Bebe Taian: March 2012

March 27, 2012

Haru Matsuri no Asobi

USF's Japanese Club invited me to their Haru Matsuri gathering. It was so much fun!

Even though it was a relatively small event, I liked the gathering. It was big enough to be fun and exciting, and small enough to not be overwhelming and too fast-paced. And I got to wear my rabbit yukata for the first time!

There were about a dozen booths or so, not including things like food-related stuffs, including Otani-sensei's calligraphy booth, the "Tanabata" wish tree booth (a paper 'tree' that you could tack pieces of paper containing the script of your wish onto), the Consulate booth with visitors from Miami, the tourism booth (who I believe sold sheets of stamps unavailable in the US!), and so, so many more awesome people who showed up to vend, demonstrate, or otherwise help out.

I think I put more work into it than needed to be, but even so, I feel good about the preparations I did have time to make with all of the recent daily 'surprises' current conditions have brought. I wasn't able to fully finish my stack of koshi himo, but I was at least able to get about half a dozen sewn, if not turned yet. That helped a lot when it came time to dress people! I still need to finish all of them, but I'll get to it, in time. They are not needed *right now*. I had a few yukata that I was able to bring, and even though I didn't manage to retrieve the yellow pre-tied obi for the child's yukata, I ended up not dressing anyone that young, anyways. I really do need to get some LL size yukata for demonstrations, however, and more men's items. I'm a little surprised at how many requests for men's kimono that I get! Which of course, means that I need to learn how to tie one properly. Thanks to E, who brought her own supply of women's and men's kimono in American sizes! It was only because of her and the two volunteers who helped dress people that the try-on booth was a success! I did have some larger, slightly more formal kimono ready for wearing, such as my cotton/hemp blend komon, but I think it was much too hot for that. x.x

My own sales booth I think was nice to look at, but wasn't particularly suited to the venue. I was happy to sell a few cell phone charms and a yellow/red hakoseko, though! And I sold off the last one-off Swarovski decorative comb. <3 I think many items were too high-priced for that space. But mostly, I'm glad I went- even if I hadn't sold a single thing, it was great to meet all the new people and see some of the events. I even got to meet a Japanese Consulate representative! I missed the judo club performance this time, but the speech contest was interesting! Two professional Japanese soccer players were judges, and the students from each level... actually, there weren't very many entries, but I'd have been terrified to be in their place. I'm good at one-on-one things, but speeches and being on stage just aren't my thing outside of my imagination. :P In reality, I freeze up and my joints turn to liquid! There was one woman in particular who really sounded like a native. I was so impressed!

Towards the end, a few more people showed up. In some places, the festival was written to be lasting until 5pm. But because certain segments (such as the cosplay portion) ended up being much shorter, the festival ended at 4pm. Also, around 3:30, we started getting that super-light sprinkle of rain of the variety that could* stay sprinkle-y in Florida... or it could literally be ten seconds to a downpour so thick you can't see anything but grey two feet in front of you. Either one could damage the kimono I had out, so I decided to put them away during the last portion of the speech contest.

One person of interest who came around 4:30 was Susan Carter, one of the Henry B. Plant Museum curators! I got to chat with her for a few minutes before leaving. She mentioned that the museum is hosting an upcoming exhibit entitled "Japan and the Victorians: The Influence of Japanese Art in the Gilded Age". Of course, I'd already signed up ahead of time for the lecture next Friday night! I intend to wear some late Meiji/early Taisho era items. Probably, the kimono from this post, and the Meiji-era obi that goes with it. Or perhaps, I'll look up ukiyo-e and other actual photos from that time period and dress as those women did. If you're going to a formal event, you might as well go in style! Even so, I want to keep it to dark, unobtrusive colours. Subtle is iki. I should probably adjust the hanao on my geta while I still have time... I'm looking forward to this exhibit! I hope it will be a great learning experience!

The J-club organizers were most helpful when it came time to getting my things back to my car at the parking garage. It was so hot (to me, at least) that even in only the yukata, I was getting dizzy... and that was after drinking three bottles of water in only a few hours. To carry three buckets of kimono items and two copy paper boxes of dishes and supplies (like the receipt pads, business cards, etc.) across the Marshall Centre and to the third floor of the garage... oy. They had a trolley though, so all was well. I think I need to look into getting one for myself; if only I knew where to hide one in this small apartment!

E and others took the photos for the festival this year, in case anyone is wondering. To see more, you can visit the J-clubs' FB page! I didn't bring my camera. I figured I'd be too busy getting people into yukata. I'm glad I didn't have to think about it!

I hope to really join the J-club one day, when I can start attending language classes at the university. Just one more thing to put on my list of stuff to do... I can handle it, right? ^_~

March 22, 2012

3rd Month: Yayoi

Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Go-shita-yashiki Haru no Asobi
The third month of the traditional Japanese lunisolar calender is named 'Yayoi', "New Life". It signals the beginning of spring. Now is the time to think of layers in reds, whites, and pinks- especially if the red and white is layered to look pink at a distance! How beautiful~ Sakura are already beginning to bloom, hanami (flower-viewing) parties are being held, and sakura 'forecasts', like weather forecasts, are being made all over Japan this time of year!

Deep indigos may speak to the leaving of the cold, whereas deep purple (also a 'cold' colour) may be in fashion until the cherry blossoms are more prominent, provided that the accessories are in reds, pinks, and whites, with the distinction between ume and sakura being made. As for myself, I think a sakura-pink kimono with white petals, peach blossoms, daffodils, or other seasonal motifs such as peonies or spring rabbits (or perhaps just a seasonless pattern, such as clouds) with a red, green, and white obi featuring similar motifs could be worn.

Indeed, even in America, we are releasing postage stamps with a sakura design to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the gift of 3,000 cherry trees to Washington D.C. from Tokyo. They are very pretty. If you can, I suggest getting a sheet of your own, since American stamp designs tend to be limited in printing and the design will disappear soon. <3

March 21, 2012

Haru Shanichi, "Shrine Day"

Haru Shanichi, also known as "Harusha" or "Shunsha", is the day after the Spring Equinox. On this day, shrine visits are made especially, and favours are begged of the Earth Gods.

Ta no Kami (Rice field gods) or "sanbai" (field gods) are invoked. Special rice-planting songs are sung, not only to keep rhythm when planting the fields, but in order to worship the gods who will bring good harvest. Dances will also be performed, but these happy (and serious) rituals have become nearly extinct. Machinery has all but replaced the aging farmers, and few young people rely on the old methods to sustain crops designed to feed a burgeoning population. The dances and songs are not performed by many people any more, and attempts to record them have been somewhat futile. Some say that it is insulting to the gods. After all, to have their special days recorded and replayed for people who have no faith in them is surely insulting to the religious groups who worship those gods.

If you are very lucky, perhaps you will get to experience a real, old-style rice planting in your lifetime.

March 20, 2012

Haru Matsuri @ USF!

I've been busy lately! Between errands and family-related stuff, work at Ichibans', running the pagan supply store, and household stuff, I've been trying to prepare for Haru Matsuri, which once seemed so far off... now it's coming up in just two days on Friday.

I have a dozen koshi himo to make before then. I've been working on them in stages: one day, buying fabric. Then, a day ironing and steaming and measuring the strips. The next day, cutting them all. Then pinning them all so that they're straight. Now, I have to get out my machine and sew them all. It isn't all that hard, but since I'm working with tiny spaces (like, a card table for five yards of fabric a yard wide...) and such, it becomes harder to do these things. I'm seriously thinking of buying a quilting machine that will make strips like this for me! The machine is so very expensive, though. I'd have to really make the money back on koshi himo if I bought one...

Today, my husband dyed my hair. It looks so much better and healthier when it's dark! And it'll give me a few days before I go to the festival to get the excess dyes out, so I don't have to worry about my kimono so much. Even so, I plan on wearing something dark!

I also have to inventory my kimono before then. Then, prepare for the show itself... after the show is done on Friday, I guess I'll get back to packing and inventory for the pagan supply store!

Shunbun no Hi, the Spring Equinox

Shunbun no Hi is the Japanese term for the Spring Equinox, which generally falls on March 20th or 21st. On this year, it is the 20th. Only in 1948 did this day become an official public holiday. Before that, shunki koreisai was practiced. The reason the name and official practice was changed is due to the separation of religion and government outlined in the Japanese Constitution, enforced by Americans after WW2 (a stipulation which Americans have trouble following ourselves, one might ironically note).

"Haru higan" is one of many 'kigo' (season-word) references. This one refers to the week of the Spring Equinox, meaning 'beyond the border of this world' or 'to the other side of the shore'. Haru higan lasts from March 18th to March 24th this year.

The Spring Equinox is a special day, since night and day are the same length. At this time, Buddhists may spend their days visiting graves and soothing the souls of ancestors. Families may visit the graves of ancestors or friends as well during the week of the equinox. Graves will be weeded, new flowers and incense brought, and special treats to be left for the dead to eat may be brought. Usually, some kind of round rice cake or mochi is the gift. For some reason, the spirits of the dead prefer round food. This kind of activity will recur during the Autumn Equinox as well.

The Emperor himself will have koureisai duties to serve to all of the previous Emperors, given that traditionally, Emperors are genetically descended from the Sun Goddess Amaterasu-sama. Shunki koureisai itself was not practiced until the Meiji era, started in 1878 (Meiji 11), probably to further cement public acceptance of his rule. 

Other general activities (for farmers especially) include praying for a good harvest during this week, and possibly supplication to village harvest gods. During the autumn, thanks for that years' harvest will be said.

A common saying heard at this time: "Atsusa mo samusa mo o-higan made." Hot and cold will last until Higan!

March 19, 2012

Mannered Mondays: Amae, Dependency Wishes

This post is typed verbatim from Keys to the Japanese Heart + Soul, an excerpt from Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia.

Amae, Dependency Wishes

Amae, which can be translated as "dependency wishes," is the noun from of amaeru, a verb that has no true equivalent in English but refers to the desire to depend upon the love, patience, and tolerance of others.

Amae arises from feelings of helplessness and the need to be loved. Since the parent-child relationship is reflected in Japanese society in many adult relationships, including those of husband and wife, teacher and pupil, and leader and follower, amae tends to be prolonged and diffused throughout adult life. Doi Takeo, M.D. defines amaeru as the desire "to presume upon another's love," "to bask in another's indulgence," or "to indulge in another's kindness." He holds that amae is the key to understanding the psychodynamics of Japanese culture, which is relatively tolerant of dependency feelings and relations. In his writings, especially his bestselling "Amae no Kouzou" (1971; translated as "Anatomy of Dependence", 1973), he sees amae as the core of a constellation of related words and feelings and as the key to understanding the traditional Japanese dilemma between giri and ninjou.

In Doi's definition, Japanese-style ninjou is the art of knowing how to amaeru (depend on others) and how to respond to the call of amae in others. Giri (social obligations) exist to be pervaded by ninjou. Amae also explains for Doi the centrality of the mother-child relationship in Japanese society; the importance attached to the ability to "merge" (tokekomu) with others; the somewhat vague notions of subject and object, self and other; differently defined concepts of privacy and individual rights; a dislike for cut-and-dried logic and businesslike relationships; the high degree of nonverbal communication; and the strong aesthetic orientation of the culture.

Previously: Ninjou, Natural Feelings
Next: Let's Talk (about Dowa)

March 15, 2012

Rabbit yukata!

I was originally looking for a new hanhaba obi for my youngest sister to wear, since the one I got her before doesn't fit properly (it's a pre-tied, but the tare is too short), but I ended up finding a set that was about the same price as just the hanhaba!

I have a thing for usagi motifs, and I don't really have anything but a collar with rabbits on it. To find a cute yukata in good condition for cheap was a blessing! It wasn't folded or packed particularly well (I don't think the Americans who sold it knew much about them, or how to get the panels to fold properly), but cotton irons out in minutes. When I get it flat again, I'll see how it wears! In the meantime, my sister now has two hanhaba obi to choose from to wear with her yukata.

It's an encouraging find, at least, despite all the drama and stress of the past two weeks. I have to lock down this week to dye my hair, inventory my remaining kimono, and make piles of koshi himo for the upcoming Haru Matsuri at U. of South Florida! It'll be not tomorrow, but the Friday after that! Eeeek! And I work all week, too!

March 14, 2012

White Day, Valentine's Day Pt. 2

White Day is a corporate response to Valentine's Day in Japan. Thanks to the cultural sense of on (indebtedness), anyone who received chocolates or gifts on Valentine's Day must return the favour on White Day! The catch is that on Valentine's Day, acceptable chocolates were milk or dark choko. On White Day, the chocolate is... white! Yes, I'm sure you saw that coming. Also, on Valentine's Day, the chocolate-givers are all women. On White Day, it is the men's turn. I hope all of you who received chocolates on V-Day remembered to write down who brought you something, and what it was.

Just like on Valentine's Day, it isn't just your sweetheart that will be getting reciprocal chocolates. Typically, chocolate would have also been given to anyone you are socially indebted to on Valentine's Day, such as your boss, friends who helped you that year, etc.. DO NOT FORGET YOUR WIVES/GIRLFRIENDS guys, lest you end up spending on a lot more than just a box of fancy white chocolates! O_o

Honestly, I didn't think to buy white chocolate when I was in Japan. I wonder how different it is from American white chocolate. In America, milk chocolate is outrageously sweet compared to chocolate I've had from Europe. It tastes like chocolate-flavoured sugar wax by comparison. Japanese milk chocolate isn't too bad, depending on the brand. I think the 'dark' chocolate is more like 'milk' chocolate here. Possibly, cacao is triple the price there, and thus the difference. Maybe I can find some white chocolate produced in Japan at the local Asian market! I'll have to make a note to try it sometime.

Ebay Updates

So, I was able to sell some of my stuff at a discount on Ebay recently. It'll free up some room for private collection items. I love doing kimono sales, but I'm not sure it's feasible to do so full-time without substantial startup income. I may start collecting awesome items that I know I'll wear or enjoy displaying, and rent them out to museums and shows when possible.

What's sold? I updated the 'Ending Soon!' post, but other items that I posted later have now found homes as well. I'm happy that someone will wear these things and get use out of them! Kimono weren't made for sitting in drawers! They were made to be worn and loved! Aren't they gorgeous? I especially loved the striped hanhaba obi, but never ended up getting a yukata for it...

March 5, 2012

Mannered Mondays: Ninjou, Natural Feelings

This post is paraphrased from Keys to the Japanese Heart + Soul, an excerpt from Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia with additional input from Wikipedia.

Ninjou, Natural Feelings

Ninjou broadly refers to universal feelings of love, affection, pity, sympathy, sorrow, and the like, which one "naturally" feels towards others, as in relations between parent and child or between lovers. This can compliment or conflict with ideas of giri, as one's natural feeling towards a person may not align with the obligations the person is bound to. The most clear cases of ninjou tend to arise during conflict, as that is the moment when a person realizes 'true feelings' and must make decisions.

According to Doi Takeo, the Japanese concept of ninjou is the art of knowing how to amaeru (depend on others) and how to respond to the call of amae (short form of amaeru) in others. Giri (social obligations) exist to be pervaded by ninjou.

"The classic example of ninjo is that of a samurai who falls in love with an unacceptable partner (perhaps somebody of low social class or somebody of an enemy clan). As a loyal member of his clan, he then becomes torn between the obligation to his feudal lord and to his personal feelings, with the only possible resolution being shinjū or double love-suicide. The correspondence to William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet or the Aeneid would be made by Japanese and non-Japanese alike." - Wikipedia

Some people tie the concept of giri and ninjou to concepts of nihonjinron, as they are culture-specific terms. However, there is obvious reason to disagree with the idea that only Japanese can feel a sense of indebtedness, obligation, or of 'normal' human emotions, or that they feel these things more than anyone else in the world does. Although, I do sometimes wish we Americans as a whole felt a sense of giri. We certainly have enough ninjou. :P

Previously: Giri, Reciprocal Obligations
Next: Amae, Dependency Wishes

Keichitsu: Insects Awakening

The third of the twenty-four nijuushi sekki, Keichitsu, means "Awakening Insects" or 'startling insects'. The 24 sekku are imported from China. During this period, many thunderstorms are said to occur due to the shift from cold weather to warm, which startles hibernating insects from the ground. I suppose it is more accurate to mark the season by the insects one would see vs. simply saying "it's a stormy season", as many seasons include different types of storms.

Japanese beetles are amongst the list of hibernating insects, as well as some grubs, cicadas, and grasshoppers. But really, the season doesn't only refer to insects- rather, the imagery can mean any creature living in the ground who would then have to come out of the soaked earth. Supposedly, snakes and frogs will be seen more often during this time, probably because acquiring food is now easier.

In related news, Japanese people are freaking SMART. I had no idea what the woven reed mats around trees were in photos, but thanks to this blog, I do now! They protect burrowing insects and trees in the winter! How awesome! <3 This time of year, the mats are taken off and burned. So, trees are protected from insects because the insects burrow into the mats instead of the bark for protection (keeping the tree safe as well), they keep trees insulated from the freezing winter, AND the mats make excellent firewood in the last days of the cold weather!

On this day, I would probably wear a wool kimono in deep blues or browns/greens. Browns and greens for earth and insects, indigo for the cold weather or storm/water references, and double points if you have an obi with a grasshopper or cicida motif! (By the way, congrats to whomever won the snake juban on Ebay. I'm so envious! What a rare and beautiful piece!)

March 2, 2012

Kinyoubi Kimono Challenge 3

Previously, "Your dearest kimono item(s)."

3. My most used kimono items (not including juban, datejime, erishin, etc.)

Strangely, I got this piece originally because I wanted something bold and fantastic for display, preferably with Taisho-length sleeves. I wasn't very into orange, but I think I figured I would sell it later if I ended up not wanting to display it anymore. As a collector, I like fabulous, interesting pieces that fit with my style. This one, I ended up wearing the most somehow!

When it came in, it isn't Taisho. Taisho synthetics felt different, and often cracked- thus, why so many were silk/synthetic blends at the time. But this purely feels like a much later synthetic, and has the bright colours of the 60s and 70s with a nod to the bright, bold prints of Taisho. It's like modern-day 'hippie style' skirts vs. the actual skirts of the early 70s. The lining is fabulously soft!

It's technically a winter pattern, and in March, it's already far too warm to wear anything lined for long, but I tend to put it on whenever I go out to someplace nice. Orange works with dark blue denim and black pants alike- just  wear a neutral shirt underneath! I usually go with all black if I can help it, sometimes with a little unobtrusive jewellery if I feel like it. Something glossy and black, like glass or crystal. Stone work, but I prefer coral, jade, or pearls and brass, bronze, or silver to mimic antique kanzashi tastes.

The technique is printed shibori. The colours are true in the first photo, but got washed out in this one. My camera has trouble with colours. It seems to want to cast everything with a bluish light, regardless of actual lighting in the room. It doesn't have a setting to adjust this, either. It's a 2004 Kodak, and it's been halfway around the world. I'll have the money for a replacement soon (I hope!) Even so, you can clearly see the details...

Other items are mostly worn intermittently these days. A few years ago I was always cold, and in the heat, I could layer on clothing with impunity. These days, I'm always hot. For someone who grew up in a place where temperatures could get to 112F with the heat index and be only a little overheated to now stand outside in 45F weather wearing flipflops, shorts, and a tank top (while still sweating from feeling hot)... it's impossible. Kimono are a clothing I love, but I'm going to have to start investing in hitoe items more and more. I love my bijin-ga silk layers, but it isn't practical for me to wear those unless I know that I'm going to be in heavily air conditioned spaces. At least ro or sha kimono come in the cool colours that I love: purples, greys, greens, blues. <3 I don't think I could own anything white, though! In a house with four cats, that's just asking for trouble!

Next: My least used kimono item(s).