Bebe Taian: Satsuki: Fuji to Ayame

May 1, 2011

Satsuki: Fuji to Ayame

May: Wisteria and Iris

This month, maiko will change their hairpins to wisteria and irises. 'Hanashoubu' is 'iris', although sometimes an iris will be called 'ayame'. This is because it is a reference to two different types of irises, although they are similar-looking. Ayame begin to grow in May, on dry land, and are purple (or rarely, white). Hanashoubu are cultivated in water gardens, and can be purple, white, or red-purple. Those, however, begin to grow in June. There is a third kind which grows in May, a dry/wet cultivation of iris that appears as blue, purple, or white, called 'kakitsubata', but I think the kind in maiko hairpins is the ayame variety. 

The days are getting hotter. Soon, it'll be time for hitoe kimono. Some places say that May is strictly awase weather- lined kimono and obi, but accessories may start to transition to ro or sha hitoe fabrics. However, this is probably a guideline, as different sources post different charts to help with this decision. As for myself, it is already too hot to wear awase kimono (and has been since January)! I will probably opt for a thicker hitoe item, like wool or hemp, being cooler than silk, with sha hitoe accessories. I think it is a little too early for ro.
This is a sentiment echoed in the karyukai of days gone by.

Today, the iris kimono you see is in purples and whites, with soft hints of blues and red-purples, and is awase- likely intended for May, or maybe late April, in anticipation of the upcoming season. It is a modern piece, likely late Showa, by the shortness of the sleeves and colour of the lining. It is clearly sewn with modern rules and tastes in mind.

The second kimono, however, is actually a hitoe hikizuri (geisha's kimono). In particular, this hikizuri depicts a scene from the famous 'Fuji Musume', which was made popular again in the early-mid 1930s. Ichiroya has it for sale, and states that it is dated from Taisho (1912-1926) to early Showa (1926-1989). I agree that it is likely from early Showa-era. It would have been the perfect thing for a woman to wear, celebrating the resurgence of a once-unpopular small dance segment, emerging as a popular play all on it's own.

In a way, I think it reflected the geikos' life of the time. Young girls were often bought from very poor families and trained to be geisha. They would go from something unpopular, with little or no standing in society, soon to be forgotten about, to becoming talented, beautiful, and maybe even famous... just like 'Fuji Musume'. I'd imagine that this was the perfect kimono for some wealthy geiko.

If you are like me (and many other folks who desire this coveted kimono), but can't afford a piece like this, or perhaps you just can't find many reasons to own many kimono, you can dress in a way to reflect Japanese seasons regardless. Choose clothing according to colours in season, perhaps even choosing something with the motif in mind- an iris hairpin, or a beaded wisteria bracelet. Really, any flower in season would be appropriate. And naturally, choose lighter fabrics instead of heavier weaves, in accordance with temperature outside. White, purple, blue-purple, pale green, and brown would all be good choices.

What will you wear this month?

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