Bebe Taian: March 2011

March 27, 2011

Bebe Taian opens soon!

Bebe Taian is finally re-opening!

Since I will be moving to a new place this week, I have scheduled the opening of Bebe Taian on Artfire for April 5th. This was completely coincidental, as I didn't do research until after setting up and doing timelines for moving, but April 5th is both Taian, the luckiest day of the week, and Seimyou, the 7th season of the Japanese lunar calendar, meaning "Shining Brightness". How perfect is that? I'm so pleased!

A few of you may remember me as NigatsuBebe from Etsy. I had a store on Etsy for the longest time (since 2006!), but due to their gross neglect of buyer and seller privacy issues and constantly messing up code for things like payment (intentionally) during holiday weeks, I've had enough.

I thought about not reopening online, and instead, doing in-person shows locally. I've kicked around a few ideas, and tried to list items on here, but really, I'd like a proper online store! Zibbet is wonderful, but there isn't enough exposure to them yet. Artfire, however, has a very long community standing and is rated as one of the best seller sites AND one of the most buyer-friendly sites in the handmade community! It's a WIN all around!

Don't worry- I still have things planned, like Taisho-print postcards. The issue has been capital, but I fully intend to carry them in the new shop. I especially want to share my planned print of a Taisho purple ro irotomesode, since it seems summer kimono are so rare! I will also be selling many more handmade kimono accessories, like koshi himo, obi charms, and perhaps, some cute hanao!

I can't wait to show everyone my collection! ::squee::

March 21, 2011

Yakuza And Police Truce Over Supplies

The yakuza and the Japanese police are declaring truce over supplies being shipped to tsunami/earthquake/nuclear reactor victims by the yakuza. The various factions have shipping many tonnes of supplies- water, tea, diapers, food, to areas mostly in the Tohoku region and also to elsewhere without protection or even iodide for transport through areas exposed to radiation in order to help people. And they don't want anyone saying anything about it.

Of course, this is beneficial for all parties involved, I think. It allows the yakuza to retain their tough exteriors and reputations. It allows the police, who were cracking down on yakuza only a week before the disaster, to maintain their 'face' (extremely important in Japanese society). It also prevents supplies from being denied because of where they came from, so that people do not suffer or feel compelled to reject such gifts from such disreputable sources. After all, when bestowed with a gift, it is obligation to return an equal gift.

"As one member said, “There are no yakuza or katagi (ordinary citizens) or gaijin (foreigners) in Japan right now. We are all Japanese. We all need to help each other.”

I thought it was a touching article regarding the aftermath of the Japanese earthquakes/tsunami/volcanic eruption disaster, reposted from The Daily Beast.

By now, no one should have to be asked to donate even just a little to helping Japan rebuild. There are many more factors to the disaster that I notice haven't even really been covered by English-language news outside of Japan, like the 7.0 aftershock in Nagano the day after the 9.0 in Sendai, or the volcano that went off shortly after in the South. Sendai, of course, was hit the worst. Entire villages washed away, and many elderly people and animals are languishing, unattended, in makeshift shelters or are still trapped in destroyed places out of the way of rescue missions. Even just a little money can help. If I could reach there, you would find me picking up debris in yukata, just like anyone else would. The price of a quad-Venti mocha at Starbuck$ could buy six meals worth of instant noodles, or a bag of rice for a dozen people for a meal. Think about this!


In other news, I am very happy to hear from both my friend in Hokkaido (which had suffered 4-6.0 aftershocks) and a penpal of sorts in Chiba area. They are both doing well. I was holding my breath for a short time because it had been so long between messages. But, I am relieved now.

I've missed posting about several holidays this year. Really, I need to start marking my daily agendas with intended blog posts. I get so caught up with taking care of two houses plus visiting friends who need me or whom I want to see and looking after people that I hardly think about more trivial things like my blogging or jewellery-making these days. Or just plain looking after myself, for that matter. I will work harder.

March 5, 2011

Eisen Keisai: Benihana in Ukiyo-e

In Edo era, it was high fashion to wear layers of kimono, to go barefoot even in winter, to shave the eyebrows and darken the teeth of married women, and to wear extremely beautiful lipstick made of rare red safflower extract. This lipstick is called "benihana", and it's tone changes depending on how much is used. In a single layer, it will be a pale pink tone with a subtle sheen. In many layers, it will be bright, bold poppy red, with a yellowy-green shine!

Real benihana is made with the red safflower extract and condensed in some manner so that it hardens into a red pool of beauty, shining with matcha-green lustre. Safflower extract only yeilds a red colour 1% of the time, and it takes a LOT of this rare extract to make one sake dish of benihana. The real thing can run from $150-400 a jar. It is so expensive, I have heard that even kabuki actors cannot afford to use benihana for performances- it takes too much to produce that bold red, and for their frequent performances, it is not practical. You can purchase real benihana in Japan in a few places, probably especially Kyoto because of their annual Jidai Matsuri (Festival of Ages). You can also get it from this website.

This is today's benihana. The photo is from NHK- a Japanese news website. Benihana can still be found in a rare few places, made the traditional way, although it seems that some companies sell a knockoff red "benihana" which is not made with safflowers. It does not turn green.

You see, real benihana is beautiful! Reds and greens against dark hair and autumn clothing is a lovely sight. I wouldn't be able to wait to wear my deep golds, oranges, and August greens if I could afford to wear benihana! I think Autumn would be the perfect season for this colour, with all of the deep browns, pale blues, bright greens and oranges of turning maple... can you see my ambition?

Momiji kanzashi bring out the yellows and reds of the benihana perfectly, don't they? This set was made by the apprentice of one of the last five traditional kanzashi makers in Japan, a great woman with a lot of presence named Kanawa Kuniko. You don't need traditional Nihongami hairstyles to wear her work either- many come in clip or bobby pin form! If you do happen to have a maiko wig, she does also make gorgeous hanakanzashi sets for each month. Please visit - Atelier Kanawa -

The use of benihana has been seen a few times in ukiyo-e (Pictures of the Floating World), most notably perhaps in Eisen Keisai's (1790-1848) work. Many artists focused on the decadence of the red tones, and perhaps the lipstick looked more deeply red when freshly applied between clients or indoors, where lights were dim, but Eisen shows greens in quite a few of his works.

You can see in this painting, a courtesan in her many layers has her face painted with benihana, at least on the lower lip. Above, the upper lip is either natural, or painted with something that isn't benihana. Likely, it is benihana on both upper and lower lip, as the top may not look green as the bottom one does- like in the photo above. It is hard for me to say.

The courtesan has also chosen to wear ohaguro, which is a vile mixture of iron shavings and foul-smelling things used to blacken the teeth in those days. A maiko may still use ohaguro for one day when she makes her transformation from maiko to geiko. Her kimono is covered in momiji (maple) and ume (plum blossoms), with a sayagata pattern and ume hairpins. So, fall/winter season.

You may note the "longer" face of the woman, the larger head in proportion to the tiny hands. Have you seen this style before? I bet you have- Utamaro Kitagawa was a pioneer of this style. His works became popular in the early 1790's, when Eisen was only a child. Surely he took some inspiration from those current paintings of beautiful women!

Utagawa Hiroshige's work was also clearly important to him. Hiroshige and Eisen played off of each others' works for some time. Eisen finished the last of the "Fifty-three Stations of Toukaidou" by Hiroshige, and in turn, Hiroshige finished Eisen's "Sixty-nine Stations of Nakasendou". In any case, Eisen was surely one of the great artists of his time. It's a shame that I can't find any of his works reprinted in my ukiyo-e books!

The last photo does not show the use of benihana very well, but I can assure you it is there. This woman looks to be a geisha, which had become widespread and popular in the late 1700's and early 1800's. This one is "Woman and Autumn Flowers"; in the background, kikyo (Chinese bellflowers) and a bright yellow flower. Her collar is checker-patterned; the juban fabric is asa no ha (hemp) made with shibori technique.

We may not be able to afford real benihana, but it may be able to be faked with some work. Likely, not many people today would recognise it, especially not in America. I am starting with a Nyx lip pencil, one that comes out bright stop-sign red on my lips. Then, I'll layer on a very thin clear or bright red gloss, and dust on Weepinbell. Weepinbell is glittery, but Shiro Cosmetics can sometimes make custom modifications to eyeshadow. Currently, her turnaround time is about two weeks due to hiring new employees and moving her warehouse. If you don't want to wait and have some experience with producing mineral makeup already, check TKB and try the colour recipes they have- or make your own! Dust this on with a brush to get the right effect instead of mixing it in with the lipgloss directly. If you go the TKB route, ensure first that the makeup is lip-safe. Not all minerals are! If anyone does this before I do, let me know and I'd be happy to post pics! <3