Bebe Taian: March 2013

March 26, 2013

Book Review: Japanese Tales, by Royall Tyler

Awhile ago, I bought a tonne of books to read and review. I haven’t taken much time to read anything, and one book has taken weeks between laundromat runs and a half-hour here and there before bed. Finally, I have two to review this week!

The first is “Japanese Tales”, by Royall Tyler. I was hoping for something more obake influenced, but this book didn’t disappoint! “Japanese Tales” is a collection of 220 stories, which were translated and edited by Tyler. What made me especially happy was his style of notation in the preface and the appendix. Why? Because he breaks down (in Romanized Japanese) what texts the stories come from, along with what approximate dates these stories supposedly came from (supposedly, because it’s up to you whether or not to believe in someone’s religious visions of heaven or hell), and the context of some of the works.

Most of the stories in this book are Buddhist-related, but a few are Shinto-inspired, or a mix. Fox and badger magic, powerful monks, and gods/goddesses abound. There are a few stories of obake or demons, but not many, so if that’s what you’re after, another book may be better. Even so, “Japanese Tales” is worth the read!

One such tale is as follows:


A miserably poor monk of Miidera decided that the temple had nothing to offer him, and that if he meant to claim the success he deserved he would have to try elsewhere. Not wanting to leave in broad daylight, especially looking as shabby as he did, he stole off in the darkness before dawn. Having a long, hard road ahead of him, he soon lay down for a nap.

He dreamed of a pale, sad, skinny youth, clearly a traveler like himself, whom he had not seen before. “Who are you?” he asked.

“Your servant these many years,” the youth replied. “We’ve never been apart and I’m coming with you now.”

“I don’t know you. What’s your name?”

“I’m not exactly a person so I don’t have a normal name. But people who catch a glimpse of me call me Poverty.”

The man woke up and understood his real future. With that youth beside him he might as well stay put. Back he went to Miidera, lost in thought.

March 19, 2013

Converting to Islam: One Experience

A small followup on the Islam in Japan megapost of last November. The video follows two native Japanese converts to Islam, who discuss their attitudes about converting and a Hajj pilgrimage. The video is fairly short, but I still suggest that one should watch it. 

March 14, 2013

Byouki dosu e.

I've been sick for almost four days now. Normally, I don't get sick, but with how strong the recent flus have been, I can only say I'm surprised I've held out this long against it. This means buying lots and lots of tissues. Why am I bothering to tell you this? Because in Japan, if you have allergies or if you get sick, don't worry! No matter where you are, in virtually every major city, there is someone in public handing out free packs of tissues with ads on the wrapper. At least, there were when I was there in 2005. Sadly, this seems to be decreasing because of (what else) the economic crisis. But in lighthearted news, some fun facts about tissue advertisements!

Fun Facts About Pocket Tissue Advertisements in Japan

3/12/13 by
pocket tissue advertisements2
If you’ve ever visited a big city in Japan, you’re sure to have seen a bored looking 20-somethings passing out free tissues with colorful advertisements inserted into them. Upon receiving these pocket tissue advertisements, you probably thought, “Hey, cool, free tissues,” and continued on your way. But pocket tissue advertisements have been around in Japan for over 40 years now, and are a surprisingly effective form of advertising. Let’s take a look at some fun facts about this unique marketing strategy in Japan.

Fun facts about pocket tissue advertisements
  • The first appearance of pocket tissue advertising was in 1969. This form of advertising is almost exclusively seen in Japan.
  • The majority of pocket tissue advertising is for loans and consumer credit.
  • Unlike advertisement flyers, which are immediately thrown away, pocket tissue advertisements are usually kept until all tissues are used up. Since consumers keep pocket tissue advertisements for a long time, studies have shown that they have a deep psychological impact on the brain, influencing shoppers to choose the familiar brand or company advertised on the packages.
  • Some businesses choose to attach free drink or discount coupons to the tissues as well.
  • For companies who use pocket tissue advertising, using tissues of higher quality is said to create a better company image.

March 12, 2013

How to Use Chopsticks

How to use chopsticks (ohashi), as explained by The Japanese Tradition. It's all in Japanese, and there are no subtitles, but without them, you can still clearly see the many ways to use chopsticks. It's a great video well worth watching, even if you've been a pro for years!

March 8, 2013

Private Collection: Taisho Roses

 I won this gorgeous piece today! I didn't think I would, but my mother sent me some birthday cash, so I had some extra that I hadn't planned on. It's quite expensive, compared to what I'm used to paying... but I think I'll wear it more often than a geisha's hikizuri.

According to the seller, the komon doesn't have any tears or stains. Likely, there are some small stains, but they might be hard to see on a pattern this busy. There often are, so I plan on it. I'm sure when it's in bright natural light, I'll be able to see any damages better. I still have to check my juban to ensure that the sleeves fit the kosode, but other than that, I can't wait to wear it! 
The komon appears to be Taisho-era, with the lining replaced. It was listed as an antique from a trusted dealer, and the original lining is still in parts of the sleeves. Unfortunately, linings tend to rot before the outer shell does, and the rot spreads if the lining isn’t removed. Some of my other kimono have been damaged that way. I am fortunate that someone thought to take care of this one. It really is perfect! 

The pattern is so romantic. Stylish roses on stripes, a soft fuzzy weave... it's a summer pattern, though. And lined? It happens. These days, roses seem to appear nearly all year on kimono. Maybe that trend isn't as new as I thought! So, maybe in May, just before hitoe season, I'll wear it, or just when Summer turns to Autumn, just after ro season, for the warm colours before fading into deep purples, reds, and browns. 

Now: what obi to pair it with? 

I think I've ruled out anything too bright, like turquoise. Even though the small elements are there, I don't want to overdo an already busy, bright kimono like this one. I don't think browns, either, since the fine details are in black. Pink is a possibility, but I don't have any pink obi outside of the neon pink and gold dragon obi, and that is very worn. 

That leaves me with Takehisa Yumeji-style classic options: black, metallics, white, red. White by itself is too much, but if the white details were very small, like the hints on the rose petals, it might work. Angular designs to imitate the petals, or I could go with flowing designs to imitate the branches. 

Maybe the black-on-black karabana side of this one, plus red accessories?

Maybe red accessories would be too much?

Red obi-jime, dark purple obiage? Black haneri? Not flat-black, but a black-on-black woven design? Or maybe red with metallic or white designs, to match the obi-jime, while I sew a black satin eri over the existing kosode eri, Edo-style? So many options!

March 3, 2013

Coveted Kimono: The One That Got Away

It's the one that got away.

I can't justify buying this gorgeous hikizuri when I can't do things like support myself on my income. I have other people to pay for, as well, so I had to let this one go. A local person is selling it for only $250, and it's in pristine condition, which is what made it so hard. Hikizuri kimono in very bad condition frequently go for double that on Ebay or Ichiroya, but this one had very few issues.

There's a dirt spot in the lining, some faint marks from trailing on the hem, and the white parts of the snow have the telltale aging yellowed patterns of spots from humidity exposure, but nothing ugly or overt. All in all, it's beautiful. The crests are sewn and glued on, not dyed, and the shoulders have been widened professionally, it looks like. The seller didn't have exact measurements, since he used it only as a display piece, but holding it up, it was easily more than six feet long. These things tell me that it is a relatively new piece, most likely Heisei era (the current era, post-1989).

If you would like to purchase this piece, please let me know and I'll contact him. I can ship it anywhere in the world, if the buyer pays for shipping.

March 1, 2013

For Sale: Bright Kurotomesode

I've shown glimpses of this one before, but I never really cleared adequate space to photograph it until now. There's really no excuse. It's been two years, and I've photographed other kimono since, despite my camera's failings. But finally, I've done it today. I only wanted to unfold/refold so many right now, since the room is particularly clean, but I have virtually 0 energy. I took some photos of other items, but I'll wait to post those. Bonus: today was really sunny out, so there was actually some light in the apartment! Always a challenge in here, with so few windows, and none facing east or west.

This kurotomesode (black tomesode) is from Showa or early Heisei, and features cranes on a Japanese courtyard-style setting. The colours for the tomesode are quite unusual: neon greens, blues, purples, and yellow, paired with the more traditional red, white, and gold. There is both gold couching embroidery and gold dust adhered with rice glue in the details. This means that it cannot get wet, or the dust will come off!

Since kurotomesode are the most formal category of kimono, it is most appropriately worn to operas, black-tie events, weddings, etc. Normally, married women or older women will wear a kurotomesode, where an unmarried woman over 25 would likely choose a five-crested irotomesode (a coloured tomesode) to show her unmarried status. Although, a more conservative woman (or a woman who does not want to be married) might also wear a kurotomesode in this situation. This kimono in particular has a pattern of many flying cranes, so it is likely that it belonged to the mother of a bride, or maybe an older sister.

I can only find one flaw on this kimono, which is quite unusual for a vintage piece. Normally, such kimono have sections of fading where they were hung for display, or where light got to them, or small holes from the inevitable insects, animal claws, or other hazards of wearing clothing had occurred. But the only damage to this one is a single black spot in the wrong place on the interior design. The spot appears to be black dye, a small smudge in the wrong place. On the whole, this kimono is pristine, and may have never been worn.

The stitching at the back seam shows that the kimono was hand-sewn, not a modern machine-made piece. Kimono like this are ridiculously expensive when purchased new at a shop, especially when they are hand-sewn instead of machine-sewn!

But as it is, I am selling this one at a very low price. I simply don't have the storage necessary for my entire collection anymore, so I'm weeding out those that I don't wear frequently, or ones that I bought with other lots which are not appropriate for me to wear, such as children's kimono, wedding items, etc.

From hem to shoulder, along the back seam - 63"/157.5CM
Wrist to wrist - 53"/132.5CM
Sleeve length - 19.25"/49CM
Width of bottom hem - 22.5"/56CM
Crest is kiri, paulownia. 

Age: By the fine yellowed appearance of some of the silk, I can tell that it is not a new piece, likely from Showa era. I cannot be certain. With newer "standardized" kimono, it can be so hard to tell. However, it was well-stored. The yellowing so far seems to be slight and even, not blotchy like kimono which were exposed to moisture.

See it here!