Bebe Taian: October 2012

October 31, 2012

Hyakki Yagyou: Ao-nyobo

The last of this years' Hyakki Yagyou entries is Ao-nyobo. Actually, I hadn't decided on her until just now, scrapping my former plan of retelling The Peony Lantern story. But then today, I ended up dressing for a friends' Halloween party, and became Ao-nyobo.

Ao-nyobo is kind of a play-on words, as so many obake are. Ao is blue/green, and 'nyobo' is an archaic term for 'wife' or a woman in the court during the Heian era. Ao-nyobo is also the term for an inexperienced courtesan; thus, the joke. Ao-nyobo is a ghoul that you might encounter in old, abandoned palaces and houses of formerly wealthy people. She is a beautiful woman from behind, but when you see her, she is very ugly. She obsessively stares into a mirror, painting and repainting her face and teeth (at the time, it was high fashion to have blackened teeth), awaiting an aristocratic visitor. And when he comes... she will devour him.

It's a quick photo, but this is the beginning of the makeup done for the costume. I didn't bother dressing fully, since I was kind of in a rush to get the photo and get on with the night, but here's how to do your own ao-nyobo:

Start with white grease paint, especially the stick kind. This is your "sticky" base, like the wax geisha use to keep their makeup on. It's white, and it will make you look very pale if you load it on. Even it out with a good foundation brush. I use one by Ecotools.

Then, set the makeup using a matte white powder, as fine as you can get. Baby powder is perfect for this, but in a pinch, you can use white eyeshadow. Covergirl and Shiro Cosmetics both make good eyeshadow for this purpose.

Using the foundation brush, work in pink eyeshadow throughout the cheeks and in the corners of the eyes. Make sure to blend it out. You want something like a heavy version of geisha's makeup, avoiding the bridge of the nose, leaving it plain white down the middle. I used Porygon/Eye Contact by Shiro Cosmetics. I have a lot of her stuff, since there isn't much eye makeup out there that doesn't make my eyes itch and burn. x.x

Taking notes from Edo-period ukiyo-e, the eyebrows were first brushed a wider line in blue, then done in matte black. I used Squirtle/Bubblebeam and Dwarf in the Flask here. After the photo, I finished the eye makeup by drawing a heavier line of pink around the bottom outer corner of the eye, and lined the top lid, geisha-style. Then, I set a second top-line in black.

The lips were done with Nyx lipliner, I think in Hot Red, then layered over with 3WolfMoon by Shiro. To make the lipstick darker, and shine slightly green, I set it with Subrosia and Acid. NOTE: The lipstick will not shine like benihana. Instead, I was going for an old, set-in look using what I had in my case. I did not paint my teeth black, although that would be more accurate.

For the costume, I wore my purple iromuji with my asanoha juban underneath, Edo-style with the skirt trailing. I also wore my green hanhaba obi from late Meiji or Taisho, and a green/salmon kakeobi to keep the skirt up when I walked. Of course, white tabi and proper shoes had to be worn, as well. Over these, I would have worn a pink iromuji with woven fall/winter patterns, as is appropriate to the season, but I only had a silk one and I didn't want to wear it around the dogs at my friends' house. They're sweet dogs, but I couldn't risk any dirt or dog hair that time! Synthetics were the way to go. Easy to clean.

The key to pulling this off is to stay matte as possible, and be slightly messy. The ao-nyobo is mad with vanity, obsessed with beauty while becoming increasingly haggard and unkempt. Maybe next Setsubun, you can try it yourself!

October 28, 2012

Hyakki Yagyou: Nurarihyon

Earlier this month, I was killing time watching Nurarihyon no Mago (in English, "Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan") online while packing boxes to ship, catching up on e-mails, etc. Where do all of these yokai come from? The vast majority are likely the artists' interpretation of 'old' yokai, and many are likely his own creation. But where did Nurarihyon come from? What's up with his head? Is it a symbol of something else (like the one-eyed, worm-like Dorotabou?) Or is it just a creation for the anime, just a way of differentiating Nurarihyon from humans?

"Nurarihyon", by Sawaki Suushi - 1737
Nurarihyon is a 'slippery' creature, and in recent times has somehow been elevated from a generally shadowy person to a ruler of yokai. He is said to be very difficult to evict from the household, as he slips in while everyone is gone and drinks their tea, acting as if the place were his own. Then, he slinks away. If anyone sees him, they mistake him for the owner!

But that still doesn't answer where the elongated cranium image came from. So, was there a real person with a birth defect who became known as a yokai later, the way many battles won by many different men in time become 'known' as the ventures of one single man in history (ala Emperor Jinmu?) I had to find out.

Turns out, artificial cranial elongation (ie, distended the skull as seen in the painting) is a real thing! Yep, it really happened. Throughout various cultures and time frames, the practice of lengthening the skull was seen again and again... including in one region of Pacific islands, Vanuatu and Malakulan, off the coast of Australia. Is it unreasonable to think that perhaps, a long time ago, someone who had their skull lengthened was swept away on their boat during a storm and wound up near Japan's shores? Being a socially-isolated country for so long, perhaps some Japanese fisherman came across such a person, and believing in the supernatural, a new yokai came about.

How is cranial elongation done? Well, you see, when a person is born, the skull is very soft and hasn't fused into place yet. This is why infants die so easily from what to adults would be relatively minor injuries to the head. Starting in infancy, some cultures adapted ways to change the shape of the skull, either through binding or pressing it for months at a time to get it to grow a certain way until later towards adulthood, when it would begin to fuse together permanently. In Malakulan, it is believed that a person who has this done is closer to the spirits and is more intelligent than others in the tribe.

There are some pretty cool photos of actual skulls at the Wikipedia page, and plenty of photos of living people who have had this done. It's a fascinating practice, although, maybe not one I'd participate in.

October 25, 2012

Tumblr: A Second Home?

Tumblr: a second home for Bebe Taian?

I’m still working with layouts, trying to find one that works with my established (and comfortable) format. Posting multiple photos within one post is now daunting, to say the least.

But since most people have Tumblr now, and do not follow Blogger/Blogspot, I figured I should post in both places. Tumblr would allow me to have some additional content that I’ve been wanting to explore, since I won’t have to mark my entire blog ‘Adult Content’, when 95% of posts are generally safe for work. I would be free to discuss things like shibari, shunga, and a host of practices regarding human sexuality (including the role of geisha) more in-depth than I am capable of at Blogger.

If you have any layout suggestions, I'm mainly looking for free ones to work with. I like the red, black, and tan look. In fact, I preferred the Notes/book type free template Tumblr offers, but it was very narrow as far as posting space goes. I figured out how to widen the text area, but I have to edit the background photo and host it. Another ideal template made me go through more than 1600 lines of code looking for how to move one column to the left. I figured out the other two, and how to expand them, but not that one column. Argh!

Which means I'll be copying my old posts to the new Tumblr, when I have time. I copied a few of the first ones tonight so that I could play with themes, but I'll add more later.

To make it clear: I'll still update Blogspot/Blogger, much faster than I update Tumblr. The only benefit of Tumblr is my ability to post about additional NSFW topics. This blog will be SFW-only!

In other news... one week left until the fashion show. Or rather, two weeks, and one week left to prepare. One final meeting before the show. OMG. So much pressure. But I want to do well, so...

I'll do my best. I have all of the outfits for my team picked out! Can't wait to actually dress some people. I think I'll practice tying musubi on myself a bunch this week so that I can get it down for the show. ^_~ I also need to improvise/make some items, like makura and ita. Ita are pretty much just cardboard, so it should be simple enough. Makura... Roll up a towel and tie it with himo, maybe? I used to roll up long-sleeved shirts and tie them with the sleeves... Hnnn I'll think on it. If I have to, I have polyfill, and I can make makura if necessary.

October 23, 2012

霜降: Frost's Descent

霜降 is Soukou, Frost's Descent. Winter is coming; Autumn is almost over already! And here, I've been bringing out so many of my kimono for airing before the show... and thinking, "Oh! Such lovely oranges! What perfect Fall colours!"

I guess I should remark that it's been in the 70s-80sF here in the past week. Days that are so hot, I walk a few blocks to get groceries and come back needing a shower. Not exactly what I think of when I hear of winter coming!

But October is coming to an end. November will be here soon... in other places, the leaves are turning brilliant reds and golds and browns. I'm thinking of earthy chocolates with golden sheen, mame-iro (bean paste purple), bright, brilliant shades of green and oranges, and deep reds to speak of the coming month of warm fires and the crisp smell of cool air.

The Night in Tokyo show is coming up soon. Next Monday is our last meeting before the show. I have one more outfit to prepare, and then, I have to practice tying obi all week so that I'm faster come the day of the show! Wish me luck!

October 21, 2012

澤蘭子: 1903 - 2003

Sawa Ranko, sometime during Taisho
Sawa Ranko (澤蘭子)
July 25, 1903 - January 11, 2003
Born in Sendai, Miyagi, Japan

Ranko was a famous actress in the early 1900s. I found her photo on a blog the other day with nothing but her name. I have a few antique photographs of actresses, with little or no text to remember who they are. They seemed so mysterious... beautiful faces, whose voices I might never hear. Many of the movies made in Japan then never reached overseas, and while records of those movies exist, actual copies are nowhere to be found. Only the photographs remain...

But there are some that survive. Ozu and Naruse were extremely popular, and some of their films are available on TV or on streaming services like Hulu or Netflix. So, not all is lost...

Sawa Ranko joined Takarazuka Revue under the stage name Izumi Ranko in 1919, when Takarazuka was still relatively new. Takarazuka had only existed for a few years at that time. She later joined with Nikkatsu Mukojima Studios in 1923, but only stayed a year, moving on to work at Teikoku Cinema's Ashiya Studios. She became a leading actress there, and found her steps to fame. Ranko became exceedingly popular as an actress, scoring lead roles as heroines and tomboyish girls in movies like "Renbo Jigoku" (Love's Hell, 1924), Horaijima (1925), Murasaki no Nisou (1925), and many, many others. By 1931, she had become a freelance actress, appearing in a multitude of films until the 1950s. Her specialty was tomboyish roles, which had been especially fashionable during the war era. She had a relationship with conductor Konoe Hidemaro, whom she had a daughter with, before separating.

You can read one review of a still-existing Sawa movie, "Japanese Girls at the Harbor" here. If you have a Hulu+ account, you can watch the movie in full, and many other classic Japanese movies as well.

October 19, 2012

Coveted Kimono: Bingata Furisode

A rare bingata furisode, a vintage work from approximately 30-40 years ago.

Normally, I am not a fan of bingata, but I must admit that bingata items are generally of high quality and exceptionally tedious production. Real, not printed bingata, is not easy to find... pieces tend to be hand-made and intricately dyed. This is a great work of art!

The full picture is difficult to look at, and isn't particularly sharp. However, seeing the close-up shot, one can better appreciate the finery and attention to detail that manufacturing this piece must have demanded.

I love the colours! Blues tend to be amongst my favourites, although I find them difficult to wear because of my skintone. I like the additions of bright pink, which I think add to the youthful, feminine flair of the furisode!

But this kind of work did not evolve on it's own. Like most art forms, the bingata technique originated with international trade and, eventually, tyranny.

When Okinawa was still the Kingdom of Ryuukyuu, around the 1300s, many nations came and went to the island for trade. As a result, Ryuukyuu developed a style of dyeing comprised of what seems to be Indian or possibly Chinese origin, but with their own take on the flora and fauna around them. Katagami (first created around 710-794 in Ise prefecture of Japan) were used to stencil out and speed up the production of repeating images. Then, a rice-paste resist technique was used to dye the kimono before washing the fabric and stitching the item together. Ryuukyuuan items were already sought after by the many visitors the island got, but the Japanese nation felt they were becoming a little too valuable... and decided to seize the Kingdom for themselves.

In 1609, Japan invaded Ryuukyuu and prohibited trade with other countries, while demanding heavy levies and tributes from the nation in the form of fine handicrafts such as jofu (banana-fibre fabrics) and bingata-dyed cloth. The Japanese government demanded higher and higher quality goods, forcing Ryuukyuuan folks to travel elsewhere to learn new techniques and improve quality. This posed some other problems- pigments traditionally used were formerly imported from Fujian, China. Now that Ryuukyuu was forbidden to trade with other countries, they had to come up with new dyes to produce the fabrics that the Japanese wanted. On top of that, the goods they now produced were no longer as traditional as they were for the past 300 years. Because of sumptuary laws passed in Japan, certain classes of people could only wear certain colours and fabrics, meaning that in order for Ryuukyuu to produce goods to pay the tributes, they had to conform their techniques to those laws in order to be accepted. Even then, producing a single kimono could take a team of workers a month to produce, so only the very wealthy and royalty could afford to wear one. Patterns were kept within families, although stencils were sometimes purchased by collectors or taken by the occasional thief.

We can thank Shiroma Eiki for the survival of bingata today. During the Battle of Okinawa (1945), much of Okinawa had been first ravaged by Japanese armies, then by the American armies attempting to invade Japan. Those few months saw the destruction of thousands of lives, as well as all the knowledge and trade secrets that those people carried. Shiroma Eiki was a bingata artist who survived the battle and went hunting for patterns and stencils on mainland Japan after the war in order to resurrect his tradition. The Occupied forces post-WW2 became customers of his, and the style of bingata increased in popularity. Soon, bingata became widespread again, and Shiroma trained his son to carry on the tradition!

October 17, 2012

A Sneak Preview of Night in Tokyo 3

Just a quick look at some of the things I hope to bring to Night in Tokyo 3. Some items are still coming in the mail... I really hope they get here in time! But working with what I have on hand, here are some things I think you'll see that night. After the show, many of these items will be for sale (although models get first dibs), so keep watching! They'll be listed soon enough! And most will be ready to ship well in time for Christmas. <3

This one is a brand-new, tags-on washable hitoe kimono, brightly-coloured and LOUD. O.o The colours remind me of the cheshire cat from Disney's "Alice in Wonderland"- not the recent version with Johnny Depp, but the classic animated version. What obi to pair with it? Well... I'm still figuring that out. :P Not my style, so it'll be for sale after the show!

Wrist to wrist: 53"/134CM
Sleeve length: ?
Body width: 26"/66CM
Shoulder to hem: 66.7"/169.5CM
Material: Polyester

Cotton yukata, wool hanhaba obi set. The colours are so much brighter when seeing them outdoors in natural sunlight! Even though yukata are the easiest things to wear and take care of, for some reason, I've never properly appreciated them. I think it is because my own boxy, wide-shouldered frame makes them look so... unfeminine. Anyone else looks great in them! And admittedly, they are very, very comfy. These will definitely be for sale post-event.

Yukata
Wrist to wrist:
Sleeve length:
Body width:
Shoulder to hem:
Material: Cotton

Obi
Length:
Width:

I've no idea what I'm going to pair this with, but I've had it for so long, and it's so beautiful. My challenge is to make it work! I MUST find something in my collection that truly compliments this obi! I wish I had something in deep red-toned purple, to keep it monochrome with a bright teal splash. Maybe metallic blue + gold accessories. You can't see it in this photo, but along the very bottom of the taiko are two very thin metallic gold threads.

Due to the lack of things like fabric wear or fold lines (from wearing the obi), I assume the previous owner must not have had many ideas for wearing it either. This week, I bought a matching obijime... so, I am doubly determined to succeed.

Length of tare:
Width of tare:
Length of taiko:
Width of taiko:
Material: Silk

October 15, 2012

Nagatsuki, The Long Month

The long month, Nagatsuki, is finally here.

Momiji has turned vibrant- in yellows, oranges, and reds, the world is an explosion of colour! Kiku are in full bloom. My favourite are the spider chrysanthemums and ogiku (large kiku with inverted petals towards the bottom). For some reason, roses were also popular this time of year during the Taisho era, as evidenced by postcards and photographs of maiko and other women wearing rose-kiku combinations.

Really, I'm not sure why this month is 'the long month', considering that it doesn't appear to be any longer than the others... Nagatsuki begins today and ends on Nov. 13th, or slightly less than 30 days. So... ? If anything, it seems like this part of the year is about waiting for more holidays, such as New Years, various winter festivals, and the like. I can only think of two events happening between now and Kaminazuki (the 11th lunar month)!

But that doesn't mean the year is less exciting for me. I've been able to purchase some of what I need for the kimono show coming up, and I'm looking forward to earning the money for one or two items still missing. There are all kinds of festival preparations, and Halloween is coming too! So please don't think it is a boring month. There is so much to do, so much to come!

Mannered Mondays: Fetishism + VS's Blunder

For this Mannered Mondays, I thought we'd take a break from the usual book excerpts and rehash an old topic anew. After all, Halloween is coming up. It's my favourite holiday!

Last year, I wrote this post about cultural appropriation. For more clarity, I suggest reading this post about how cultural appropriation specifically works. If you already have a good understanding of this subject, then you'll see immediately how problematic the recent (now defunct) campaign of Victoria's Secret was.

Cut for those who don't want to see tacky lingerie model pics.

October 12, 2012

Some Changes to BebeTaian

This week, I made a few small changes to the sidebar. I realised that this blog was missing something I use so frequently on other blogs- the in-blog search bar! Ack!

Also, I talk about books, music, etc. as often as possible, and often include in-line links to the books I review, but now I've included a link directly to Amazon for you to look at those books! Please use it. It isn't much, but I think the way it works is that every time you go to make a purchase using that Amazon box on my blog, I might get a few pennies... and those few pennies help me immensely. And I hope it will make it more convenient for you, too, to find cool stuff about Japan that you'll love!

The last thing, and perhaps the most important thing, is the addition of a poll about what you'd like to see on my blog next year. The poll ends on Nov. 30th, so please vote! Categories are Holidays + Seasons, Kitsuke Info + Pics, Social Issues, Poetry + Art, Recipes + How To, and Spirituality + Superstition.

- Holidays + Seasons covers the stuff I try to talk about every week or so- seasonal changes (there are 72 of them, technically), holidays (traditional ones and national ones), and their meanings, origins, and associated stuff like artwork themed with those holidays.

- Kitsuke Info + Pics, of course, is about kimono! How to wear, various outfits, types of fabrics, seasonal attributes (echoed in Seasons), and more photos. I don't wear kimono as often as I used to, and I'd like to get back to doing that! Even when I wear them, I usually don't take photos. Should I take/post more of them?

- Social Issues. I've created a tag for this one this year, since I'm tired of reading about the issues prevalent in Japan but glossing over them. The fact is, Japan is a lovely country... but just like every country, the Japanese are real people with real stuff that happens in every human society. Human rights, in all of their forms (gay rights, women's rights, non-Japanese rights, etc.), should be discussed in the open. It does a disservice to the Japanese who live with oppression to glorify their oppressors (whether a specific person, or societal attitudes as a whole) as a paragon of virtue. The blanket of social issues is something I'm very passionate about, and I hope that posting about it will give folks a more balanced view of Japan. But... do you want to know?

- Poetry + Art: art of all kinds! Japan has a long history of various types of art. Textile arts, written arts (Japan boasts the first novel in the world- written by a woman, no less!), martial arts, culinary arts... do you want to know more about them? Ukiyo-e one day, swords and bushido the next, sado (tea ceremony) after that? Let me know!

- Spirituality + Superstition. Japan has 2000 years of various forms of religion coming and going and changing according to cultural whims! Many of the plethora of demons are actually Hindu gods/goddesses and monsters adopted from Indian travellers, morphed into new forms of Buddhism. Shinto and Buddhism of various forms are the two dominant religions in Japan, yet most people claim to be irreligious, attending functions the way some atheists still celebrate Christmas- not because we believe in Christ, but because it's a traditional family holiday with cultural roots. Superstitions about plants, yokai, directions, and astrology fall under this category, too.

- Recipes + How To. Tutorials on things Japanese, whether written by myself, or found elsewhere, such as Youtube. Food, sewing, making waraji (straw sandals), anything I can think of!

So vote for your favourite, and tell me if I've missed anything!

For Sale: Nishijin Silk Thread, Orange + White Obi

I put a few things up for sale this week! I posted them at the PerthroSupplies shop, since the cart system is very easy to use. They are also at my BebeTaian.weebly.com site. No bidding wars, no waiting for combined shipping at PerthroSupplies! Just click and pay. That's it!

Vintage Nishijin deadstock silk thread skein for obi weaving. Japanophiles know that Nishijin produces some of the finest silk in the world! It is very famous in Japan. I bought some for a restoration project, and ended up getting too many!

The skein weighs 3oz. It has a few small spots that are difficult to capture. You can see it in the upper-left corner on the skein. Silk naturally yellows with age, or if it is exposed to humidity. Keep your silk things in paper, away from humid or wet areas, and out of sunlight whenever possible!

Metallic gold, orange, black, and white Showa-era Nagoya obi for fabric. This obi has some faint stains overall, but it does have some 'clean' sections that may be cut for crafting handbags or somesuch. I have not tried dry-cleaning it to get them out, but I never wore it since it doesn't match anything I own. It is made of thick, stiff synthetic materials, I think.

Tare (length to wrap around the waist) is 91"/227.5CM long x 6.25"/15.6CM wide.

Taiko (length that makes the taiko knot in back) is 43.5"/108.75CM long x 12.5"/31.25CM wide.

More photos available!


As soon as the Night in Tokyo event is over, I'll have much more to list. For now, I'm trying to reserve most of my kimono items for dressing the models!

October 11, 2012

National Coming Out Day

I had no idea when posting yesterday, but today is National Coming Out Day! At least, it is here in America... but I think some other places also sort of recognize it. I was going to say 'celebrate', but it isn't really 'celebrated', in the way that people celebrate Christmas or a birthday. Instead, it's kind of a civil rights awareness push. A day to think of those who can't come out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc., and of those who were 'adversely affected' as a result of coming out/being outed. A day to share your own 'coming out' story. A day to come out yourself, if you want to. A civil rights push for understanding, tolerance, and equal rights for queer folks. NCOD is also a day of showing support for those who want to reveal their LGBTQI status to others, although frankly, that should be every day.

Not being lesbian in Japan, nor really a part of the 'gay community' here in the US, I don't think I should say too much. Rather, I'll leave you with something to read today- and I promise, each page is something I found interesting.

Lesbian Feminism in Japan: Movements + Opinions

The first is a link I found about a year ago, when searching for information about feminism in Japan. It's well-written in English, and not very difficult to understand. Particularly, I read Tsuruga-san's work for a women's studies class. It is not only about expounding the known difficulties of being homosexual (particularly lesbian) in Japan, but also offering solutions and ideas for resolutions.

 Being-A-Broad on Being LGBT in Tokyo

An older post from 2011, covering info and resources for LGBT folks in Tokyo, including film festivals, support groups, safe hangout spots, and other useful things to know.

The AraMa!TheyDidn't! Hugely Giant LGBTQ Mega-Post

For all of you who thrive on drama and want to be in the know about Japanese news and celebrities, AraMa!TheyDidn't! is the LJ group for you. Part civil rights, part tabloid commentary, the ONTD spinoff is chock full of resources and daily updates. Photo-heavy + link filled for extra time-killing awesomeness.

CCN Intl. - Lesbian Community Issues: Fear of Coming Out, Social Stigma

Events, high-profile queer folk, safe-houses, and touching on real problems such as being forced into heterosexual marriages in order to be socially protected, while secretly carrying out affairs. Never a good solution for any party involved! Just like in America, people in Japan face being socially cut off if they are revealed to be queer- parents disown/disenfranchise you, friends abandon you, employers fire you. You can lose everything. Officially, there are some anti-discrimination laws in Japan... but often, reports cannot be made, or law enforcement is lax about cases. The only way to survive is to align yourself with others who understand you, and to find a safe place to be.

One Gaijin's View on Lesbian Gender Roles

The author is honest and up-front about her limited experiences, offering an outsiders' view on lesbian gender roles in Japan. I found the part about colour-coded bracelets for one lesbian club to be pretty useful. I would think it's difficult to be in a singles' club and not know how to figure out what role the person you want to meet desires. Top? Bottom? Switch? "Butch" ladies don't always ascribe to the flannel-wearing, shaved- head stereotype. There are very 'feminine'-appearing women who do not care for a 'female' role in a relationship, as defined by social norms. So, how do you tell? If you want to be the 'girl', get a Neko bracelet!

This site includes other blog links and a 'further reading' list, one which I intend to investigate when I have more time to devote to the subject.

A Review of "Plica-chan" (a cute comic about real lesbian life in Japan)

A review of Plica-chan by a yuri fan. Well-written for those who have never read the comic before. ^_^ And if you want to read Plica online... MangaFox to the rescue!


Happy Coming Out Day to everyone who has or has yet to 'come out'. You are awesome. You are loved. Stay safe out there!

October 10, 2012

Asahi Shinbun Reports: LGBT in Japan

I wanted to report about it weeks ago, but I ended up shutting down for a week... so I want to repost it now. But Asahi Shinbun does not archive forever; some news articles I see one day, and then a few hours later they've been removed. Others are searchable for years. Therefore, I have reposted the entire article as well as a link to it, so that years from now (hopefully, I'll still be around!), anyone can reference to it.

As we fight for gay rights here in America (or as folks should call them, 'rights'), Japanese citizens have their own civil rights battle. And it's far from over.


Sexual Minorities Seek Acceptance As Ordinary Citizens
September 15, 2012 - Asahi Shinbun

A lesbian couple in Tokyo who got married 18 months ago
want to be seen “as ordinary citizens.” (Satomi Sugihara)
When the bride and groom cut the wedding cake, the 60 or so guests applauded, not only to celebrate the couple’s happy day but also out of respect for what they have endured.

Their hardships were symbolized by the absence at the wedding in Tokyo of four important guests—their parents.

“We waited to have a wedding party until we passed the age 30, but it was not long enough to make ourselves understood (to our parents),” Jin, the groom, said.

Jin, 35, and the bride, 36-year-old Natsu, are lesbians who say they simply want to be treated like “ordinary” people. They asked not to give their real names.

Japan's civil rights laws do not specify protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation. And same-sex marriages are not allowed under the family registration law.

October 8, 2012

Taiiku no Hi: Health + Sports Day

Taiiku no Hi, or Health + Sports Day, was established fairly recently in 1964, when Japan hosted it's first Olympics game! It's a great day for kids to play fun athletic events (or at least, fun for those who like them).

Normally, the Olympics are held in Summer, but because they were being hosted in Japan that year, they wanted to avoid tsuyu- the rainy season. October normally has beautiful, clear days, well past August-September's typhoon season. In fact, this part of the year has traditionally had some of the most mild, clear days, until recently when the weather patterns have changed all over the world. Global warming is not a myth!

But this year, most of Japan is expected to be partly cloudy. Even so, there are lots of activities coming for people of all ages! At schools, team sports and races are the norm. Track racing, the 100-metre dash, tug-o'-war, and other sports are most common. For adults, many public parks set up health days when you can get your blood pressure checked, some types of physical fitness tests done, and other stretching and activity events.

Want to celebrate? Even if you don't have any athletic prowess, try doing basic stretching exercises in your living room or outdoors. A $5 beginners' yoga/pilates DVD can help guide you, and even if you can't do everything on it, just practice what you CAN do! Do you really think ANYONE started yoga being able to bend over backwards? Heck no. Even as flexible as I still am, I can't do that. But I can touch my toes (since I get off-balance easily, I do it when sitting on the floor). I can do shoulder-stretches, and some easy exercise band moves. Don't know how? Free videos on Youtube are an excellent resource.

As for myself, physical fitness days at school (like the ones held in Japan) were my enemy. It isn't that I'm lazy. It's that when I run a single block, I feel like I can't breathe. It's like having a very, very tight rope around my ribs; no matter how I try to breathe, I just can't get air. Running? HA. Yeah. Not unless there are cops and/or rabid dogs chasing me! Not to mention several other injuries that generally make everything sore and achy all the time. Athletics are not my friend. Even so, I know that there are still things I can do: stretching, light weight-lifting with a high number of repetitions (think 1-5lbs), walking in the evenings, and swimming are all things that are low-impact and contribute a lot of benefits to my health. It helps that I now work part-time as a waitress. It's like being paid to go to a gym... to do all the things I described.

Try it yourself today! Take just 15 minutes for a quick stretch and workout. Just 10-15 minutes a day adds up over the week. Do it during the 5-minute commercial breaks while watching TV. If you have an office job, there are videos showing exercises that can be done at your desk, in your chair, even! Ganbatte yo!

 

Kanro: Cold Dew

The 17th of 24 seasonal subdivisions, Kanro means "Cold Dew". Autumn has firmly set in, and awase (lined) kimono have been in season since about mid-September. Rain is to be expected, and cooler morning temperatures should follow.

Leaves are turning gold and brown, so perhaps greens, royal blues, and mame-iro (bean colour) is in order? These are the colours I tend to wear this month. Perhaps tans and black as well, with golds and slight hints of reds and purples. It looks like the women who dressed their maiko might have felt the same!

Koyou, Wakana, and Ayakazu - October 2008 - Onihide

October 7, 2012

Making Koshi Himo

I spent today making koshi himo for the upcoming A Night in Tokyo event. This might not seem like such a tough activity- after all, they are only narrow tubes of fabric! But really, it's tedious and sometimes difficult. Lacking a good table (leaving me able to only mark and cut about 24" at a time), rotary cutters (meaning using scissors instead), and not having a cutting/binding machine (which would cut the strips AND fold them for sewing for me, no turning required), suddenly making koshi himo means a lot more work than most people think. How do I manage to do this without the sophisticated stuff?

First, it's pre-washing and ironing the cotton fabric. This is done to pre-shrink the fabric. People who straight-sew brand new fabric and THEN wash it tend to have the nasty surprise of the fabric (but not the thread) shrinking, so there are bunches and other problems in the finished product. Always wash your fabrics first! Ironing the fabric after washing makes sure that it's smooth and will cut evenly.

Afterwards, I cleaned up my small table, a rickety craft folding table that I've had for several years. It's fine for shows were the ground outdoors tends to be uneven anyways, but not for regular use indoors. However, I lack a better option right now. I got out my clear plastic quilting blocks to mark out where I needed to cut my fabric. I have a chalk pencil, but it kept breaking! x.x I'd sharpen it, start drawing a line, and *snap*. Sharpen, draw a few inches, *snap*. Arrrrrgh. I ended up finding a thin-line marker to draw out my lines. They usually wash out, and if they don't, the marks will be sewn inside the seams. Then, the strips have to be cut, each one by hand. I save time by keeping the fabric evenly folded in half, so I cut two layers at a time. In the end, this nets me approx. 12 strips.

Found and set up my old sewing machine. It's a plastic Singer quilting machine, probably around 10-11 years old now. It needed to be wiped and cleaned, too, so I spent some time doing that first. It doesn't matter if it's covered in storage- somehow, somewhen, cat fur will get into it and muck up the machinery! It never fails! Cleaning the machine every time I use it is a must.

Then, time for thread selection (I only use Gutermann). I find my colour, wind the bobbin (done mechanically by the sewing machine), and set up to sew! Since the strips are just straight, narrow ribbons to be folded in half and sewn, I don't use pins. I just fold the fabric in half and finger-press as I sew them, leaving the ends open for turning. Since koshi himo have to be very, very durable, I backstitch them at the openings, and also periodically throughout the length of the himo, usually every 12-18" or so. This helps to prevent a himo from completely coming apart if a seam should break. With proper care, it's unlikely that one will, but the precaution is there in case something happens. I usually chain-sew them all so that I don't waste thread in between each himo, and it makes a nice assembly line to work with.

After that comes the really, really un-fun part: turning them. Again, a blanket binding machine would double-fold them for me, so that I could just sew them shut without having to turn them, but I don't have one of those! Instead, I sit there with an aluminium afghan needle and turn the long, narrow strips right-side out until my joints ache. x.x This really becomes painful about three small-size koshi himo (approx. 84" long, finished) in, so I do the turning in waves. This part can take HOURS. One or two at a time, stop, soak my hands in epsom salts, turn one or two, stop again... This time, I was lucky. My husband helped me with half of them. Seven down, five to go! But I'm not done yet.

This himo is 10 years old!
Tonight, I only cut, sewed, and turned the himo. Tomorrow is a new challenge: finishing the last five, then re-ironing all twelve of them and finishing the ends. When the himo get turned, they get wrinkled. Ironing them flat can be a challenge because I want the seams to be even, a difficult thing to do without a mini-iron that most quilters and garment-makers use. Tedious work at best. The very last step is the easiest: turn in the ends so that the raw edges are hidden, then sew them in to finish the himo. I usually double- or triple-stitch the ends so that they don't come undone.

I started making them this way when I got my sewing machine around a decade ago, except back then, I had even less equipment to work with- like the desk! ::laughs:: Even so, the himo I made then are still in frequent use today, and they haven't come apart once yet! I've used them for everything, not just wearing kimono: tying up bundles of blankets when moving, pulling back curtains with a bright splash of colour, even tying into a temporary collar/leash for a cat going to the vet.

I expect himo to be durable, long-lasting, able to be endlessly washed, and to be attractive! And when I make them for others, I want them to be the best himo a person could buy. If you'd like me to make you a pair, I have them for sale on a custom-made basis. Larger-size himo are made wider as well for comfort! Just e-mail me with specifications, and I'll get back to you ASAP.

J-Fest Orlando 2012

J-Fest Orlando 2012 is coming up soon! If you're in Florida (or even Alabama and Georgia), you should really visit. I was there last year, and despite the rain, I had a great time!

Every year, Orlando's Japanese community (as well as lots of people from all over Florida) comes together to put on a big festival. There are vendors of all kinds: food, drinks, fans, pottery, kimono, cute Japanese things like Hello Kitty merchandise, in rows under tents so that you'll have plenty of shade. Martial arts demonstrators and dancers come together on a big stage, and anyone can join in some of the dances! The otaiko performance is amazing! And of course, the staple of every Japanese convention, there is a cosplay contest. >D

I wanted to go this year, but I'll be working on A Night in Tokyo that day, instead. How I wish they were a week apart! I'd try to attend both!

I know the official website needs some work, but the time posted for this year IS correct!

Sunday, November 4th, from noon to 5pm!

The Village at Hunter's Creek
13574 Village Park Dr., Orlando FL 32837

October 5, 2012

Kinyoubi Kimono 10

Previously, "Your biggest kimono fears."

10. Your biggest kimono inspiration.

I always look at what geisha and maiko are wearing, all year 'round.

The Kyoto houses pay so much attention to the language of kimono, and I can almost always find the answer to my questions by what someone is wearing. "What on earth do I put with colours like these?! Auuugh! This colour chart doesn't help!" Ooh, that maiko is wearing something similar... OMG THERE IS THE ANSWER! It was here the whole time! Now, how do I get an obi as nice as that one?

A popular postcard photo - two maiko of Kyoto in Autumn.
If nothing else, I look at ukiyo-e. The women portrayed were often the most fashionable of their day, and I adore Edo-period style. They looked so... comfortable and sexy in their clothes. A bit of red silk from the juban sticking out at the collar, layers of kimono almost haphazardly tied on and held together with a hip-to-overbust wide obi (the widest obi ever became), less... stiff-looking knots in back, nothing like the fancy styles of today's fukuro obi for ofurisode.

This, of course, only fuels my desire for more kimono... to be like them: to be iki.


Next, "My kimono collection."

October 3, 2012

Matcha + Mikan Cookies

Matcha + Mikan cookies! My local teahouse has plain matcha cookies, and they're so, so delicious and delicate. I have my own set that I'm working on for a new recipe involving orange marmalade (no mikan jelly here! -_-). But if you CAN get mikan jelly, please DO! Mikan is known here as a Satsuma orange, for the region they were first imported from, so if you get the chance to try one, you should. It's unlikely, however, that you'll find a species-specific jelly pre-made on the shelves at your local grocery.

MATCHA + MIKAN COOKIES:


2c flour (for once, I say use bleached flour. It has much less flavour than unbleached, leaving that for tea.)
1/2tsp salt
1/2c powdered sugar
3tbsp matcha powder (a specific variety of green tea)*
1c unsalted butter, softened
1/2tsp almond extract (the real stuff, not the imitation. They taste different!)
Extra sugar, for sprinkling
Mikan jelly, or orange marmalade (no HFCS, just oranges, pectin, and preservatives)
Plastic or something to chill the dough in

Soften the butter and beat it until fluffy in one bowl. Put in the almond extract and beat for another second or two. In another bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together. This ensures even distribution of tea in the dough. Spoon the dry ingredients into the butter/almond extract bowl and beat together.

Divide the dough into two loaves. Somewhat flatten them and wrap them in plastic for chilling (takes up less room). Leave the dough in the fridge for about two hours, or until firm. Chilling the dough serves two purposes: 1) it's a sticky dough, and chilling it makes it somewhat less sticky; 2) the dough is delicate, and will burn easily. Chilling helps prevent burning it.

Now, here's the creative part: you have two choices: basic thumbprint cookies, or sandwich-style cookies!

For thumbprint cookies, use a spoon to get evenly-sized balls of dough onto your parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Then, using a finger or smaller spoon, leave an indentation on top of each cookie for the orange marmalade to settle into. Make sure you don't make the bottom of the indentation too thin, or the cookie will break. If you want to, sprinkle the dough with a little sugar on top.

For sandwich-style cookies, lightly flour your rolling surface, and roll your dough out to be approx. 1/8"-1/4" thick. You might have to sprinkle the top of the dough with a little bit of flour too, to prevent the rolling pin from sticking. Don't use too much! Then, cut out your cookies. It's a good idea if you use a simpler shape, so that when they become sandwiches, the cookies will be mirrored properly and fit together. These, too, you can sprinkle with a little extra sugar.

I have non-stick pans, but even so, if you *can* use parchment paper over your pans, you should. This dough is a bit delicate and finicky. Preheat your oven to 325F. Lay out your cookies. They don't expand very much, so you shouldn't need too much room between them.

Both types of cookies should only need 12-15mins in the oven, until the edges turn slightly darker. The thinner the cookie, the shorter the time. At around the 12-minute mark with the thumbprint cookies, I take them out and drop a heaping spoonful of orange marmalade into the centre of each cookie. Then I put them back in the oven for just a few more minutes until they are done. Every oven is different, so experiment with times. The orange marmalade will bake into this stiff, gooey jelly, sweet and tart and delicious!

With sandwich cookies, bake them all the way. Simmer the orange marmalade in a small saucepan until it bubbles before spreading a thin layer of marmalade onto one cookie. Then carefully flip another cookie on top and press together. If you find a better way to do this, let me know!

Matcha, in it's proper state! Look at that colour! <3
*A note about matcha: the colour of good matcha is very specific. If it becomes tan or slightly yellowish, it is old and stale. It must be kept in vacuum packs or in tightly sealed jars, or it will lose it's flavour. If your local Barnie's Coffee or Smoothie King-type place SAYS they have matcha ANYTHING, ask them to prove it. One shop boasted a matcha smoothie, and then showed me a pale seafoam green powder. That is NOT matcha. It wasn't even tea! I have no idea what was in the bucket, but it was NOT what was advertised! So when buying tea, make sure you get what you're paying for!

October 1, 2012

Hyaku Monogatari: Yotsuya Kaidan (四谷怪談)

四谷怪談, Yotsuya Kaidan, is the murderous story of Yotsuya Oiwa-san and Tamiya Iemon. It is a very old tale with many, many variations as it has passed down through generations.

Long ago, in the samurai days, battles were frequent and warlords ruled the country. In those days, Oiwa was a beautiful woman, upper-class and comfortable in her father's fortune. Meanwhile, Tamiya Iemon was a destitute ronin (a masterless samurai), with an eye for luxuries his lifestyle had previously afforded him and a taste for pretty girls. It was an unfortunate match when Oiwa began to fall in love with the brutish but powerful Iemon. This is the tale of their undoing:

(cut for trigger warnings: murder, ghosts)