February 1, 2012
Coveted Kimono: Black Sails in the Sunset
I've been looking at this hikizuri since around 2001-2002. There's actually several identical ones, which doesn't normally happen, since hikizuri intended for geisha tend to be one of a kind, made for the person wearing them. There's at least eight of these in existence. One person on the Immortal Geisha forums found a great scan from the 70s of some Yamashiro onsen (bath house) geisha wearing them!
Even so, I've easily been able to save $400 for a hikizuri like this... and yet, I've never done it. If I had money like that to spare, I've usually purchased something like new shoes (provided my old ones have been worn to pieces), good cookware, piles of other kimono... all but one of these.
I guess at first my reasons were that $400 at *once* was often unreachable. If I waited too long, any 'fun' money would eventually be spent on bills, household stuff like floor cleaner, whatever was going on. Little things, mostly. Snacks, or eating out. I preferred to spend on kimono once or twice a year. And I really do have so many now... a quantity of very pretty items over one spectacular item. But also, where am I going to wear a hikizuri? It would make sense if I had, say, a bedroom that was cat-free, where I could hang it up on the wall as art, but I don't. An everyday kimono, on the other hand, is still beautiful, and I can wear it wherever I'm going. This is what I thought then, and I still think it now.
But today I also think about another issue: the symbolism of wearing THIS particular kimono. It isn't a treasure ship, which is different- an auspicious symbol, a ship piled with magical items from Japanese lore. This is a black Western-style ship, and what do we know about Western ships and Japanese history? Think black warships when Perry went over and demanded that the country open itself, or there would be war. Some choice. It's one thing for a Japanese to wear that kimono, especially for a dance of some kind. It is a completely different thing for a white person to wear that kimono. I can't do it. I still think it's a beautiful piece, but... it's beautiful on a geisha. Not on me.
You wear karako (child motif), you are assumed to be motherly. You wear taiko (drum motif), perhaps to play. You wear kabuki themes, you are connected to that play somehow- it is your favourite, or you have an interest in theatre. You wear black war ships, and... what will people think of you? I have to wonder about this. I guess in most places in the world, no one is thinking beyond "Oh! Pretty dress!" Maybe my thought is irrational. Even so, I can't help but to think of what someone from Japan might see if I were to wear it.
I'll stick with cats and plum blossoms.