Bebe Taian: October 2011

October 25, 2011

About Cultural Appropriation

With Halloween coming up, I think it's time to talk about cultural appropriation. Especially in relation to costumes you'll be seeing/wearing. It's really important to not be (accidentally, most often) racist. Yes, yes, I know that the point of a costume is all in fun, and no one takes it seriously, and blahblahblahblahblah... but some people do. Your idea of 'fun' does not supersede someone else's right to cultural integrity, ok?

Let me tell a story:

October 22, 2011

Private Collection: Mint Green Awase Kimono

I finally wore my mint green kimono today! It's so gorgeous, but unfortunately, it was one of those purchases that turned out with more damages than described. Even so, it's incredibly* soft and comfortable to wear in the house with our sudden burst of chilly weather. It's wonderful! I'm sick of going outside and dissolving into sweat. x.x And now I can go outside without doing that- while in kimono!

Actually, it's less yellow-green than in this photo. The real colour is more like mint chocolate chip ice cream, with slight hints of bright orange lining at the sleeves and the hem. Inside, the lining is white, dip-dyed orange at the edges. The pattern is waves, pale blue seigaiha, chrysanthemums, and camellias.

Since I'm just wearing it in the house right now, I didn't bother with an obi or a proper juban. Too much to refold and pack up tonight. However, I do rather enjoy the pastel orange and white juban I have with a white haneri featuring a woven chrysanthemum and ichimatsu pattern, and the silver metallic fukuro obi with waves and ichimatsu. It's a solid colour obi, entirely silver, so it's very versatile! I picked it up in Japan when I was visiting Hokkaido during a summer festival. I only wish I'd brought more money on that day!

This is one of many private collection kimono that I've considered selling. As incredibly soft as it is, I don't think it does as much for my skin tone as I thought it would, mostly because it's less yellow-toned than I had anticipated. Because of the staining, it might be most useful as fabric, although it could perhaps be worn to occasions where you'd expect to get something on it. I do love the longer-than-usual sleeves, though! And the upper part isn't so bad; maybe it would be nice with a bright hakama.

On a side note, today was apparently supposed to be the Rapture Day, according to some crazy Christian sect. For those of you not following Fundie Christian culture, it's some really bad gematria-inspired interpretation of the *English* Bible with a handful of lines taken largely out of context by a guy who's run a radio station for forever and a day. Followers preach a message of general hatred and elitism before warning True Believers (TM) that they'll be saved on this day... by way of flying up to the heavens to be with God while demons run loose on earth to prey on those left behind. I have to say, it's a really nice day for some demons to come up. They might get to enjoy the relative air conditioning for once. Although, if they're used to brimstone and undying flames, they might want to bring sweaters. 68F must be like Arctic wind to them, poor things. Maybe they'll stop by and buy some haori from me? Silks are awfully warm and soft...

October 17, 2011

Hyakki Yagyou: Kuchisake-onna

Midway through October, and it's still barely Fall. We had a day or two of cooler pleasantness, but all in all, it's still fairly hot outside. Perhaps now* is still time for ro fabric here- if not yukata season all year 'round. In any event, it is surely awase season in Japan again!

I may wear one of my remaining hitoe wool kimono soon. I've been making time to wear yukata about once every two weeks. My current issue is largely storage-related, since we are downsizing so much! I've also had to clear out a large corner for the new cat tree, which is helping the kids get along much better now that they all have a comfy space of their own to nap on without being disturbed. Whoever designed it really knew cats- even the "flatter" spaces are curved, so that they can rest their heads more comfortably. Two of the cats are fairly large, so you can perhaps imaging the discomfort at laying down. In any case, it's very space-consuming, and I need to look at new options!

Halloween is still approaching. What should I do? If kimono is my regular outfit, and it isn't particularly theatrical or scary, perhaps I need a new approach- an obake, maybe? Perhaps Kuchisake-onna!

Probably, you've seen a more recent horror movie called 'Carved', or 'Kuchisake-onna', the Slit-mouthed woman. It is an updated version of a very old story, today often set in places like Tokyo, a city so big that anyone could be anyone!

The story starts the way they usually do: with a beautiful woman. This particular beautiful woman was very obsessed with her beauty, taking great pride in her lovely face. She is married off to a wealthy samurai, who begins to believe that she is being unfaithful to him (despite the numerous affairs most samurai were given free leave to have...); he becomes so enraged at this idea that he cuts her mouth from ear to ear, saying "Who will think you're beautiful now?" Later, she died and became a vengeful spirit.

Today, she walks the earth covering her face, entrancing people. She will ask you, "Do you think I'm beautiful?" If you answer yes, she'll uncover her face and ask, "Do you still think I'm beautiful?" If you say 'no', she'll stab you to death. If you say 'yes', she'll carve your face up like hers was. Supposedly, the only way to have a chance is to say "You are so-so" or 'average', and it will confuse her for a few seconds so that maybe you can escape! (Other variations: say you have a previous engagement, and she might excuse her bad manners; or give her sweets or a gift, and she might be distracted long enough to run away!)

Of course, the modern legend is a little different. In the late 70s for some reason, mysterious sightings of Kuchisake-onna were reported. Today's Kuchisake-onna is a beautiful woman wearing a surgical mask, which is a common sighting in Japan- especially during cold + flu season! Supposedly, even school children were sent home in groups because of it. Perhaps someone thought that a person imitating the old legend was running around, hurting people. In the new urban legend, the woman is perhaps an escaped mental patient who cut herself, a woman in a bad car accident, or someone who was a victim of plastic surgery. In any event, she looks like everyone else, and carries a large pair of scissors sharp enough to kill anyone who responds to her the wrong way.

Scary, isn't it?

October 11, 2011

Hyaku Monogatari: Yuki-onna

Thanks to running three part-time businesses and working one on-payroll job, I've had little time for... well, anything. For once, I'm a little happy we're having financial troubles; the same thing that is causing me to work so much is allowing him to finally do things he's been needing to do, but never could due to his own former workload. I'm so happy for him!

But now that it's October, and we've FINALLY had our second day of semi-Fall-like weather here in FL, I've been all too ready for pumpkin spice cookies, phasing out cotton and hitoe kimono, and most of all, GHOST STORIES!!! Yes, I'm a big horror/fantasy lover. And that means... Hyaku-monogatari kaidankai! The Gathering of 100 Ghost Stories!

This is an old game played in Japan. No one is really sure when or how it started, but the game goes like this:

Just as night falls, light 100 candles in a room with a gathering of friends. Usually, the candles are in a circle around you. Take turns telling each other ghost stories; there are, of course, more than 100 ghost stories in Japan, but certain stories were very, very popular. As you finish telling each story, extinguish one candle. At the end of the 100 stories, when the last candle goes out, supposedly a ghost of some kind will appear!

Perhaps the most famous of the Kaidan in Western knowledge comes from modern stories like Ringu (The Ring), Ju-On (The Grudge), or older stories from Lafcadio Hearns' KWAIDAN.

Yuki-onna - CLAMPs "Shirahime-syo"
This story is of Yuki-onna,"Snow Woman", one of the most famous supernatural stories today. "Shirahime-syo" by CLAMP is a take on Yuki-Onna. But no matter what happens, the Snow Woman stories are often along the same lines:

Two woodcutters became caught in a snowstorm. Incredibly cold, and looking for shelter, they found only a small abandoned shack. Most of the wood was too damp to burn properly, and only a very small fire could be made. Together, they spent the night there. As the fire died out, they began to freeze... when a beautiful, silent woman as pale as snow comes into the shack. She wears white clothing from head to toe, her pale lips and long black hair the only features standing out. As she bends down to touch the older man, his skin loses colour and becomes bluish, frost forming on his fingertips as she breathes over him. The younger man wakes up to see this and is frozen with terror. Yuki-onna turns to look the younger man over. She decides to let him go, but only on one condition: he can never tell anyone what he saw that night.

Segawa Kikunojou II as Yuki Onna
When he arrives back home, he tells no one. He is too afraid of what might happen! He continues about his work well into Spring, when he meets a young woman traveling through the woods. She says that she has no family, and is a wanderer. This sort of thing often happened when a family could not support a single female; she was sent into the world to find her own work. She was very pretty, and very pale, either with hunger or because she had possibly come from a formerly well-to-do family (never having had to work outdoors before). In no time at all, she proved her usefulness and great skill in weaving and sewing. Eventually, she became the young mans' wife. They lived together for years, had children together, and were very happy with their simple life.

But little things about Yuki were strange to her husband. She seemed so familiar, as if they'd met before, and he just couldn't place it. The way she moved, or her faint smile... finally it came to him. THIS was Yuki-onna! The same woman who had spared his life years earlier!

Certain that it was her in disguise, he decided to tell her his story from so long ago. She listened patiently, and believed every word- but, she was angry. He had broken his promise never to repeat his story to anyone! She had to make sure he was good on his word somehow. But she did not kill him; rather, she left him to raise their children, and returned to her duties as the Snow Woman.

October 3, 2011

SOLD: White Silk Obiage!

Last Saturday, I was lucky to have made a sale, despite not being able to attend the Clearwater Japanese Festival. <3 Very lucky, indeed! Tonight, I've arrived home after a long day of work, and I am inspecting it again before shipping it in the morning. I hope it has found a great home!

Obiage are so delicate and versatile. More often than not, in winter, you can find me wearing a 'flat' obiage or an ironed-out shibori obiage as a scarf. Sometimes you'll see one peeking out from underneath a headscarf. I tend to wear them in winter, since personally, I love the cold... but my jaw injuries do not. Obiage help keep me warm and look great, even when I'm not wearing kimono.

Some kimono fashionistas sew smoother ones to eri to decorate their collars! In Taisho era (and perhaps before that), collars were just as bold and patterned as the rest of their clothing! And wearing more than one obiage at a time, tied into an interesting way, can be one way to add visual interest to your kimono outfit.

Really, there are so many possibilities! It is why I am always excited when someone tries out an obiage. So, sayonara, obiage!

Also, two days ago, I received a pile of "new" maiko and geiko postcards! I already have them archived, but I'll take them out again soon and post some photos. Would anyone like to help me place the dates or identify who is in them?