Bebe Taian: May 2012

May 30, 2012

Announcing Natsu Matsuri 2012!

To be honest, it was held later in the year last time, so I had forgotten about the approaching deadline until last week. This year, it's being held in the beginning of June, as opposed to the end of July. I haven't been able to import the yukata and men's items I wanted for this year, thanks to staggering unexpected expenses (like a hotel for a week at MY expense when the landlord decided to tent for termites), but I think I'll make it through. This year, I have a few new things to bring!

Sake cups are new items; I'm in love with these gold-plated ones I bought recently. There's going to be a post about them soon! I'm also going to try to swing the custom koshi-himo this year, despite finding myself with virtually no time to prepare.

I think part of my problem has been that many people cannot afford kimono right now. They're cool to look at, but the foreign and 'special' nature of even a yukata can make the expense seem daunting. I intend to bring some interesting but cheap items this year, so hopefully it will help me! Decorated tea balls, beaded haori himo, cell charms, and other one of a kind items will be up for grabs, cheap.

As soon as I get back to my apartment and get things sorted out, I'll be getting to work on how to set up the table. If it is this year like it was last year, I'm looking at open air on the grass, and I'll be attending by myself. This year seems much shorter than last year- only three hours long! So it won't be in the middle of the day like last time, at least. Wish me luck!

May 28, 2012

Mannered Mondays: The Art of Gift Presentation

In Japan, sometimes the way an item is wrapped and presented is just as important, if not more important, than the gift itself.

It is for this reason that a person will go to great lengths to buy a generic-looking garment from a high-end department store. The expense and trouble gone through to get the item, presented in a box, wrapped by the department store associates with their specially-marked packaging, shows that the person cares about the gift and the person receiving it. In the end, the point is not necessarily the gift itself (although you'd do well to think about the recipient's potential wants and needs). The point is the act of giving, and giving well.

Once you've decided on what to give, decide on how to wrap it. There are plenty of ways to do this, depending on the gift and circumstance. Between close friends, wrapping birthday gifts or holiday gifts American-style in gift paper with a bow might be acceptable. For other small gifts, in boxes, wrapped the way a professional at a department store is a good idea. For monetary gifts, many kinds of envelopes specifically for this kind of gift are available at any konbini- just be sure what kind you're getting! Those designs on the front mean something! If in doubt, ask which one is best. For other types of gifts, or for more formal occasions, furoshiki are indispensable. Furoshiki are traditional 'wrapping paper'; made of various fabrics, everything from cotton to silks, they come in all sizes and formality levels, and can be tied hundreds of ways to beautifully wrap your gift. And, since the furoshiki can be reused for years, they are very environmentally friends (when made of natural materials)- a major plus! The 'safest' colours are pastels or muted colours such as tan or navy.

If a gift is large or heavy, find a way to have it delivered to the person's home, so that they do not have to worry about the burden of transportation. Causing a person to carry something bulky or heavy onto a packed train is not exactly the definition of generosity.

Gifts should probably be carried in some form of shopping bag to be more inconspicuous. If giving many gifts to a group, make sure everyone is present at once. If in a group and giving to one person, get that person alone to present the gift. Usually, gifts may be exchanged towards the end of an engagement.

Don't worry if no one opens your gifts immediately; this is done in politeness. That way, if one person's gift isn't received as well as anothers', there is no comparison, and no one feels let down, devalued, or left out. If someone ends up not using or liking your gift (perhaps you gave a specialty food they have an allergy to), you do not see their disappointment, and neither of you lose face. You should follow suit, and thank the giver. When you present your gift, make sure to offer it with both hands and a bow appropriate to the situation. A useful phrase is "Tsumaranai mon desu," meaning "It's an uninteresting thing..." This shows humility and presents the idea that your relationship is more important than even the most expensive and extravagant gift. If you are offered a gift, it is polite to refuse once or twice. This sends the message that you are not associating with the person only to acquire their resources.

Take heart! All this seems complicated now, but really, it's just as complicated as the gift-giving process in America to outsiders. Don't worry too much. Just do your best, and when in doubt, try to ask someone who understands the particular situation. Foreigners are not expected to be perfect, but just like when someone is a foreigner here, it is always appreciated when a person tries to do the 'right' thing. It shows that you care!


Previously: Omiyage
Next: The Cultural Importance of Rice

May 25, 2012

Book Review: Art of Edo Japan - Christine Guth

I checked out some books this week to get some ideas for BT. I hope to read all of them soon and maybe have some reviews!

I had no idea how many books on Japanese culture were in my library system. Five years ago, we had maybe a third of these! I think it is because there is now a greater presence and demand for them, especially since the local university has two Japanese language/culture programs. This makes me very happy.

The first book up for review is "Art of Edo Japan: The Artist and the City, 1615-1868", by Christine Guth. At 176 pages, it isn't a giant tome, and is a bit shorter than a novel. Many colour photos are included. My copy was printed in 1996. Subsequent editions seem to have different cover art.

The cover is initially engaging, a dark, clean image of Hiroshige's 'Fireworks Over Ryouguku Bridge' (1857), the title superimposed in a burnt orange. The back is the same orange, with a summary detailing the approach to the critique of Edo period of art, noting that the lens of viewing in this circumstance is that "of an urban perspective".

The opening pages have a clean layout, and covers Edo art not just from Edo (old Tokyo) itself, but the Edo period. There is a section each for Kyoto, Edo, Osaka and Nagasaki (one part), and 'Itinerant, Provincial, and Rural Artists'. Included is also a timeline at the back, detailing each province on a grid, divided by 50 year increments, and some major events that occurred at the time, which influenced the art of the area. Also included are the approximate deaths of many artists.

The subject matter itself does not focus on ukiyo-e strictly, but relies heavily on it for portrayals of life during the Edo period. Textiles, tea ceremony, and other forms of art are discussed, mostly to help the reader understand the culture of the time and how people viewed such activities. According to her, there were Four Accomplishments which any person must possess to be seen as cultured: music, painting, calligraphy, and games of skill. This was because they were also highly prized in China, which had a surprising amount of influence on the trends in Edo at the time.

The section on Kyoto shows an impressive set of folding screens, all of them painted beautifully. Most of the Kyoto art deals with various forms of painting, including textile art. Details of some artists' lives are discussed, as are the Maruyama-Shijou School, the Literati movement of the 1700s, and some 'individualist' artists, who were believed to have special status due to their eccentricities. Oddities in an artist were seen as a sign of creativity and the mark of a special talent in art.

Edo (the city) covers Ieyasu, Kiyonaga, Hokusai, Kunisada, the Kano School, the transition from black and white drawings to polychrome woodblock prints, and quite a few interesting events. Plenty of larger, full-colour prints are included.

Osaka and Nagasaki seemed to have a very different approach to art, compared to the traditional Edo styles we know. Portraits were sometimes much more realistic, including fine shading of the skin, details of folds and shadows in clothing, and more defined features. Keiga especially was a master of this style. However, the style and popularity of Edo-style ukiyo-e was not lost, even here. Nagasaki was also an outlet for artists seeking outside influences, namely European (the Dutch and Portuguese were the big players then) and Chinese. Foreigners were still largely banned from the country, and were heavily restricted simply because Japan depended on some of their imports. The 'otherness' of these cultures provided fresh ideas for these exploratory artists.

The last section, on itinerant and rural artists, includes some mentions of Okinawan clothing, wood carvings from various places, pottery, and some paintings. I think the section could have been larger, but overall, it makes sense given the context and focus on the more urban areas, which were more thoroughly documented due to their popularity.

It's an interesting read for the art scholar and enthusiast, but if you're just looking for nice pictures to look at, this book is probably not for you. If, however, you are looking for something more involved than a collection of images divided by artist or somesuch, and want to know more about life in the Edo period in reference to the art forms of that time, give it a try. At fewer than 200 pages, including glossary and timelines, it's a scholarly guide without being dry and massive like a college textbook, covering not only the most famous of artists but also some lesser-known ones.

May 23, 2012

Ack! A Lesson in Kimono-tying

Don't do what I did. Seriously. Oy. I didn't even realise it until it was far too late.

So, it started out awesome. That most recent Private Collection kimono was still on my list of things to wear- this one for the first time. I used my turquoise obijime instead of the narrow purple one to give it more colour, and added my gold and topaz snake bracelet. For a bag, I carried a sparkly sequin-and-beaded small bag, also gold-coloured. A lot of my accessories are things I picked up from garage sales or thrift stores. I can't recommend those enough! You can find the most awesome stuff there for dirt-cheap. Let go of your image of thrift stores as dingy, dirty places!

The kimono is actually about three inches longer than a juban on me, so if I tie it 'properly', it wouldn't have ohashori, but it was a little too long for my intended length, so the ohashori turned out really long. The obi is also not as wide as I normally wear them; Nagoya obi tend to be very narrow, so I usually stick to fukuro obi for that reason. The kimono is about the proper narrowness, but in order to get the collar to sit right without a juban propping it into place, I tied it a little tighter than usual. THAT was my mistake!

People, don't mess up like I did. Tying a kimono too tightly shut might feel comfortable standing, but that fabric had no flex, and apparently, even less strength. Standing* in it was fine... sitting down in it put a stress tear in a straight line down the bottom of the back! Yeah. The tear is about a foot long. It isn't the SEAM that burst- THAT would have been easily fixable! The stress tear is about 1" from the back seam, in the fabric itself. Which means I'll either have to A) make a really obvious fabric repair, B) make the kimono even narrower to compensate, or C) shorten it altogether to make a haori and have some cool fabric left over to make a purse or something with.

Oy. So... now to decide which fix is the most acceptable. I'm ... sort of disappointed. I mean, I'm glad it isn't completely ruined, and that it's still somewhat salvageable, but damn. It's the first time wearing it! I JUST bought that kimono! ::scream of minor frustration:: Knowing that it might be turned into something else gives me some consolation, but... ::sighs::

Steve Madden P-Merlo Boots
In the meantime, the outfit was decent. Could have changed it up a bit, but I didn't have much time to decide on things like that, so I kept it simple. One thing I might have changed were the shoes, but I no longer have my gold snake heels. Those would be a pair of gold shoes with a jewelled snake wrapping up the foot. I LOVED those shoes! I kept them until they fell apart. Actually, I have very few pairs of shoes. I don't particularly enjoy buying shoes, and I tend to avoid wearing them. Strangely, I wear shoes more often in the city than when I lived in the woods, mostly because the shrapnel and debris of 'civilization' is far more dangerous than most of what's growing in your backyard. So my choices of footwear are limited, but I think for what I have, I did pretty well. These are the ones I wear everywhere. -->

... It might have looked better in my head than it does on me. :P But then again, *I* look better in my head than I do in real life. DH took the photos this time. Dante, of course, helped out. ^_~ I think I'll do some more sketches of ideas. I have a few more to get things for before I can implement them, like a white hakata obi to wear with the phoenix kimono.

So, what do I do? Convert to haori? What are some versatile shoes to get? I have a pair of geta with red velvet straps, but I need to either change the hanao or get another pair. Maybe one that fits better. Small shoe size, wide feet. Oy. And what do I do about squeaky shoes? I love these boots, but not the noise they make!

May 21, 2012

Shouman: Grain Full

Barley - Wiki Commons
It's finally here! <3 Shouman, "Grain Full", the day when the sun is at 60 degrees celestial longitude. It marks a short season when grain is coming to grow in. Barley, wheat, and rice are starting to grow well, but are not yet ready to harvest.

Barley in particular is used to make miso paste (along with fermented soybeans), teas, and shouchuu (a whisky-like alcoholic beverage).

Since it is the beginning of growth, think bright blues, greys, bright green, and maybe orange and pale, rosy pinks. The days of sakura are already over, but peonies will most certainly be in! Ayame are also very much in season, so purples and white will not be out of place, either.

Browns and earth colours would bring warmth and livelihood, but as for me, I'll stick to cool colours as often as possible. Bright and cool greens are a favourite, when I think I can get away with them! Summer grasses and breezes are coming. Can you feel it?

May 18, 2012

Private Collection: Purple + White Hitoe Komon

I'm still in love with certain shades of pink-purples. I just don't do blue-toned purples very well! I can usually get away with red-toned purples, in small amounts. I think if I dress this up with enough black or maybe dark blue, I can get away with it. ^_~

The kimono was supposedly antique, but I don't think so. It seems similar in fashion, but the short roundedness of the sleeves makes me think otherwise. It is far more likely that a kimono in this condition is new with a retro feel than an actual antique piece with few stains or damages anywhere, whose sleeves had been cut short.

The silk is very rough transparent georgette with a kasuri weave. The stripes are in a few different shades, giving it an all-over 'fuzzy' look, a somehow cooling idea. The kimono itself is actually very short! Under 60" long (something like 57"), whereas my usual kimono are around 65-67" to tie them with a proper ohashori. Since the average height of Japanese women is still around 5'2" (taking into account the taller, younger generations and the older generations at around 4'6"), I am assuming it was made for someone who was around 4'8" or so. There is little to no room for enlargement.

Or who knows? Perhaps it is an antique after all, and someone did shorten the sleeves.

The obi is a pretty beat up, unlined and unfinished synthetic iromuji obi in a mustard yellow colour. I plan on getting it *really* clean and finding an obishin for it. I kind of enjoy that it's unlined and thin; it makes for a floppier musubi, but it won't be quite as hot as a double-sided thicker obi. In Florida heat, that counts for a lot! There aren't any actual stains on the obi. It just has that all-over general dinginess that comes with frequent wearing and not enough cleaning. I'll try to do it carefully, even though it's synthetic. Japanese fabrics have all kinds of surprises!

The obiage is an all-black piece made of crinkle-y soft silk. Technically, it's mofuku wear, but I think since it's a fairly informal outfit outside of Japan, maybe I can get away with it. The plum obijime is the style like two thin cords wrapped together intermittently, before being woven together at the very ends.

I'm thinking black tights and short boots so that overall, it doesn't look too 'heavy' to wear. It's a kimono I'd have to wear tied short anyways- even at full length, it might not be long enough to reach my ankles.

Now to get a hadajuban that fits it properly! <3

May 16, 2012

Article Updates

Two things:

1) I've cleaned up the tags a bit, since they were getting to be a mile long. I think I'm still working on tagging things better. Is it helping? Let me know!

2) I'm finally getting around to some of the articles I missed. I'm going to do my best to make more time for my blog again, now that things are sort of settling down. A roundup of articles I've missed:

- Giri, Reciprocal Obligations
- Ninjou, Natural Feelings
- Amae, Dependency Wishes
- Meiyo, Honour
- Kokuu, Grain Rain
- Hachiju Hachiya
- Hanamatsuri

I intend to catch up on the rest ASAP. There's about nine left to do before I'm fully caught up, plus plenty to write for this week and upcoming weeks in the meantime. <3

It's a nice, rainy day out, and for once, I'm finding myself with not one crisis to solve or errand that needs to be run- at least, nothing I can't put off until tomorrow. ^_~ I'm enjoying having time to write again. Now I just want to clean up a bit so I can take out my kimono and get new photos! Maybe I'll take a note from BikaBika, and get a good wig since my hair is always flat. ::laughs:: Ah, humidity. When it's a blessing if the numbers are 70% or less... oy.

May 14, 2012

Mannered Mondays: Omiyage

Omiyage are small gifts that you might bring to hosts, friends, coworkers, or people you are going to meet for the first time. You might remember something about this being involved on Valentine's Day- the habit of bringing coworkers obligation-chocolate. It's similar with omiyage, but all year round.

Generally, if you are meeting someone for the first time and this is arranged ahead of time (ie, not a spontaneous meeting on the street or something), or if you have been away from work on vacation or something, it is considered to be polite to bring small gifts. They do not have to be too lavishly expensive (remember, after all, that people will possibly be obligated to return an equal gift at some point), but they should always be packaged or wrapped attractively. The packaging is as important as the item itself; it shows thought all the way to the final details of the gift-giving process.

Some considerations aside from expense should be taken.

For example, most Japanese homes are very small, compared to American-sized homes or apartments. Therefore, something small or consumable becomes a great gift. A regional, shelf-stable food item, or some foreign candies or foods you cannot get in Japan are good options. In one case, Skittles and Nerds- you can't get either one there! And the chocolate is different, too. They are cute, consumable, and usually liked if you are buying for someone who loves sweets or novelties from overseas. Other things include beef jerky (soooo expensive, if you can find it!), American popular sportswear (like Yankees hats, or Seattle Mariners' Ichiro merchandise), things like that. Don't forget about pets, either! Small packets of dog or cat treats from well-known brands (avoid Meow Mix like the plague. Trust me.) can be obtained anywhere. Avoid things like catnip, since there are rules about transporting plant matter, and it's easy for an untrained eye to mistake chopped green leafy material of one kind for another. For women, maybe a cute change purse or wallet of a kind that is clearly name brand and new, like Anne Taylors' LOFT or somesuch. Makeup or shampoo products from overseas are sometimes unavailable there as well (either the brand or the specific line), but be careful when handing out items like these. A fashionista might love them! Someone's mother might not. And for most adults, expensive alcohols from the States- whisky, bourbon, scotch. They'll be prohibitively expensive for most in Japan!

There are some 'types' of gifts you should avoid: gifts in inauspicious numbers, colours, or gifts that are too expensive. Gifts that are too expensive will cause the recipient to be obligated to return an item of equal value, placing undue burden on the recipient. Inauspicious numbers include 4 (shi) and 9 (ku), which in Japanese, are homophones for 'death' and 'suffering'. Black can be a very formal and fashionable colour, but it can also be a colour associated with funerals. Certain flowers, such as camellias and lilies, are inauspicious, as are most white flowers. Red cards may not be well received because funerary cards are printed in this colour as well. And as always, use common sense. If you know someone has a bad tooth, perhaps it isn't a good idea to present them with sugary snacks. If they love to travel, perhaps a collection of photos from your area and some postcards in a neat box would be fun.

Whatever you bring, remember: small, relatively inexpensive (most of the time), good quality, attractive packaging, easy to carry, not remotely Japanese. Bring lots of them- more than you think you'll need! You never know who will help you out on your travels; an unexpected service from a coworker of your host may warrant an equally unexpected 'thank you'. When in doubt, you might as well give freely, rather than be seen as stingy. Generally, the only people who are not expecting gifts are waitresses or other housemaids, unless working/staying in a hotel in rural areas. Then a discreet tip of perhaps 1500Y is nice. Remember to give gifts discreetly and don't make a big scene.

For this, it's really helpful to know Japan's import/export/prohibition laws. For example, they have a law against importing or carrying in 'obscene materials' (ie, 'standard' pornographic materials). However, 'obscene' is not clearly defined; it may be up to those who check your bags to define it.

More on this in the next installation.


Previously: Meiyo, Honour
Next: The Art of Gift Presentation

May 13, 2012

Yaki Gyoza

I've had a love affair with gyoza for about two months now. With so little time and energy to spare, I'd be eating out all the time (and then I'd have to work more to pay for it!) if I didn't have gyoza made. I can make the basic 'mash' with about half an hour during the week, and wrap it in individual sections to freeze for later. I don't even have to defrost it all the way before cooking. The steaming process gets them very thoroughly cooked!

My gyoza tend to be pretty bland. Allergies and whatnot, so I keep it simple. So here are two recipes- the good but relatively bland recipe, and the recipe with a LOT of different flavours! If you're just starting out, maybe try my recipe first because it's simpler to make. You can then add the rest of the stuff to the mixture.

The gyoza noodles can be acquired by the stack from any asian market, and acceptable substitutes can sometimes be found in Wal-marts. You might be able to find them online. They are like wonton wrappers, but round, about 3" across. They come in a yellowish colour and a white colour. I usually get the white ones. They are usually in the frozen foods section; I defrost mine in the fridge overnight before making anything. Then I store them in tupperware for up to a week. Don't let them sit out all at once- they'll get stiff and crack! Just take what you need and keep the rest slightly cold and moist.Gyoza dipping sauce can be bought pre-made by the bottle. It usually involves soy sauce and garlic oil.


May 8, 2012

Easy Japanese-Inspired Veggie Dip

In my spare time, I've taken to learning to cook. I can do some limited Western stuff, but I'd really like to learn Asian cooking. I felt much healthier when I was in Japan. I weighed less, but I felt stronger. I had more muscle. Now that I'm back in America, I have this extra weight in fat that I just can't seem to shake. Maybe going back to Japanese food is the secret!

But... I confess. I hate vegetables. I didn't grow up eating them. Most of them taste bland. Celery exists to be a delivery system for peanut butter, and for that, I've got mochi. I've started adding easy things to tomato sauces, like onions, mushrooms, and sometimes bell peppers, but it isn't enough. Maybe I'd like them better covered in delicious dips. Something that doesn't involve sour cream. Because if I hate vegetables, I REALLY hate low-fat and fat-free stuff.

These recipes came from Emi Kazuko's "Easy Japanese Cookbook". You'll need a food processor and an electric grinder (like a small, clean coffee grinder). If you're throwing a party, try these!

Nama Yasai no Dippu Shasu (Three Dips with Fresh Vegetables)
Serves 4 - Prep Time: 40mins - Cooking Time: 15mins

3/4c soymilk
sea salt
prepared fresh vegetables for dipping (suggested: celery, carrots, cucumbers, button mushrooms)

Arrange the vegetables on a serving plate. You'll need three small bowls for the dips.
--------------------
KABOCHA + MISO DIP:
1/4 small kabocha squash
1 1/2tbsp miso

Steam the kabocha over med. heat for about 15mins, then remove and let cool. Scrape out the flesh with a spoon, discard the skin, and pound it in a Japanese mortar + pestle, or use a food processor until it forms a smooth paste. Mix in the miso and 5tbsp of the soymilk. Transfer to serving bowl.

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TOFU + SESAME DIP:
3tbsp white sesame seeds (shirogoma), toasted
1/2block firm tofu (5oz), chopped
1tsp sugar
1tsp black sesame seeds (kurogoma)
*optional* a few drops chili oil/sriracha

Grind the white sesame seeds in an electric grinder. Add the tofu and pound together. Stir in 3tbsp of the soymilk and add the sugar, then season with salt to taste. Stir in black sesame seeds, setting aside a few to garnish. If using chili oil or sriracha, add it now. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle seeds on for garnish.

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AVOCADO + WASABI DIP:
1 small avocado, pitted and chopped
1tbsp lemon juice
1-2tsp wasabi paste

The avocado dip can be made in a food processor, but avocados are usually very soft and might be able to be mashed until smooth with a fork. Either way, render the avocado, lemon juice, remaining soymilk, and wasabi into a smooth paste. Add salt to taste.

May 7, 2012

Burnout

So, I think I hit a burnout point and didn't even realise it because... I was too busy working. :P

My sister finally came home last week. She didn't have the heart transplant yet, for various reasons. But there's still so, so much to contend with, since obviously her heart didn't just magically get better. I was fostering one of their cats for awhile, which was awesome because I LOVE THAT AZRAEL CAT! =^.^= But it was not awesome because we already have four cats in a tiny space. And I kept having to run cat-related errands, with Bebe getting very sick AND Sam (my mother's cat) having a bad eye infection, on top of helping family/friends with their errands and other crises.

I'm also running the Perthro's Pagan Supplies full-time, and it has to be, since it takes hours to pack herbs alone, not to mention inventory, photographing, listing, keeping up with orders, packing and shipping, etc. On top of that, I still have my job at Ichiban's. I'm also trying to come up with money for new Bebe Taian inventory come the Summer, so that I can do all the shows locally for the Japanese festival markets. And I'm still looking for more work in the retail sectors around town for more income to make up for slow business.

None of this, I mind doing. If I didn't want to, I wouldn't. I have a car available, and enough 'free time' (ie, time that I could be keeping up with work but instead chose to spend on 'real people'), so if someone I care about needs help doing something (in this case, getting to work, court, or the hospital), I'm there. But it's also getting to the point where I can't manage daily life and three jobs, while preparing for a fourth, AND do household chores AND look after a husband AND have anything resembling 'personal time'.

I'll try to set a goal of two articles a day for the next week to catch up, but aside from that, I think I should take a break, reorganise, then come back with a vengeance. ^_~ There's a MILLION things I've been wanting to post about! I make notes everywhere, even if the 'note' is leaving a particular book out for a month on my bedside table... all about things I want to explore or do or write about.

So, there it is. It's like a Japanese horror movie. There is no happy, fuzzy resolution at the end of the story. It just kind of ... ends. Inconclusive, uncomfortable, unsatisfying, with potential for a sequel.

But one thing is for sure: like an onryo, I will return again and again to this same spot, regardless of circumstances or changes around me. :P Except with less "I'm going to do something scary!" and more "Look at all these pretty things!" Wait for it, okay?

May 4, 2012

Kinyoubi Kimono Challenge 5

Previously, "My least used kimono item(s)."

5. My favourite coordination(s) so far.

I think my favourite co-ordinations somehow ending up involving that wonderful Meiji-era maru obi. It is much shorter than maru obi from only thirty years later, I think, although it could be that mine was owned by a smaller person (which, in Meiji era, was true- people were smaller than they were in later generations). However, it is much more likely that since most lower-class women could weave, it is shorter because it was handmade and the purpose was to make it long enough to function properly. For whatever reason it is shorter, it is a gorgeous and somewhat fragile piece. As it is, I've worn it only a handful of times. I prefer going with a similar look using more modern obi if I can help it, so that the Meiji piece does not become damaged.

One of the outfits I love is this one:

- Storm-grey silk iromuji woven with matsuba
- Meiji maru obi with pine branches, seigaiha, tori, and kikko
- Yellow/white or dark blue obijime
- White matsu-pattern obiage with gold detailing
- Brass Taisho hairpins

It is very much a winter outfit, although it can come off looking very formal, despite the iromuji being uncrested. Since there were no Nagoya obi in the late 1800s/early1900s, I suppose technically an outfit of that formality would have been worn with a fukuro obi, inevitably covered by a haori when outdoors.

While I love this kimono, it apparently became stained while being stored, although I'm not sure of the origin of the stain. It looks like tiny brown dots on one side, but it isn't mildew. I will attempt to clean it soon. Wish me luck!

Another outfit I adore... the kimono from the second challenge paired with this obi. The reason is obvious; both being gifts from my husband. I also wore it with my ivory shiromuki in a more modern version of a wedding dress, since the pale embroidery of the kikko was a perfect match, and the motifs were auspicious. I didn't intend to own much in the way of the trappings of a 'proper' wedding dress; I figured in the old days, most women wore the nicest things they had. Shiromuku, being so incredibly expensive (pure white silk and all), were made for the wealthy who would obviously be in a better position to keep the cloth pristine. I adored the shiromuku I have (and still do!) but I wasn't about to get a full wedding set for myself. Modern synthetics don't match ivory anyways! They are all pure white!

Ah, there are so many outfits I really love. Some which I only wear once or twice a year, as appropriate. But then, with the heat and humidity, I don't get many opportunities to comfortably wear kimono as it is...

Maybe next year, I'll do the challenge again and see if anything has changed!

Next: What you like and dislike about kimono.