Bebe Taian: September 2012

September 30, 2012

Otsukimi: Moon-Viewing Festival

Otsukimi is another holiday borrowed from China during the Heian era. The celebration of the full Autumn moon usually happens on the 15th day of the 8th Lunar month. On this night, white mochi dango is eaten, along with chestnuts and some other auspicious seasonal foods. Bring out the warmed sake! As there usually are on these sorts of holidays, there is a wonderful story that goes with it, which I wrote about previously. This is a story of the Rabbit in the Moon.

In this case, I am going to a party tonight, as my bosses are retiring from the Ichiban restaurant. I will begin working under their new appointees soon.

At first, I intended to wear my gold pampass grass kimono with a dark blue rabbit obi, but I don't want to upstage my boss with people commenting about the outfit. Instead, I think I'll just wear jeans and a nice shirt. <3

September 29, 2012

Private Collection: The Other Haori

This is the other haori. The crest on this one is the same as Ichino's from Gion, as seen here.

I can't decide which of the two I favour more! I love the soft, crinkly, slightly shiny silk of the kiku haori, or the faux-patchwork and asa no ha details of this one. Either way, they're both beautiful.

I think the beauty in each lies in their simplicity. It's an understated beauty, outwardly so plain, but once the finer details are understood and the quality of fabric and production is taken into account, they are quite beautiful indeed.

The lining is bright orange, red, and white, with a maple, waves, and plum blossom pattern. It's very early Autumn, and perfect for this month! As October approaches, a wave of momiji will take Japan by storm in a flurry of greens, reds, browns, and yellows.

The haori is made of silk, inside and out. The wave pattern is the same as my silver fukuro obi (flowing waves woven with ichimatsu pattern weave). I wish the lining were matched better, but even so, it's gorgeous fabric and it's wonderfully nice to wear. A shame it's still so hot out in Florida! We could wear ro just about all year!

The measurements on this haori are:

Wrist to wrist - 125CM / 50IN
Neck to hem - 73.75CM / 29.5IN
Sleeve depth - 38.75CM / 15.5IN

September 28, 2012

A Night in Tokyo 3: Preparations

On Monday the 17th, I went to my second meeting for A Night in Tokyo 3.

Plenty of people showed up, and it was a good thing! Technically, all meetings from here forward are mandatory.

Since the lists of who is wearing what are still shifting, I'm still not entirely sure who is on 'my' team, and who of those are 'joint-owned' between me and another designer. But, for anyone there who wanted to try on kimono that day, I was happy to quickly (although, not very neatly I'm afraid) dress them.

Contrary to popular belief, kimono are not necessarily 'one size fits all'. If you are wearing kimono in a modern kimonoHIME fashion, or are mixing them with Western clothing, size is not particularly an issue. If you are wearing them properly, then size is of utmost importance!

Because I didn't have any "official team list" yet, I didn't want to start taking measurements during the first mandatory meeting (the last meeting was not mandatory, and being scheduled during some students' classes, a lot of people didn't make it). Even so, I want people to get used to how they feel in a kimono, and hopefully, get some of the models to the point where they can dress themselves come the day of the show! That would make things easier on everyone, really. Yukata are very easy to tie by oneself, so those who are assigned summer clothing should have it easy.

Lots of photos were taken (not by me, but I forget who), so feel free to check them out here. I had forgotten just how bad I tend to look in candid photos. x.x I'm putting on weight in all the wrong places... I guess that's what gyms are for, if I could find the time or the money. I would definitely go! Ah, but a good kimono hides all of that, now doesn't it?

One awesome person brought in a vintage silk kimono of their own, a teal komon with metallic kiku woven in! It still had scraps of the red lining in the wrists and edges of the sleeves, and under the arms, remnants of the original lining that had since been replaced. It's probably from the 30s or 40s. The juban is a crinkly, slightly stretchy burgundy + white chirimen weave with a shibori pattern (stamped, not hand-tied). The Nagoya obi she brought with it was gold and white ichimatsu pattern with kiku and other patterns. What a bright combination! I wonder if the Nagoya obi is from the 40s, or if it was newer. It's very short to tie, and the kimono/juban set itself is very small. A very petite person must have worn them! You'd think with an obi several feet long, that would be enough fabric. Heh. Heh. No. I wish... but appearances are deceiving on that one, too.

I ended up leaving a bit early since I was on-call to pick my sister up from a class, but man, was I tired already by that point. It was a h-o-t day, and for that meeting, I carried a large laundry basket of kimono and kimono books to the meeting. My heart was not happy about that. I may end up having to buy a collapsible cart for future trips. Fortunately, I ended up not having to drive across town for my sister. Instead, I went home, brought the kimono upstairs, and collapsed into bed for awhile! >D

This week, I messaged everyone on the current list to get their measurements. I'll be needing to order tabi, kimono, and any other accessories I'll need this week or else they might not come in time for the show. Once I have everyone's measurements, I can compare them to the measurements of existing kimono articles and match people with outfits. The next meeting is on Monday the 1st, when I'll be taking measurements according to the list I've compiled. It's a lot of work to put on a show like this, but I'm happy to do it. I want this show to be the best one ever!

September 26, 2012

Where Did I Go?

It's "crisis time" again, where bad stuff is just happening all. the. time. And battling with the stress and fallout and the crises themselves is like fighting a tidal wave with a teaspoon. But if a teaspoon is all I have, I'll still try to bail myself out...

::cue 'Kuroshitsuji' line about humans and a spider's thread::

In the meantime, I have a hot pot of green tea, and five cats that are well taken care of by my husband when I'm gone at work or off errand-running. Five? Oh yes. Rescued one last week, incurring a bill that I can't cover... but, it's a cat's life, so of course, I must. It's worth it. He's a total panther! His face is pretty swollen right now, but soon it'll go back to normal. He had a severe allergic reaction to his cat food, along with some other issues like dehydration. Actually, he's looking better already, since that photo was taken.

Poor Seraphina is terrified of him. He doesn't actually do anything, but she is terrified of black cats. She's a former alley kitten, and we're pretty sure she had some bad run-ins... now she's afraid of ALL black animals. So she's hiding on my clothes in the closet. It's already clear that we can't keep so many cats in one apartment, so I think it's time we find this guy a home!

I've also been working waaay more than usual. And I'm looking for another steady job on top of all this! I'm not getting anything I want done at home! x.x But as always, I'm going to do my best. Don't panic. Just plan.

Annnnd on top of everything else immediately requiring large sums of money I don't have, I ALSO need to order kimono items in the next few days or they won't get here in time for the show! Aaaargh!

Well, it's time to find a way to make these things happen. I'll think of *something*...

September 16, 2012

葉落ち月: Month of Falling Leaves

Haochizuki, shortened in modern language to Hazuki, is the Month of Falling Leaves. The heat is finally subsiding (or at least, it normally would- not this year, apparently), and leaves are starting to turn and fall.

Momiji Manju - Ilya Genkin
My local Asian grocery used to carry a delicious bean paste doughnut called Momiji Manju, but NO ONE AROUND HERE has it anymore! x.x So many Asian grocers, and what happens? All Korean, Vietnamese, or Chinese. Oy. Extremely limited selection of Japanese items, mostly limited to rice, teriyaki sauce, and a few candies. No help at all! Fortunately, some wonderful blogger out there photographed the beautiful doughnuts I've come to adore so much.

As it turns out, Momiji Manju are a specialty food of the Miyajima area- the same Miyajima famous for it's "floating" torii and shrines. There's even a class for tourists to learn to make our own manju! Oh, how I was fascinated by the steel moulds I saw being used in Asakusa to make these. How did the doughnuts not stick? How do they bake the filling right in, not pipe it? It isn't the same texture as the 'pancake' kind of doughnut you can get here. Not the same at all! In fact, I find the pancake kind to be too sticky, too overly sweet, and too... 'wet', almost soggy, to be enjoyed. Momiji manju are just so perfect!

Oh, manju, how I miss you! One day, I will go back to Asakusa, and I will buy a thousand of you. In kimono. And I will become very fat and happy forever! ... or at least, until I follow it up with unadon and tamagoyaki. Really, the Japanese have the BEST foods. Try them as often as possible!

September 15, 2012

Beating the Heat

Technically, it's still ro weather for a few more days, although perhaps the season will be extended due to the heat so late in Autumn! The solution, of course, is to encourage people to think 'cool' by wearing cool, serene colours. Think waves, summer grasses, dragonflies, fireflies (hotarubi), flowing patterns in touch with the current season with a calming effect.

This is my September palette, until cooler weather comes. Then, I'll embrace the change with a lined juban and tabi with my shoes before switching to awase (lined) kimono fully. Then, I can start wearing something a little more subtle and 'faded', before gradually getting warmer and brighter again for the falling leaves!

As for right now...

I have a blue iromuji kimono, unfortunately not ro but sha, with a 'floppy' dragon obi in shades of blues and greys, with hints of yellow and orange-y red. To minimize the warm effect as much as possible, I'll pair it with a blue or white obijime, and a white obiage. I'd love to get some green-toned khaki accessories, and maybe ones coloured like dried oak leaves.

In the meantime, think fields and grey clouds at dusk! Cool breezes blowing at the end of a hot day as you sit on the front porch with a jar of sake and a tray of momiji manju, waiting for the moon to make an appearance... much nicer feeling than a muggy Tokyo day, isn't it?

September 13, 2012

Casual Haori, Superb Style

There is a simple, fashionable way to wear wafuku. In particular, haori.

If you purchase only one traditional Japanese garmet, make it a haori.

With a haori, you don't need to learn kitsuke rules for wearing one. They don't require any special accessories (although you may want to get a few beaded haori himo- far easier than the traditional ties), you don't have to wear multiple layers, they come in all kinds of colours, designs, and fabrics, and fit isn't as much of an issue when compared to kimono.

Silk haori, hand-tied (not printed) shibori.
When buying a haori, all you need to know is this:

- How much space you need for your back/waist around, and sleeve-to-sleeve measurement... and sleeve-to-sleeve is flexible, if you don't want the sleeve hems at your wrists. Haori do not wrap around in front. They hang open, with four to eight inches to spare.

- What kind of fabric you are prepared to take care of. Silks are sometimes difficult to clean, but they are awfully luxurious and comfortable. Synthetics are most common, and some are washable, but being synthetic, they don't breathe and they can sometimes seem 'cheap'. Hemp and wool haori exist, too; these are durable in the extreme, warm in winter and cool in summer, but the fabric can be stiff instead of 'flowing' like synthetics or silk. On people with wide shoulders like mine, a stiff, boxy appearance is probably the LAST thing you want to see!

- What you're going to wear it with. This one is easy. You can't go wrong with a plain, neutral shirt (tank top, blouse, whatever 'matches' the formality of the haori), and jeans or a nice skirt. Add some jewellery or bright makeup, and you've got the perfect outfit.

See that black + white shibori on the right? Haori!
Once you have your haori, wear it! Don't just let it sit in a closet. Clothes are made to be worn. Unless it was ridiculously expensive (say, over $100 used or so), go anywhere you like. Restaurants, libraries, museums, wherever. Just make sure that it will be taken care of properly, ie., don't wear silk to go dog-walking. Hemp would be more appropriate. Other than that, have fun with it!

When you're done with the day, haori are like other wafuku; they do need to be folded and put away. Silk pieces especially need to be aired out to ensure that humidity will not get trapped in the fibres and cause it to rot, so I suggest wrapping them in acid-free tissue paper (or in a pinch, plain white tissue paper) or tatoshi (rice paper for kimono storage). Since insects tend to like natural fibres, and the occasional moth does seem to find it's way into every home, I suggest a cedar chest instead of using moth balls whenever possible. Otherwise, hemp, wool, and synthetics seem to do OK hanging in the closet, provided that the hangers are fairly wide to support the seams. I fold all of mine to keep stress tears or stretching from occurring, but this is up to you.

What is your signature style?

September 11, 2012

Nihyaku Hatsuka

Artist: Takako Komaki
Nihyaku Hatsuka is 220 days from Risshun. The year is quickly passing by! It is considered to be the end of the storm season.

Even so, my colours today are various shades of soft purple, cerulean blues, storm greys, misty silvers, and cool-toned whites. Think storm clouds and dragons, cool slate and iron, slippery silks and comfortable white tabi. Long, flowing skirts and good back support are very appealing.

Takako Komaki is a wonderful ningyo artist. I'm convinced that the point of a doll is to fashion an idealized version of a beauty that never existed in life. An avatar, of sorts. And hers are created with such attention to detail! Check out her gallery- you won't be disappointed.

September 9, 2012

Quick Update!

Making a note here: "Huge Success!"

It's hard to overstate my satisfaction.

I went through every entry and fixed tagging issues, broken images, etc. Old links still stand, since I don't want to alter content of posts, but at least things make more sense now. Some posts were tagged 'kimono', others were not, etc. etc., and some tags are redundant anyways. I'm happy to be rid of them. Some tags needed to be added, since I had some holidays with their own tags, but others had only 'holiday' tagged. I'd rather have all holidays tagged with their names as well as 'holiday'. Same goes for the months, but not necessarily the sekki or zassetsu- too many of them!

Yay for fixing tags. It only took a couple hours.

As well, I think I have a meeting coming up with the J-club regarding A Night in Tokyo. So, hopefully I'll be able to post more about that soon! <3

Kiku no Sekku, Festival of Chrysanthemums

Chouyou no Sekku, also known as Kiku no Sekku is one of five ancient Japanese holidays, started during the Heian era in 910CE. It is no longer a national holiday, and really, I don't think anyone celebrates this anymore.

But once, it was a very popular religious holiday. In the ancient capital of Heian-kyo, modern-day Kyoto, where the royalty lived, kiku (chrysanthemums) represented immortality. In fact, the Emperor's position is referred to as 'the Chrysanthemum Throne'. Heian-era aesthetics dictated that beauty was the key factor in life: a beautiful person was often judged as a 'good' person. One should be physically and spiritually beautiful, and to have a beautiful mind. Women in high positions were educated and were quite literate, although fairly sheltered. It was often of greater distaste to be found guilty of writing bad poetry than it was to have a not-so-secret tryst. Knowing this, you might begin to understand why such a display of flowers was so very, very important.

On Kiku no Sekku, great displays of chrysanthemums were brought out, in all kinds of colours and varieties. It was a very festive day, allowing the normally hidden and sheltered court ladies to leave their quarters and socialize outdoors, admiring the beauty of the flowers, compose poetry, and enjoy the party!
Utagawa Kunisada - Kikuzuki
Normally, Chouyou no Sekku would be celebrated on the 9th day of the 9th month, according to the Lunar calendar- October 23rd of this year- but because Japan runs on the Western calendar these days, you might see it being held on this day instead.

How do you celebrate?

Dress up! Especially in the colours of kiku, or wear something with a kiku motif. Drink chrysanthemum teas or wines. One custom is to wrap the flowers with cotton and to leave it overnight to absorb the scent and dew of the flowers. This protects the flowers during the colder days of October, and it was once thought that this scented water would cure illnesses and promote longevity. If nothing else, it smells beautiful and delicate. Write poetry, explore the different species of kiku being shown, and enjoy the fleeting scenery.

September 7, 2012

Kinyoubi Kimono 9

Previously, "Your dream kitsuke items (or at least items you really, really want but can't get for whatever reason)."

9. Your biggest kimono fears.

Staining or damaging my kimono. Many of them cannot be repaired once something happens.

I have a beautiful meisen haori that I adore. I wore it out to lunch at one point, a rather nice restaurant, but DH accidentally dropped something and it splashed onto one of the sleeves! O.o Auuugh! Left a stain, naturally. I still haven't been able to clean it out. 

My favourite grey silk kimono somehow* got a brown stain while in storage. I have no idea how that could of happened. No. Clue. ::sighs:: 

The purple kimono I recently bought was one I got to wear one time... just once. Tore the first day wearing it. The very bottom of the back tore alongside the seam, straight up, nearly a foot long. The fabric must have been weak. I doubt I can repair it well enough to wear it again like that, but I *might* be able to resew it into a haori.

I'm always worried that the times I wear my favourite pieces will also be my last, that something horrible will happen, that it will rain, or someone will drop a soy sauce jar, or SOMETHING that will irreparably damage my outfit. But what am I going to do, go out with a clear plastic bag over the whole thing? Not likely! A geisha's finery costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, but that doesn't stop her from wearing it around a bunch of drunk customers. So, with a brave face, the show must go on! Kimono are not meant to sit and rot in a dark closet. They are meant for wearing and displaying!

Next: Your biggest kimono inspiration.

Hakuro: White Dew

'White dew'.

When the sun glows through the dew on leaves, it turns a brilliant white, glowing with light. Cooler months are coming, along with wet snow. The brilliant oranges and reds of Autumn are beginning to appear, and hagi (bush clover) is growing everywhere now.

Hakuro' can also be referred to as 'shiratsuyu', literally, white dew. You can expect to see poetic references to these words at this time of year. Hagi, or bush clover, by the way, is also often a poetic reference to a woman. References to dew are often commentary on the short, fleeting nature of life. A famous Basho poem from approximately the 1690s has been interpreted to mean anything between the sacred and profane- either a deeply religious work, or a highly erotic one. Which one is sacred, that's your call.

しら露もこぼさぬ萩のうねり哉 芭蕉

Shiratsuyu mo kobosanu hagi no uneri kana.

White dew never falls from hagi, even when it sways.

September 2, 2012

Founders of Visual Kei: X

X Japan, late '80s
It's the cry of X fans everywhere: "We Are X!" No, not the California punk band. The X I'm talking about is a wildly popular rock band, also started in the 80s, from Japan, which is why they're usually referred to as "X Japan" (to distinguish them from the American band).

X started as a couple of guys in middle school, Yoshiki and Toshi. In 1977, few respectable people wanted any part of rock music. Yoshiki was trained in classical music, and Toshi played piano. They were 11 years old! Originally, they were called 'Dynamite', but then they became 'Noise' in high school. After high school, in 1982, they became X. There weren't really any permanent members at first, as they weren't very popular, but Yoshiki and Toshi remained constant. Guitarist and composer hide joined in 1987; other members Taiji, Heath, and Pata were off-and-on-again.

Yoshiki + hide
Getting exposure was tough, and getting a record label was even tougher. Yoshiki the Indomitable naturally started his own record label to ensure his bands' success: Extasy Records. It wasn't until their second album, "Blue Blood" (1989), that they started really gaining an audience. They are practically the founders of Visual Kei- they appeared on stage and in promos with big hair, outlandish clothes, and heavy makeup. A cross between 80s hair metal and kabuki theatre, they were a totally new and different act than anyone had seen before!

In 1991, they broke records with their third album. Their JEALOUSY concert at the Tokyo Dome was released on VHS in a massive box set (then very uncommon for a band). I was happy to have owned one, once! In 1993, the epic song "Art of Life" was released, over 30 minutes long, including a 10min. or so piano solo in the middle. By 1996, the popular album DAHLIA came out. X dropped their outlandish costumes for a much more relaxed look, so perhaps after that they didn't quite fit the Visual Kei category anymore, although hide never changed his preference for neons.

They had toured extensively in Japan, had played sold-out shows in the Tokyo Zepp, had even played for the Prime Minister of the time (and were a favourite of his)... but by 1997, the group has disbanded. It was somewhat sudden, but to be expected. hide had a solo project ongoing with another band (and later died in 1998 after an accident), Toshi had his own projects spanning back to 1992 (and was later absorbed into a cult), and overall, things weren't going as well as hoped. Still, compilations, live footage, and new projects continued to be released- orchestral instrumental versions of songs were recorded, music box versions, etc. etc. Yoshiki had a host of solo projects which continue today, including charities, producing for other bands (including Dir en grey!), composing for major films, and reuniting X!

Today, X is touring around the world, with Yoshiki, Toshi, Sugizo, Pata, and Heath. They are under a new label, EMI Records, and have released new singles since 2010. You've heard their music on Saw IV, seen them at San Diego ComicCon 2010, and might have even seen a comic called 'Blood Red Dragon' by Todd McFarlane and Stan Lee, featuring a fictional take on Yoshiki. They still play footage of hide and introduce him as a member at every concert.

It took one band and unbreakable determination to be the best at what they did, and to last as long as they have. Few bands can claim such a thing. X was and still is an awesome band. Favourite songs: 'Kurenai', 'DAHLIA', 'Scars', 'White Poem I', 'Art of Life'. If you're the type that likes softer music, try 'Forever Love' or 'Tears'.

September 1, 2012

Nihyaku Touka

'Nihyaku touka' literally means '210 days' since Risshun, the beginning of Spring. This time of the year, fishermen and boaters need to be alert for sudden typhoons. The heat is subsiding, and whenever a cold front and warm front collide, there are storms. On land, bad enough! On the sea, calm water turns deadly very quickly.

Fumino + Ayano, 23/9/10 - Onihide
The good news is that people can still wear cooler clothing. The breezes are picking up, despite the unseasonal humidity in Japan this year. Ro fabrics in all layers is appropriate for most of September, and I highly suggest it if you have any to wear. Sha is fine for the first few days, although to be honest, I'm not sure all but the most die-hard kitsuke enthusiasts are very concerned with whether or not you wear the 'correct' weave for the time of year, so long as it isn't *too* out of place.

So, folks, keep your umbrellas out and your summer clothes in your wardrobes. The time for breaking out your sweaters is not yet!

Colours should be cool and dark, or pastel and light. Think deep purple-blues of kikyo (Japanese bellflower), with vibrant green pastel leaves, jade tama kanzashi, swirls of silver and brass, golden hagi (bush clover), and decadent black. Don't the pink accents look beautiful?