Bebe Taian: January 2014

January 28, 2014

Aaugh! Must... Clean... Everything...

Must... clean... everything!

I worked Sunday, then had jury selection duty yesterday and wasn't able to post anything substantial... x.x But I still haven't gotten the photos from the last geisha show either! This one was really low key. We had a raised platform that we partially covered in reed mats, with a small kotatsu that I ended up sitting on to raise me higher for the rest of the audience to see me. The show before this, we had a full scene with screens, furniture, antiques, etc. set up, but for this event, it was really small and short (maybe an hour? hard to tell).

I've discovered that since the structure was very different this time, I need to come up with an organised list of things to touch on, in an arrangement that kind of flows from one topic to the next. So I'll add that to the list of things to do! Until I get those photos though, I can't really post about the whole day, can I?

But wow, I'm piled under clutter in the apartment again. This happens pretty easily. I run the online store, have been helping a friend clean out her dad's house, and going through piles of legal/insurance paperwork resulting from the car accident I was in. But underneath all that somewhere is a pile of things I want to scan in for this blog! Ofurisode advertisements from ten years ago (Disney ofurisode, anyone?), kimono accessory photos, so much stuff. Can't wait to get it all out, scan it in, and start posting!

January 22, 2014

Coveted Kimono: Hikizuri Edition

Since I'm going to be doing the geisha show today, I'm coveting plenty of kimono I wish I had... like hikizuri. Which might actually be long enough to trail behind me properly... if they were made in the past few years. If they're the vintage style I love, I can wear them as 'normal' kimono with an alluringly deep neckline.

 I'll be honest; I have nowhere to wear such a formal piece. It's like the black tie event dress in Western equivalent. Black hikizuri are so common on the market, however, and are usually in excellent condition- likely because there are relatively few occasions to wear them on. A couple of festivals like Hassaku, some formal events upon request, and outside of that, they can become outdated fairly quickly. And a geisha can't possibly go outside in outdated clothing, can she? What on earth are people paying her for if she's walking around in old clothes?

Nope, they get cast off after a few passes around. So some fantastic beauty like this can become ours... if you happen to have about $550.

The red lining in the kimono gives away it's age, and sadly, it's in great disrepair. Maybe it can be used for a display piece to illustrate past designs of geisha kimono, in some museum or in a private collection in a home without animals, but otherwise, I wouldn't buy this one. And yet, how wonderful it must have felt to dance in it...

The scene is of a Gion festival, naturally. The parade of people is a lively scene on such a dark and somber kimono. The colours are muted- is it to preserve the formality of the garment, or is the fade alluding to faded, dim memories of festivals gone by long ago, as seen by the maker of the kimono? A shame there aren't journals (that I know about) written by the makers of kimono like these... I would have loved to know the thought process behind deciding which scenes to paint. Naturally, Ichiroya is the seller of this piece.

A bright, lovely piece from Shinei is a refreshing blue and misty golden-white. You can almost feel the worn black lacquer lamp, hear the trickle of water into wooden buckets, smell misty air and grass, can't you?

Hagi, kikyo, and nadeshiko prove this one to be a summer kimono before you examine it closely to see the gauze weave. It's an ethereal feeling, otherworldly, to be in a garden in the twilight hours at dawn or dusk. The wet smell and slight sinking of your steps in the soft earth, rustling of leaves and occasional crack of a small twig, while crickets sing and (if you're lucky) fireflies light by. A black obi repeating firefly or lamp patterns would be ideal with this hikizuri, I think.

If you are thinking about buying from Shinei, you should know that when they were on Ebay, they had thousands of positive feedbacks (including quite a few from myself)... however, there were and sometimes still are some significant issues you might want to know about before deciding to use their services. Undeniably, they sell some gorgeous kimono, but it's a bit of a roulette scenario.

January 21, 2014

Geisha Show Tomorrow!

A Japanese-run group here in Florida hired me again for an educational and fun show for a private company. It's a fairly small venue, but I like small gatherings better than huge ones. Much more intimate and personal, a 'closed world'. I expect this one will be much like the last one, so I'm very excited!

The show involves geisha/maiko henshin (and it's naturally made clear that it's a performance, not actual geisha/maiko), with an open-ended skit. Set up on a stage, there's two or three of us dressed in kimono with various articles of furniture and folding screens, chatting away as if we are on a day off in a residence. We introduce ourselves and talk about what geisha do, some of the history of geisha, banter between each other a bit, and answer questions from the audience. I'm usually the cheeky apprentice (although that isn't so much an act as it is real life...), but maybe I'm a little less trouble since I can dress myself. At least, I hope I'm less trouble than I think!

I try to avoid questions regarding most politics, especially regarding American involvement in Japan. It's a pressing issue even today, but it isn't the sort of thing that gets you invited back when you ruffle feathers. If asked about something, I try to refocus it on how it affected geisha, the economy in Japan, and the survival of every-day people... especially in front of women-predominant groups, probably. I think issues women face largely depend on culture, and cultural views of outsiders who have more sway in their countries than the natives do. So especially when it comes to Western views of mizushoubai, the "water trade", attitudes need to be checked and gently corrected.

Since the details are basically set, now I have to decide what to wear tomorrow. Something subdued, given the location? Something flamboyant (even though geiko generally wear subdued outfits) as it's a stage production? Something vintage and beautiful? Something synthetic and rather plain, so it can be washed? I'm definitely leaning towards synthetic and new, considering the damage to my kimono last time. So that leaves me with a choice- something red and bright, like this outfit, or the purple cloud iromuji with either the red plum blossom obi (seasonally appropriate) or a bright green shousou-in/karabana pattern?

I think the peachy-pink kikko obi, while pretty, might be too 'quiet' for an entertainment production, so it's probably out, but I think I'll still use the purple and orange accessories if I go with the bright green shousou-in obi. I'm not sure what I'll use if I go with the red plum blossom obi. Maybe soft pinks, white, more seasonally-appropriate colours to 'quiet' such a bold obi on such a pastel kimono.

What should I do? Well, I only have maybe 15 hours to figure that out, but even so...

Red iromuji, gold obi, white/red accessories?

Purple iromuji, green obi, orange/purple accessories?

Purple iromuji, red obi, ??? accessories?

Hnnn January is so difficult. Because now is plum blossom season... a few months ago, the choice would be easy: my black fukuro with winter motifs of shouchikubai. But the pine and bamboo pattern is out of season now! Even though they won't know, I will, and likely the coordinator will, since she used to work in Japanese textile manufacturing. Muzukashii dosu e...

And naturally, if anyone has ideas about these types of shows or would like to offer some guidance, always let me know. I'll do my best!

January 20, 2014

大寒: Great Cold

Here in Florida, as in Japan, we are actually getting Daikan ("Great Cold") season! The polar chill is here again, and it seems like everyone is breaking out coats that we shouldn't even own as Floridians!

Saturday, I spent my day at the flea market, in two layers of thermal socks while my toes lost feeling. I pulled them off to put them under the bathroom's hand dryer and noticed that my nails had turned bluish-purple. It was really that cold! I was in two shirts, jeans, and a thick jacket too, and still freezing. Normally I like cold weather, but Florida has kind of a wet cold that creeps into the bones. It's very different from cold up north! I was actually warmer in waist-deep snow one year in Michigan than I am down here in 50F chill. Strange, isn't it?

But now is the time for snowy plum blossoms! Bamboo is receding, and branches of early spring flowers and grasses are starting to show. Wear greys, pale pinks, mouse-browns, and plenty of shades of pale blue. Flowing silk in two layers, thicker silk obi, and pretty black lacquer or kiri zori.

Fortunately, it is the very last before Spring starts! Winter is ending at last!

January 19, 2014

Watch "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" for Free!

"Jiro Dreams of Sushi" is a documentary about the 85-year old sushi chef, 小野 二郎 (Ono Jirou), a man who lives to perfect the art of making wonderful sushi in his 3-star restaurant. But it is also the story of his sons, both sushi chefs, obligated to take over their father's restaurant after his demise. Jirou-san watches his customers intently, constantly pursuing perfection in his work, looking for any sign of delight or displeasure, looking for any improvement... but everyone's taste is different, isn't it? So what one thinks is amazing may not be liked at all by another... so is this all in vain? Is there such a thing as perfection in food? Does he have unrealized dreams? Do his sons wish for another life?

Watch "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" for free on PBS until Jan. 22! Just two days left to see this amazing documentary without having to pay anything. <3 Netflix usually also features this documentary, so if you miss the deadline and have Netflix anyways, you can watch it there too.

January 18, 2014

The Weekender, Vol. 3

THIS WEEK:

I found my old stash of bookmarks from many OS-reinstalls ago! <3 Reorganizing them has been a challenge and a thrill. I was sad to find that a website once focused on LGBT resources in Japan has since been bought by another Japanese company which has since erased any mention of the history of the site.

I did break out the kanji cards I made myself! I may start taking 10-15 at a time to work each week and studying in our downtime. <3 Writing them myself instead of printing them took forever, but I think I'll remember them better if I write them myself. You can make some too!

Check out Wikipedia's list basic kanji. You can copy these characters to Paint if you have Japanese support installed. I use Paint on a 700x1000px bitmap so that I can print as many as possible on a standard sheet of paper. Then I printed them out, cut them into squares, and used clear packing tape to affix them to 1/2size flash cards. On the back I wrote info from Denshi Jisho to define each one. I started with 100 that I thought I'd learn quickly, and included some that are very similar to each other to quiz myself on the difference. I'll probably start like my Japanese teacher did- 10 a week, make a list of what 10 in English, then at the end of the week look at the list and have to write the kanji from memory. Grade myself and be honest about rotation and ability to remember. Repeat!

WEEKEND READING?

- Hamasaki Ayumi's "GAME" made it back into my playlist this week! It's a blast from the past, circa 2004, but it's a fun video for such an emotional song.
- An article from 2012 is circulating it's way around Tumblr again, and it's always worth re-reading: Female game designers of Japan. A reminder that the idea that women don't play video games and don't do computers/programming/design is a lie. We rock, and we need more opportunities to show it!
- Yamatoku Kimono has undergone a massive redesign and now offers bulk kimono for wearing and for crafting. If you do both, be sure to check out his listings! Yamatoku has been around a long time and was one of the first sellers I bought from on Ebay.
- Surviving in Japan looks like a handy guide to getting around and doing things 'right'. If your interest is daily life in Japan, and your Japanese is still rusty, this might help you!

SURVEY:

Who is your favourite J-pop artist? 
Hnnn always a toss-up. I like Ayu always, because she was the first J-pop artist I was introduced to, and she has so much grace and style when she messes up on stage. She's human like us! Even if I sometimes think her voice is a little too high-pitched for my taste...

Are you teaching yourself another language? What language?
I don't know about teaching myself. >D Obviously Japanese, but it's pidgin Japanese at best. I need a real tutor!
 
Did you celebrate Seijin no Hi this week (even if you're not in Japan)?
Nope, way too old now. :P Besides, it's only for 19-20 year olds, so there's a really narrow range to celebrate unless you're the parent of someone that age.
 
What kind of crafting do you do? 
Sewing, crochet, papercrafts, jewellery-making, candle-making. I diversify, since I always want to learn something new. Maybe this year I'll take another stab at sashiko. (Sashiko= "little stabs", taking a stab, yeah? I kill me.)
 
Who is your favourite kimono designer?
Hnnn Mamechiyo wins for inventive and fresh, but I prefer some of the unnamed designers who made my favourite antiques. Taisho Roman will never be out of style for me, even though their names were lost to time...

Your turn!

Who is your favourite J-pop artist? 
Are you teaching yourself another language? What language?
Did you celebrate Seijin no Hi this week (even if you're not in Japan)?
What kind of crafting do you do? 
Who is your favourite kimono designer?

January 16, 2014

成人の日: Furisode in Tokyo!

成人の日 reads as Seijin no Hi, Coming of Age Day. It is the day when a Japanese person is marked as an adult, occurring on the second Monday of January every year. Since year 2000, Seijin no Hi became moved to Monday because of Japan's Happy Monday System of organizing holidays to allow 3-day weekends! Before then it was every 15th of January, and even then, Seijin no Hi as a public holiday only started in 1948.

It seems however, that popularity of the holiday is shrinking, according to some sources. This may be because formalwear for women, especially ofurisode customary to the ritual, is prohibitively expensive! This is increasingly a burden during times of economic hardship, which is being experienced everywhere right now, but Japan is hit especially hard by disasters and burdens afterwards. Since buying a furisode set can cost into the thousands of dollars, most of them are rented or borrowed from an older relative. Even so, many women choose to patronize beauty salons, which offer full service: professional kimono-dressing, hair, and makeup packages. It's a sensible thing to do when most women do not wear kimono anymore!

If popularity of Seijin no Hi is declining, though, you'd never know it from photos around Tokyo... 

Yoshikazu Tsuno - AFP/Getty Images, The Guardian
And yet, this year, there are truly some stunning and very un-traditional ensembles...

Get larger vers. at TokyoFashion.com
Bright colours are nothing new at these festivals, but (chalked? dyed?) hair! Those bold Taisho-style stripes! Those heels (not zori, like on the right)! The feather kakaeobi! And... Barbies? Yes, those are Barbie dolls tied into the woman's hair on the left! I have no idea what's going on there, but alright, sure, why not? I'd have really loved to ask her what the inspiration for that was, though.

January 12, 2014

For Sale Sunday: More Himo + Accessories

I missed this one today! Actually tried to sleep in for once, after working shifts all week... and then went to work this afternoon. But I did manage to list a few new things, and took photos of plenty more! So those should be for sale soon, including some great vintage Tiffany crystal, vintage Wedgewood dishware, and various cat-themed items.

Kimono sleeves too short? Yeah, they usually are on vintage kimono (or really, any kimono not made expressly for you). But that's OK- just wear a few bracelets! With casual outfits, one or two pieces of jewellery or a nice pair of gloves can bring a modern touch and plenty of fun. This one is for sale on Etsy.

This bracelet's colours and composition is based on the tarot card "The Empress", representing emotion as a force of nature. I have a few bracelets based on archetypes, all different colours and themes.

Only three of these beautiful shibori koshi himo left! Each one was handmade from silk, with real shibori made the traditional way, not the faux-shibori which is made by printing fabric. One is in shades of pink, one in peachy-yellows, and one in bright orange. Even though they aren't seen when worn, luxury comes in the little things.

Get all three as a set in my Etsy shop!

More haori himo, made from a mix of vintage and new beads. These are pretty, lightweight for delicate vintage fabrics, and light-catching. Each one is one of a kind, so you'll be the only one wearing the one you purchase!

Himo run $5-8 each, and I combine shipping. Most shipping for small items like these maxes out at $6 within the US.

January 11, 2014

The Weekender, Vol. 2

THIS WEEK:

Wow, this week went by fast. O.o I feel like I haven't had time for anything! I guess that's a good thing. Work picked up a lot, which helped me to pay the rent this month and take Bebe to the vet. She had some pretty alarming symptoms (lethargy, uneven pupils, one non-responsive), but relatively fortunately, it's just cataracts and possibly a pinched nerve in her neck that she can stretch and roll out of. She did by yesterday. So, pain meds for the Bebe-cat. These things left me with little time to do the research I really wanted to do this week, or even to continue reading, but I suppose there's always next week, right?

WEEKEND READING?

- Wednesday the 8th was the 22nd anniversary of the "Comfort Women" protests in front of the Japanese Embassy of Seoul, S. Korea. Comfort Women were prisoners held by Japanese, especially during WW2. These weekly protests are particularly important, as Japan still has not made restitution to the last remaining survivors, and to this day, protest any reference to their existence at all.
- It looks like more and more small businesses are dwindling due to the cheapness of mass-produced products, usually made by underpaid and overworked labourers. This one, fortunately, has some help! A friendly reminder to support smaller venues whenever possible. :P
- Coming back to Nintendo, which I mentioned last week, I found a guide for maintenance. Why didn't I read this stuff sooner? Everything new is on CD, but NintendoDS probably still has many of the same rules as the old NES did.
- You might be surprised, if you've been to Japan, that the black vans of people shouting at you are not in fact racist towards white people. They are not yelling at you to leave their country. In fact, they're Uyoku Dantai, right-wingers who are racist towards Koreans. Kind of like how right-wingers here in America want to get rid of all the brown people (insert current race of topic here: South Americans, Mexicans, "Muslims" <-- actually a religion, not a race, but used to mean any Middl Eastern or Arab-descent person) who live here. Surprise! This behaviour isn't limited to America. But it's certainly not as violent as America towards minorities.

SURVEY:

Do you know of any great local businesses? Do you shop at any of them?
Do you wear tabi even without geta or zori?
Have you ever been to Japan? If so, what did you like best?

January 10, 2014

成人の日: 5 Fabulous Fukuro Under $100

Seijin no Hi (Coming of Age Day) is coming up on Monday! I've written before about my love of furisode, but I don't talk about obi very often. Obi are naturally an integral part of making a fabulous outfit. They take a very long time to make, and can often cost more than a kimono!

There is a misconception that obi hold together the kimono. This is not true. Koshi himo and datejime hold the kimono in place; an obi's function is to be art, as it has evolved from a narrow cord hundreds of years ago to a wide brocade in order to show off lavish Edo-period wealth and taste. These sensibilities have lingered ever since (and I should hope that they never fade!)

So here are five favourite fukuro obi under $100, not including shipping, from Ichiroya. I can't decide what I love more: vintage style featuring large, bold designs, or modern tastes featuring almost solid metallics and lots of tiny patterns. Either way, they are sure to be fairly versatile with furisode and your average single-crested iromuji and higher in formality.

Fukuro obi featuring traditional houou (phoenix), botan (peony), kiri (paulownia), and many other motifs.

Silk base fabric, metallic gold threads making it formal and sophisticated. A classic series of motifs on this wholly modern-made work of art. With so many warm and cool colours, multiple subtle and overt patterns, this obi can practically be worn with anything. Pale blue iromuji, reflecting the tiny hints in the leaves, orange-red kimono with bright gold patterns, really, there are so many options that if you can only have one fukuro, this might be a good choice for you!

$98 on Ichiroya.

This classic matsu obi was listed as being "quite old", and looks to be 1930s style. The bold matsu (pine) pattern with subtle hints of green in the gold and red makes me think that this obi was actually intended for a wedding of that era. I wonder about it's versatility today. Pine is still a December/January motif, and I think with the right kimono, it can be used for both Coming of Age and wedding ceremonies. It should be said that a young woman's ofurisode or formal kimono's motifs should not share the wedding symbols in order to avoid giving the wrong impression.

Sadly, it appears to have many damages. Because of it's age, I wouldn't wear it even if it wasn't stained. Hanging it is a more likely option. As it is, sections of the obi may be able to be cut and framed for brilliant decor, especially if you have a home filled with hardwood furniture in deep browns or brilliant yellow-blonde woods.

$58 on Ichiroya.

This appealing modern fukuro has charming patterns of sparrows and sasa (bamboo grasses), dewy and golden, filled with light in a background of darkness. I wonder what the mind of the artist behind this obi is like.

This might be my favourite of the five, but that might be because I have a particular love for bird patterns and glowing gold/black combinations. The obi is made of a silk base and was listed as having flaws such as 'prominent folding lines'. I suppose that could be a flaw; it means it was well-used and loved, despite it's recent construction. Perhaps with a cool iron with a protective sheet between it, the fold lines will come out. Or with any luck, the fold lines will be exactly where you need them to wear it anyways!

For $98, an obi of this magnificence and quality is a steal!

The brown/gold arabesque motif and use of bright pastel kiku (chrysanthemums) remind me heavily of a tenga obi I once owned. It was spectacularly beautiful, but I didn't have anything to wear with it. Tenga have a peculiar TPO position; not for odori, but not for average festivals, but not formal enough to wear with most kimono... what a difficult piece! Fortunately, fukuro obi have a much more versatile quality, and this one brings in more colour than the tenga, so I would be able to pair it with more outfits. <3 And look, more birds!

This kind of bird motif is called onagadori. The other flowers are karabana, imaginary Chinese flowers. Much of the obi is made of metallic thread on silk, so it can only be used in very formal outfits (or perhaps for stage), but even so, I wouldn't mind owning this one!

$98 plus shipping on Ichiroya.

To be honest, I'd be very tempted to go with an all-blue and silver outfit when wearing this one, perhaps with a formal white/yellow or white/gold variegated obijime. I can't think of anything more beautiful than a deep or twilight blue kimono with some misty design, perhaps sparrows or rabbits, trailing along the hem. This is the kind of obi I'd wear to Otsukimi (moon-viewing).

Tiny leaves at first take the appearance of butterflies. Perhaps a deep blue butterfly kimono would also be appropriate?

$98 on Ichiroya.

January 7, 2014

人日: Jinjitsu!

Jinjitsu is a holiday I've written about once before, which used to be called Nanakusa no Sekku. This holiday means "Human Day" and today is considered to be part of New Years' Celebrations. I think on this day, some people offer sake to their okami for good fortune. Also, 七草の節句 (nanakusu gayu) is eaten for good health. Nanakusu gayu is a seven-herb porridge, very filled with fiber and delicious herbs which are thought to be medicinal. One of the herbs, however, is strangely poisonous- except for Japanese varieties. Seri is water dropwort. Most of the species of this plant are dangerously toxic to humans, except O. Javanica. If you are making nanakusu gayu outside of Japan, be very sure of which kind you have!

O. Javanica (Seri) - KENPEI
This year, I will probably not eat nanakusa gayu since I will be working. I think, however, I will bring my boss some herbal tea. Because it got cold suddenly in Florida, people are not used to it, and are starting to feel sick. The air is either very humid, or very dry from heaters/AC running, contributing to cough. If you are sick, you cannot come to work in the restaurant, of course, so we cannot allow someone to get sick if we can help it! But the restaurant makes a very filling meal every night for us. I think last week we had a kind of chicken and tofu curry, with large fried tofu blocks with a texture very much like extra-fluffy eggs. And now all this take makes me want agedashidofu! Augh!

Shigiyoshi is also today, but I think some places start early. Shigiyoshi is the day (or sometimes week, depending on house) when maiko and geiko in Kyoto dress in formal black hikizuri with gold obi and visit everyone who has helped support them to wish a happy New Year and to ask for continued support. They must renew their vows for the year as well. Being a geisha is very much like being married! Every year, you must re-commit yourself to becoming better at what you do. 


This year, Satsuki-san is the winner! She earned the most in the past year, so she gets some special recognition. It must be such a thrilling occasion!

Since it is Human Day, though, I will try to be nicer to other humans. I try anyways, but maybe some extra effort can't hurt. <3

January 6, 2014

Waitressing Can Be Hard Work!

Yoshitoshi Tsukioka - Fukugawa Waitress

I'm back to waitressing again, and it can be hard work. Shifts are unpredictable, and I can be called in on less than fifteen minutes notice in an emergency (one hour if not). The job taxes the body with repetitive stress injuries, since the trays can be heavy, whipping them around people and tables can be unwieldy, and wearing a wrist brace means it gets dirty, smelly, and it's hard to wash your hands AND the brace- so you just don't wear one. Plus, the work itself is untimed. Unlike jobs in some industries such as call centres, where you have a list or a first-come-first-serve order, waitressing demands you seat everyone in order and then take whoever orders something first... and also, there can be every seat in the house filled, or none filled, and you have to prepare as if every seat will be filled most nights, just in case!

Even so, I'll try to keep up with the blog in this new year. <3

Tomorrow is Jinjitsu*, and also Unmei's birthday! But of course, I work, so I'll have to see her sometime soon... So return tomorrow to find out what Jinjitsu is about!

*Not to be confused with jiu-jitsu, the martial art

January 5, 2014

For Sale Sunday: Kimono/Obi Sets, Haori Himo, Vintage Rice Bag

This week, I've been listing as many new things for sale as possible, with many more photos to come as lighting indoors permits! Amongst the new items, I have several beaded haori himo, a vintage rice bag from WW2-era, and a few kimono/obi sets.

Taisho Modern kimono featuring the original red lining, with tatewaku pattern speckled with yellow and red squares, in a fuzzy meisen-like weave. I haven't seen any visible staining, but I can double-check before it goes out. This is one I need to get better photos of; they kept coming out fuzzy because of the indoor lighting and my shaking too much. x.x

The obi is a matching red, white, and silver Nagoya obi, with a geometric line pattern mimicking tatewaku. Very tasteful and appropriate! The obi is plain enough to not take away from the rich purple and busy pattern of the kimono, but bold enough to pair with other kimono easily. Red is a fairly neutral kimono colour as well, so the obi will match many casual outfits.

Beaded haori himo made from reclaimed vintage beads cut from older Japanese costume jewellery. Each one is different.

They are made to be lightweight so that they don't pull or tear more fragile fabrics such as vintage and antique silks, so I chose acrylic, plastic, and sometimes zinc alloy metals for beading. Chartreuse, pale blues, purple, gold, pink, and silver are all tones found in the new himo, with more varied sets coming.

Floral rice bag from the 1930s-1940s, likely made from upcycled maru obi, lined with cotton sack fabric. The tassels and kumihimo closure seems to be synthetic, which wasn't really a quality thing until around war-era (although synthetics started showing up in fabric around Taisho era). Fabric was very scarce at that time, so many items were cut down and reused in such a way.

The bag is quite large, and can fit 4-5 bath towels folded into it easily. I do not recommend using it to carry things around anymore because of it's age. It is not washable, and must be spot-treated or dry-cleaned by someone who has experience with antiques. Bags like these are hard to come by these days, so don't miss out!

January 4, 2014

The Weekender, Vol. 1

I think this year, once a week, I should post a new segment called 'The Weekender'. It's a weekly post about nothing in particular every Saturday. Did I read a new book? Is there an interesting post to share? Cute red panda photos? And (in a nod to other blogs I read) a short weekend survey. This week...

THIS WEEK:

I've started reading Modern Passings: Death Rites, Politics, and Social Change in Imperial Japan (Andrew Bernstein).

So far, a fuller picture of cultural isolation in the Tokugawa era makes sense. Society was becoming unstable because of outside influences. While change is generally good, too much at once can derail an entire society. While the top officials were surely acting in their own interests, attempting to keep power to themselves, they were surely not fool enough to believe that the entire system of life falling apart in favour of new imported religions (Christianity) and practices was a good idea. At the same time, this isolation is what forced many Japanese to abandon Shintoism in favour of Buddhism, by national decree, regardless of personal beliefs, in order to prove that they were not 'allied' with foreigners. This is just from the beginning of the book. I can't wait to read more!

WEEKEND READING?

- A look at the kimono of first-generation immigrants (issei) from Japan: Japanese American National Museum
- OMG MUSHISHI IS COMING BACK!
- If you don't know what I'm talking about, you can watch Mushishi for free online.
- If you're looking for tabloid-style J-drama, you've found it here.
- I finally got a possibly working copy of Castlevania 3 for DH! And then found out that our NES doesn't work. Aaaugh! So, next project: working NES. I mean, his only lasted about 30 years...

SURVEY:

Did you have a New Year's celebration?
Nope. Worked all night, came home around 11:15pm, surfed the net, went to bed. Exciting, eh?

Is it snowing where you live/are staying?
Not in Florida. But we got some grey rainy cold weather! It's like snow, but not frozen!

Have you ever had osechi foods?
Not properly, not yet! I don't like black beans much, although I love various forms of mochi, so I'd like to learn to cook them for myself. "Japanese restaurants" around here are not particularly traditional, since there aren't many Japanese to support them.

Do you like daifuku? What is your favourite kind?
Peanut butter <3 Okay, that isn't traditional Japanese, but I really like peanut butter. I also love the azuki kind, but I still prefer my azuki paste in taiyaki form.

What is your Animal Year (Dragon, Snake, Horse, etc.)?
I was born when Fire Rabbits become Earth Dragons. This is possibly why I'm a taciturn person. >D I love running a business, being organised, and I don't tolerate foolishness lightly... but I also have a taste for expensive things, like kimono-collecting. I guess it's fortunate that I have the drive to make my own money to support my habits.

So, how about you?

Did you have a New Year's celebration?
Is it snowing where you live/are staying?
 Have you ever had osechi foods?
 Do you like daifuku? What is your favourite kind?
 What is your Animal Year (Dragon, Snake, Horse, etc.)?

January 1, 2014

お正月: Happy New Year!

お正月 is oshougatsu, is the New Year celebration. The New Year is also called ganjitsu. On this day, it's a big celebration. Wear your best kimono and have some too-sweet plum wine!

This year begins the Year of the Wood Horse. Horse-born people tend to be straightforward, honest, and lively. They can be high-energy people who don't like the idea of restricted freedom. Naturally, this temperament is said to change somewhat depending on factors such as exact birth hour, element balances, etc. but that's what some people employ fortune-tellers for, isn't it? But no matter what, I think this year will be as good or bad as you make it. Attitude counts for everything. When things go badly, as they inevitably do, how do you approach the situation? With hopelessness, or with a fierce, rampant ambition to make the best of things? This will truly tell your future.

Osechi foods are to be eaten today, a wonderful assortment of konbu (seaweed), ozouni (a type of soup with tofu and herbs), sashimi, and many other foods. As usual, different regions of Japan have different ideas about lucky vs. unlucky foods!

Pay attention to the first dream you have on the 31st or the 1st. Normally, many Japanese do not get to sleep on the night of the 31st, since there is so much celebrating to do. The morning of the 2nd is seen as the end of the first day's dream. There is a superstition that if you dream about one of three things, you will have great luck! Your 初夢 hatsuyume will be fortunate if you dream of hawks, Fujisan, or eggplants. Fujisan, possibly because it is the tallest mountain in Japan, hawks because they are strong, intelligent birds, and eggplants because eggplant is nasu or nasubi 茄子, a homophone for nasu 成す, great achievement. There are a few more additions to this list, but when they were added or why is a source of debate. Have they been there since the original list was founded during the Edo period? Or were they later inventions? Either way, the first three on the list are memorised as Ichi-fuji (first, Fuji), Ni-taka (Second, hawk), San-nasubi (Third, eggplant).

There are many, many kigo related to New Year's Day. Kigo are special seasonal words, and there are entire dictionaries of them to refer to specific events or objects during each season. Most of New Years' kigo begin with Hatsu-, as hatsu- means 'first' in this case. As writing New Year's cards is a huge event even today, knowledge of kigo is especially wonderful when haiku or other poetry is composed for your letters. Of course, not everyone is writing haiku; these letters are often a way of sending well-wishes or letting distant relatives or friends know that you're alive and well. Japan tends to employ many post deliverers to ensure that all the New Years cards get to their recipients on New Year's Day or New Year's Eve. These cards usually include some auspicious symbol or the New Year's animal, and are sometimes hand-drawn by the sender! Each one is surely a treasure, and you should be lucky to receive such a card!

As for me, I worked most of last night, and didn't really do any celebrating. By the time I got home, I only wanted to look at cute animal photos and go to sleep! For the rest of you, 明けましておめでとうございます! Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu! Happy New Year!