::facepalm:: At that point, wool is one of the best materials to wear!

If you are looking for a Nagoya obi which is easy to wear and versatile, it may be worth looking at this one. It is fairly cheap at only $50. I have several kimono that look great with this simple piece; geometrics can be worn with just about anything well, and having only two simple colours to match the kimono up with makes things much easier when deciding on an outfit. This Nagoya obi is a synthetic, easy to care for piece that has less chance of being damaged by humidity or light. Even so, it should be taken care of. Spot clean it as necessary, and only have it drycleaned by professionals who are experienced with Asian textiles.

Neither of these items are on ArtFire or Zibbet due to them not being vintage. If you want a newer item, check this blog for listings! Just message me here or at Etsy and I will invoice you through Paypal for anything you would like to purchase.

November 13, 2010

Project: Kimono Postcards

I love kimono and Japanese antiques in general. If I cannot own one, or cannot keep one that I love for some reason, I like taking interesting photos of the kimonos' design. I may frame a series of them, or put them in scrapbooks about dyeing or weaving techniques with other scraps of cloth from damaged and unsellable items. A few members of my family have been interested in wartime-era Japanese items, some of which I now own, and I am sure that the fabric and sewing enthusiasts especially would like to get a glimpse into the works of another culture- even if they don't have the storage space or time to sew any longer. For this reason, I think it only makes sense to begin producing postcards for everyone to enjoy!

Starting January, a collection of these photos will be available in postcard format for anyone to purchase! I can take pre-orders ahead of time. Then, when it comes time to print and ship, you can select which designs or themes you would like to receive. I expect the postcards to run about $4-5 apiece, which is about what mass-made store bought postcards cost. These postcards will be of high-quality heavier cardstock so that they will not bend or tear easily, and I am looking into more eco-friendly recycled options as well.

Some themes I am playing with are:
- Taisho Roman
- Taisho Modern
- Traditional woven patterns (asa no ha, seikai ha, yabane or yagasuri, etc.)
- Modern kimono patterns: flowers, geometrics, etc.
- Seasons

Of course, this may change or I may make different themes as well, depending on my collection at the time. I can't wait to show everyone the detailed work from my personal collection, as well as mail out mementos of kimono long-sold.

November 11, 2010

Coveted Kimono: Hagoromo Densetsu

There is an uchikake I saw a long time ago, maybe six years or so. It was so beautiful, and so old! I thought I would never see it again. That is the way things are with most kimono. Once you see it, save the photo; unless you buy it, you will never see it again. But this month I was lucky. I saw this kimono again, but this time, Ichiroya was selling it! How did it get to Japan? If I recall correctly, Chuu (now Kimono Lily) in New York had been the previous sellers. Perhaps someone purchased it and then took it back with them. Surely, there is only one of this kimono. The stitching and dyeing do not lie- this is the same kimono as the one I saw before.

This kimono is called 'Hagoromo Densetsu'. It is a Taisho-era uchikake, probably early Taisho. Notice the larger crests, in the style of Meiji-era clothing? But the sleeve length of uchikake did not become longer until a little later in Taisho, so it is difficult to tell. The lining is white, so it may have been replaced at some point. Red lining was used in Taisho era, but because silk degrades easily in humidity and light, it sometimes must be replaced. As it is, the bottom padding is in need of replacement; easy enough to accomplish, since bolts of silk are sold frequently.

But how did the kimono get its name?

'Hagoromo Densetsu' is the famous story of a fisherman named Hakuriu who finds (some say stole) a cloak made of feathers belonging to a tennyo, a heavenly maiden. She begs it back from him because she cannot return to the Heavens without it. Luckily, he is moved by her pleading and returns it to her. She is so excited to have her cloak back that she dances into the sky. According to the legend, this happened in Miho-no-Matsubara in Suruga Province (today, eastern Shizuoka), where a wonderful view of Fuji-san can be seen in the distance.

If I had the money, this would be hanging on my wall right now. Preferably behind glass. I would do my best to restore it to its' former glory... but alas, I do not have nearly a grand ($800) to spend on it. In the meantime, I have photos of this piece archived from both times the kimono was listed for sale. 'Hagoromo Densetsu' is for sale right now through Ichiroya. Normally I don't link to kimono sales websites, as I am a seller myself, but this one is too good to pass up. It ships from Japan, so expect it to take a few weeks at the least to arrive. I've purchased myself through Ichiroya, and they have always had awesome service!

November 7, 2010

Private Collection: Lovely Awase Kimono

It is awase season! Since the beginning of October, kimono-wearers switch from unlined (hitoe) kimono to lined (awase) kimono. Of course, there are many types of unlined and lined kimono, but generally they can be categorically spoken about as 'awase' or 'hitoe' (unlined).

The seasons can fluctuate depending on how hot it REALLY is, and possibly where you live or what you own. Many women don't own many kimono, if any at all, so if they do not rent and only have one kimono of approximately appropriate formality level and it is lined, it can be acceptable to wear in the middle of summer. For some people, the 'rules' have been relaxed with the decline of frequent wearers. Also, most people are not going to notice the difference if you are an American living in an area devoid of Japanese populace- wearing yukata in the middle of "winter" in Texas? People will be surprised that you aren't in shorts. And what a cute dress for the beach!

There is a kimono I have been wanting to wear (only to model for a short time), but I had difficulty figuring out what obi to wear with it. Generally, something white with an orange and black motif came to mind, to balance out the overall darkness of the kimono itself. From far away it looks brown, doesn't it? But you'd be surprised how the overall image of a kimono can change when seen from across the street!

This komon is a late Showa (1926-1989) to early Heisei (1989-now) Tokyo-style small-patterned komon, which looks one overall colour far away, but close-up the kimono reveals a very tiny, intricate pattern. This one has a simple geometric design in orange and white, perfect for October or November.

In a way, it reminds me of a modern-style Edo kimono, which were woven in browns, oranges, and any other common dyes (purple and black not being among them at the time), with geometrical patterns woven tightly. Women who wove fabric in those days kept books of the patterns they could weave, and often made notations as to how they were woven. A full book of patterns was a great source of pride! The more patterns woven and invented, the more valuable the person was a weaver or designer. These tiny diamonds recall those past small-scale works, updated for modern Tokyo life. They are not woven, but printed. The silk is a decadent shiny satin variety not common for komon. It is this quality that screams style and wealth without being obvious and flashy!

To me, this gives it more flexibility towards formality status. It is a komon without crests, so its' formality can only go so far, but it DOES mean that I can choose what kind of obi is most appropriate to wear with it. With more usual komon, which are made of rougher silk, wool, or hem, a hanhaba in very informal situations or a Nagoya obi would work. For this one, the type of silk demands a Nagoya obi at the least, or a fukuro obi normally reserved for more elaborate or formal kimono.

I think have just the thing.

It isn't the white obi that I had originally envisioned, but with some very bright accessories and white tabi, I might be able to pull it off. The item I am thinking of is a black fukuro obi embroidered with white, gold, orange, and green bamboo and fan patterns. The black background is nearly entirely covered with this embroidery. The fans are large, angular outlines of gold, filled in with various traditional patterns like kikko and lattices. Flowers and bamboo fill in others, and clouds embroidered in gold cover the rest of the material. My concern is that while the white and gold will look amazing with the kimono, that particular shade of orange will not mesh well with the orange of the komon. What I REALLY want for this black obi is a yellow kimono! It is absolutely an autumn-centric obi, but with the seasonless geometric design of the komon, it might work.

::sighs::


But I'm not sure how the darkness of the obi and the patterns would work together. Is there a better option that won't make me look like a yakuza woman?

November 5, 2010

Tomoe Gozen, a Tale of the Sword

I found an interesting blog today! It is 'Kodougu no Sekai', about Japanese sword fittings.

I'll be honest and say up front that while I love interesting metal works, especially ones like tsuba, I know absolutely nothing about them. Nothing at all about collecting them or metalsmithing techniques. It was such a lovely surprise to find a well-written blog by a collector! And in English, too! <3


Quick reference:
Katana - long sword, typical "samurai sword"
Wakazashi - medium-length sword for closer combat
Tanto - the shortest sword, a dagger

Katana are the swords samurai once used. They often carried two swords, and probably a tanto as well. Women did not usually carry a sword, but may have had a tanto depending on person or profession. Women were not expected to fight, but considering the lives some have led, suicide was not a morally reprehensible option. People generally understood that as there is life, there will also be death. While sad, it was often an understandable situation. That does not mean that there are not famous female warriors, however!

Perhaps you have not heard the legend of Tomoe Gozen.

During the Genpei War of 1180-1185, there was an exceptional onna bugeisha (literally, warrior-arts female)- a rare female practitioner of bushido, the way of the warrior. A concubine of Yoshinaka, Tomoe Gozen was said to be exceptionally beautiful, with porcelain skin and long black hair, and was exceptionally skilled in combat. A better archer than most men, her bravery and ability made her terrifying. Supposedly, she could ride unbroken horses without issue, handle sword or longbow with equal skill, and could stare down gods and demons alike.

When Yoshinaka was at war, Tomoe was his first captain. On the front lines, she performed more acts of valor than any other. After his battle with the Heiki clan Yoshinaka set out to become the head of the Minamoto clan. His cousin, Yoritomo, had other ideas; he sent his two brothers to kill Yoshinaka. This brought on the Battle of Awazu in February of 1184, where Yoritomos' and Yoshinakas' soldiers fought for hours. Tomoe Gozen is said to have taken the heads of Uchida Ieyoshi and Honda no Moroshige before Yoshinaka was defeated.

After this, no one really knows what happened to Tomoe.

Some people say that she was defeated by Wada Yoshimori and instead of being killed, she was taken for a wife. Some say she escaped battle and became a nun. Some say she never even existed- outside of "The Tale of the Heiki", there is little evidence of her existence. Although, the grave of another of Yoshinaka's concubines, Yamabuki Gozen, has been found. "The Tale of the Heiki" is said to be mostly true.

Today you may see Tomoe Gozen being portrayed by geiko (geisha) during Jidai Matsuri, the Festival of Ages, where famous characters from across history are portrayed during the parade. She is often seen wearing armor and a crown, carrying a naginata (a pole weapon) and riding a horse. She is always played by a beautiful woman.


First photo from Coolido's Flickr - please be sure to visit him and see his many wonderful photos and scans!

The second photo is "Tomoe Gozen with Uchida Ieyoshi and Hatakeyama no Shigetada", Chikanobu, 1899.

November 3, 2010

Bunka no Hi: Culture Day

With one hour left tonight, I write about Bunka no Hi. Technically, this was yesterday, I believe, because of the thirteen-hour time difference from Eastern time USA to Japanese time. Bunka no Hi, for those who don't know, is "Culture Day" in Japan. It is a national holiday, unlike many other holidays and festivals, which are often fragmented and regional. On this day, the Emperor may bestow an award to those who have made significant advances in science, arts, or culture. This award is not limited to Japanese citizens, and may be given to anyone!

Bunka no Hi is the best day for new projects in academics to debut, and it is also the day where art festivals, parades, and awards are given out for academic pursuits. The holiday was established in 1946 on November the 3rd to commemorate the signing of the Japanese Constitution, but the date historically has a much older significance than that! November 3rd is also the Meiji Emperor's birthday (1868-1912), and has been celebrated since 1868, when it was called 'Tenchou-setsu'. To some, "Culture Day" is considered to be an extension of Meiji-sama's birthday by way of re-naming. Otanjyoubi omedetou, Meiji-sama! Although, really, Tenchou-setsu was discontinued when Bunka no Hi was established, and the two holidays are completely unrelated.

What projects or cultural practices have you embraced today?

November 2, 2010

Japanese Dishware, Stylish and Affordable!

Today I discovered that I had made a sale! <3 It's very exciting to me. The money will not be kept by myself- it is for a friend of mine, whom the jar I sold belongs to.

It was a very beautiful ginger jar, a vintage Japanese piece in gold, pale orange, and paprika red tones. Does this seem like typical Japanese colouring to you? Perhaps not, considering how much some dishes imitate traditional Chinese china techniques and patterns: white porcelain with blue inking. But rethink this concept, please!

Just as clothing is often bright and colourful, not everything designed for the interior of the home is neutral-toned and sparse. Of course, there is a distinct style to Japanese traditional architecture and interior design, comprised of warm golden tones of kiri (paulownia wood) and bamboo, of cedar and rice paper, but doesn't this ginger jar nicely compliment these tones without being overdone or ostentatious? Metallic gold detailing with patterns of dusky orange and buttery yellow harlequin, alternated with a scene of irises and hummingbirds, the cool slate blues of it's wings softening the warmth of the flowers. I hope the buyer of this piece will be very, very happy with it!

For anyone hunting for a ginger jar of their own like this one, please look for the Golden Nectar set by Jamestown China, made in Japan. They are somewhat difficult to find, but occasionally, a piece to this set will crop up. I believe there were bowls and perhaps a vase in the same style. I am unsure what else may have been produced with this pattern.

If you do not believe you would use Japanese dishes because you do not cook Japanese food, do not forget that basic ramen is still sold on nearly every busy Japanese streetcorner! Teriyaki chicken or beef is easy to make, as are potato skewers (delicious potatoes carved into balls, sometimes battered, and then deep-fried). Miso is another easy staple to make for anyone who can boil water and slice mushrooms and tofu. If you are looking for something frequently-used but unique, try a collection of tea or sake cups. Patterns do not necessarily have to match, so long as patterns fit the season and occasion.

Of course, Japanese dishware does not need to be an everyday-use item; bring it out to establish a feeling of celebration! Tea and sake are often served in calming ritual. Tea ceremony is known as 'sado' or 'chado'- another opportunity to use beautiful Japanese-style tea sets!

The vintage plate set above is gorgeous in greens, reds, and blues. It seems to be fall/winter/spring patterned with houou (phoenix), ume (plum blossom), momiji (maple leaves), and a host of other motifs (did you see the gosho guruma, lucky chariot?), the plates are not only beautiful but covered in a design to remind one of the treasures of the seasons. Mochi, stuffed rice balls, or sushi would be excellent served from this set. Of course, special care must be taken with it, as with most delicate pieces. Hand-washing this set with a soft washcloth would be best. I would not get it anywhere near a microwave or dishwasher. It IS for sale! Ohachi (chopsticks) are not included, but for a very small fee, five pairs can be procured for you.

The serving plate and FIVE (not two as shown) small plates together are only $125USD and can be purchased directly through this blog by leaving me a comment expressing interest in the item, or by visiting my shop at bebetaian.artfire.com , where you can see my Feedback ratings easily. Serving plate is approximately 13"x11", the five smaller plates are 5"x4". I'm afraid I cannot read the kanji on the bottom of the set, which is the signature of the company which made them. I think it is "Tokunaga" on the right, and something like "Porcelain Garden" on the left. They are signed 'Japan' in English.

In any case, please consider integrating Japanese style into your home. Even a simple thing like a plate or bowl can be a useful work of art! And how best to appreciate art than to put use to it?

November 1, 2010

Behind Bebe Taian

Ohayou!

I thought that since my week will be ridiculously busy, I should write what I can while I can this week. Past the point of introducing Bebe Taian itself, I thought the next logical step was to introduce the writer behind it. That would be me.

Hi there! You probably know me from Etsy as NigatsuBebe. Jewellery maker and avid designer, cat rescuer and charity funder, I'm also a kimono collector and retailer. I got my first kimono when I was about fourteen years old. Actually, my first two kimono, since there was a set on Ebay for around $60 or so. I didn't know a thing about them then, except that they were beautiful. One was an entirely black kimono made of rough silk gauze which had almost imperceptible silver stripes every few inches or so in it. Another was a black tomesode with blue and cream fan patterns which I adore. They are both modern pieces, Heisei-era (post-1989), late Showa (Showa is 1926-1989) at the oldest date. I've had both of those kimono for nearly ten years now. I still wear them sometimes. I love them both, but now that I have more kimono and know more about the kimono language, I have narrowed the places and events that I can acceptably wear them to. A black tomesode is the most formal of kimono- not the most versatile piece! But it is certainly one of the most beautiful in it's subtlety.

Now I am hooked.

When I first started collecting, there were few English-language websites that I could find at the time to adequately show how to wear them and what accessories were really necessary, and how to get them. I made many of my own accessories for years because of the costs and work involved in finding these items at reasonable prices. Almost ten years later, kimono and obi today are relatively easy to get with the advent of Japanese kimonoya stepping into English-language websites, but unless a person is savvy as to how to find them, how to pay for them, and is used to the huge prices of Japanese shipping on even the smallest item, it may be best to buy from someone who has already imported the item cheaply for you. The cost can be much less than some other kimono shops this way.

I do my best to inspect every kimono when listing it to be sure when mentioning flaws. Sometimes when I buy kimono, it is difficult to tell whether or not it is flawed from the photos or how bad a flaw may be. Sometimes I can see a flaw but it is removable or fixable. Sometimes, it is not. It is a risk I have to take. Often, damage to a kimono can be covered up; in some instances, it will not be seen when worn because of the ohashori (the fold at the hip) being in a different place depending on height of the wearer. Others, a simple haori would cover a stain perfectly without looking out of place. When a kimono can no longer be worn, it is taken apart and used to make other beautiful things, maximizing the life of the fabric for as long as possible. In the end, pieces are used as stuffing for pillows and quilts, for batting in certain types of other kimono, or for thin quilted pieces to be worn under regular woolen or silk kimono in winter for warmth. Even a damaged kimono can have its uses!

My cat, Bebe, is still involved in the whole process. Sort of. She doesn't play with kimono the way she does beads- I wouldn't let her! The last thing I need in a pile of silk is fur and claw marks! But she does sit by me and purr all night, occasionally nipping my hand to remind me to pet her tummy. She's become a fat cat over the years since I brought her home from a shelter. She picked me, not the other way around! We've found that she's diabetic, which accounts for her weight gain (I KNEW it wasn't the food...), and she needs hundreds of dollars in treatment. Selling off my kimono collection will give me an outlet for creative ideas and bring in more cash to help her get insulin while I apply for work elsewhere.

Much of our excess money goes towards helping cats get medical care when they need it most. A portion of the proceeds from NigatsuBebe go towards this same goal; recently, I put everything I made (including supply costs) to getting a sweet cat treatment when he broke out into a body-wide oozing rash. $175 later, and he is a happy cat with a cortisone shot and a flea treatment! I think Bebe would be happy knowing this, and I know all of the shelter cats who have been fed with NB funds certainly are.

Here's to one more venture: ganbatte yo!

Introducing Bebe Taian!

Bebe Taian desu. Hajimemashite.

I'm pleased to introduce Bebe Taian, evolved from NigatsuBebe.

NigatsuBebe is my four-year-running jewellery and accessories adventure, known for charity donations and unique but simple design. The name of the shop started as a joke: a Myspace survey amongst friends asked, "If you had a band named after your birthday and your pet, what would it be?" Honestly, at the time I couldn't think of anything else, so it stuck. The previous venture had been "Maneki Maiko", handmade kitsuke accessories for kimono, but I found a shop called "PuchiMaiko" and decided that they were too similar. That, and I was sincerely awed by Naomi's skill at sewing and procuring silks.

Now, with my year beginning, I begin something I've been turning over in my head for some time: Bebe Taian. At first, I wanted "Bebe-ya", literally "Bebe's Shop", but I think this was already taken by a Japanese company. Then I discovered that 'bebe' was Kyoto slang for 'kimono', which is PERFECT for separating my jewellery from my kimono business. Bebe, of course, can't help but to sit on my kimono when I'm unfolding and inspecting them. 'Taian' is one of the six traditional days of the week on the Japanese old calendar. Taian is the luckiest day of the week- and any day you can wear kimono is a lucky day indeed.

The most subtle, subdued kimono in Japan could cost more than any sparkling thing a celebrity could wear in the U.S. depending on what the materials are, how they were made, and who did the work to make the kimono. Japan is a country where "off the rack" sometimes means that one selects a bolt of plain fabric off of a shelf and has it cut, sewn, and sometimes even dyed to their specifications. To be 'iki', at the height of sophistication, is to be the opposite of gaudy without being homely. It is to be lavish without being too flashy. That is why it is sometimes said that the wealth of a woman can be measured by her kimono!

Many of my kimono items are too new for Etsy, and I'm not getting much exposure there as it is. Besides, how much easier would it be for someone to simply add this blog to their reading lists when they want to see updates?

But don't worry- not every post will be about kimono or kitsuke items for sale! I tend to talk a lot about kimono or Japanese cultural musings in general. I also have quite a few vintage and antique non-kimono pieces for sale. As my photo-taking skill improves, I hope to post many more photos than I normally do as well! I hope you'll enjoy the weekly and bi-weekly updates that I'll keep on top of as best as I can.

Is there anything in particular all of you would like to see here?