Bebe Taian

February 25, 2021

I'm on Japan Crate's 2019 Bloggers' List?

Uh... so I am, it seems. I mean, it's a bit late but I don't typically google myself unless I'm looking for something. So I recently found out that I'm on JapanCrate.com 's "Top 119 Japan-Focused Cultural Blogs to Follow in 2019"

Weird! 

Especially since... I mean, look at the blog post count. I hit a deeeep depressive spell around 2013 and never crawled out. 

2011- 89 posts, finding my content and stride

2012- 161 posts, finally figuring some things out, lots of plans for the next year!

2013- 69 posts! Strong start in January, about 1 every 3 days. My sister had just gotten her heart transplant. And then. Everything went wrong. So, so wrong.

And then things started to decline. 

A lot of people died in that few years. I buried a lot of people in just two years. 

And then by 2014, my sister died. 

We were able to bury her in my rabbit yukata. She really liked kimono and had wanted to see Japan at least once. She was always worried that the drugs for heart conditions and rheumatoid arthritis, especially steriods, they make you balloon. It doesn't matter what you eat and you can't exercise because literally the whole point of being on them is that your heart doesn't work. It doesn't magically fix your heart. It just keeps you alive longer. And then the transplant drugs... she was always worried that every yukata is this tiny size, and she'd never be able to find one that fits well. But I told her that isn't true, everyone wears them. It's just fabric. They're sewn to order unless mass-made these days. Of course there's kimono in your size...

I didn't really bother with the blog after this. I just open, scroll, close. Later. 

Quick post, close, maybe in six months. 

So how did someone pick this blog for 2019? Was it the only one left? ... in English, maybe? I'm not saying maybe there was a mistake or anything. If it's still useful to people, good. I hope it serves it's purpose. I hope someone was inspired to pick up books and internet materials and watch Youtube videos and learn more! There's a big world out there, so please explore it! But 2019 seems so far from when this blog was at its' peak years. Like the blog failed before it started. A camellia, it came to bloom and then died. 

Well, it was started in November. A winter flower, after all.

February 7, 2021

Styling with Kimono: A Very Introductory Experience

Back in October of 2020, I did a very "introductory" Powerpoint for one hour at a university, geared towards students who didn't know anything about Japan, kimono, or kimono fashion or even Japanese culture. 

Actually, the hour was even shorter because I needed 15mins or so of Q+A time and also a presenter for the university needed a short amount of time for... something I forget now. Perhaps something about an important program or safety or something. It really was more important than kimono at the time. 

This presentation focuses on very American ideas of kimono, particularly in films known to American audiences either through major theatre releases or movies typical in college classes on various subjects like film history, famous filmographers and leaders in the industry (especially if studying Humanities or Asian Humanities, a "core course" for a two-year degree), or some other subjects.

I didn't get to cover as much as I like, such as modern interpretations of "kimono" once brought to the States (particularly post-1910s) fast-forwarded to the modern Free People/Shein/Anthropologie type of "kimono" cardigan, a loose jacket with roughly rectangular or square sleeves, perhaps even going so far as to have some kind of crane, sushi, or other Japanese-ish symbol on it.

I did get to show what the real thing looked like and emphasize that real Japanese shops are there to buy from, want to sell to Americans, and in fact rely on export sales to survive. There are many things open to Americans which are for us to wear that are not special, religious, or ritual in nature. They are meant for export and to show how cool a culture is without us 'taking it over.' 

For example:

Even if it's just to see how comfortable tabi stretch socks are on a regular basis so you don't get 'big toe rub' spots, or if you have those weird weather days like Florida does where it's too wet-cold for not having socks? but also too hot for wearing real shoes? And in a few hours, it'll be hot? Solution: cool patterned tabi with your sandals, Japanese-style, and in a few hours just take them off. Toss them in your car. Your hamper. Wash them in a regular washer. 

They're like, $10, regular Target or Old Navy price for patterned nice socks. They're not "scary" expensive just because they came from Japan? What an easy, cheap, awesome way to both benefit yourself AND to support a business in Japan who wants your business, who wants you to wear the cute socks! The socks have no special religious or particular cultural meaning, so they aren't infringing on anyone. 

That is the difference between culture *sharing* and cultural *appropriation.*

Furoshiki are another category because are also largely made for export. You can buy these too because furoshiki are just fabric wrapping 'paper' and are much more eco-friendly and versatile. They are used for wrapping gifts, lunch boxes, carrying daily stuff, and you can even just tie back your hair in the West because it's generally a square of fabric. Washable fabric. Many are cotton but there are also rayon kinds. Some people collect them and sew them together for quilting. Mottanai - waste nothing! I dislike rayon because I think they wrinkle more and stain more easily, but they have a silk look and appear more 'upscale' without being real silk, so they are affordable for nicer gifts without being super pricey. 

You have many options here if you are wanting to wear or use Japanese items, but also are worried about either cultural sharing vs. appropriation, or you are worried about spending money on pretty things you'll never end up using. I honestly worry about the second one a lot! I don't make enough and don't have the space! <3 

------------------------------------

Right now, there may be some postage restrictions and increased VAT or surcharges from different countries. Please check with sellers for changing details since these update frequently.

Try some of these sellers! This is a very short list. It doesn't include a lot of traditional kimono sellers and tries to include people who specifically sell to American audiences + who sell Japanese items that can be used often in different contexts, like daily wear, frequent uses, and crafting purposes.

ChirimenBunny.etsy.com (or better, ChirimenBunny.com )

Sou Japan on Ebay

Rakuten Japan (you may need a shipping service like Noppin and some basic Japanese skills to use this one.) 

3magpiesstudio.com - Kimono, tabi, other accessories

OhioKimono.com - Kimono, accessories, ask about other items. They're very helpful!

facebook.com/wisteriagardensstudio (A handmade kanzashi maker)

etsy.com/shop/KimonoPonchoCom – Tanaka-sensei is a kimono handicrafts supplies seller and a professional kimono tailour. If you are not a ‘traditional’ tiny Japanese size, contact her for a custom-made piece. She is the best and can work out with you what you’d like and where to send it once finished.

January 22, 2021

Older updates

I spent the past few day's spare time to post some old things yanked from FB updates, journal entries, whatever, and listing them on this blog. I've posted a few kimono photos, some various private collection items, and some various kimono details. "Content-building," essentially. 

At the moment, I still don't quite see the point to going back to this older project that I had mostly abandoned some years ago. It's almost like losing a part of my personality to just... drop something so important to me, though. So many people and things I cared about during the 2013-2016 ish span of years died. Most quite literally. And I just didn't care enough to. I don't know if care is the word. I just. Can't. I don't have anything in me to bother with. 

I don't have the long-term interest in anything to really capture me anymore. I'm exhausted all the time. I'm getting sicker. It isn't the depression, turns out, it's autoimmune. So that's cool. 

But "going back" doesn't seem to be anything I care about. 

And yet, filling in a gap and going back to make something 'coherent' is a compulsion, so I need to 'fix' the timeline as good as possible and THEN assess whether going forward is worth it. Whether the problem is the broken timeline, or if it's that I just... don't have future interest in updates. Or what those updates are. What direction this would go in. I really have no idea.

January 9, 2021

2021 goals + some issues about this blog.

So actually this is posted in 2020 elsewhere, but I am going to try to resurrect this blog this year with a minor goal of 12 posts this year. I don't think "old posts" such as older 'content' (things that happened months ago, a year ago, two years ago) count towards that? But there is a separate goal for listing 'old' things like this. 

I have to be honest... it's by and large white people (by American definition, which is not an international standard, by the way) who I've realised made me too reticent to bother writing online. It's complex but it basically comes down to propping up well-intended notions about culture vs. actually supporting those involved in the culture itself, the divide between how something is treated in this country vs. what it means in the mainland, and divided opinions about preservation vs. just killing off a culture because it 'doesn't deserve to live if people don't want to preserve it themselves' while denying the impact of imperialism and generational life after that. A very complex series of topics that are basically an MA-level discussion not suited to sound bytes or blog posts. 

A leftist version of anti-academia twisted to mean anti-intellectualism instead of "hey, we should challenge academia to include direct cultural sources, and force them to stop relying on what some white guy had to say about a culture 70 years ago"  is also... frankly, disturbing. 

I worked very, very hard for a decade to find books written by Japanese authors, published in English, since I was a teenager (before Youtube existed, when Wikipedia was in infancy.) For groups like historical groups and even kimono groups to throw those out because it's "inappropriate" only allows people who are actually in power to continue doing the things they've been doing for a hundred years on this side of the pond, while ALSO denying the average person access to real Japanese sources talking about themselves. 

The loudest groups are often the most radical groups because they are the ones most prone to condensed rhetoric and sound byte statements- that means people parroting the same crap without nuance over and over again. It leaves ill-meaning people like Japanese nationalists who want the equivalent of "making Japan great again" in charge of the narrative surrounding cultural preservation and well-meaning progressives Stateside and elsewhere dropping entire collections and even entire knowledge bases, abandoning them in order to be more socially-conscious (a mental gymnastics race if I saw one) to prove that They Care. Leaving racist Americans who don't give a damn about who they hurt to present the geesha-girl, "Memoirs" image as the 'correct' one and no one is going to care enough to stop them because... when's the last time you met anyone dressed respectfully to compare them to? Never. 

I've had more than my share of specifically racially-coded aggressions, including sexual aggressions, when in kimono. But I've also been able to meet a lot of amazing people and open up conversations about REAL Japanese culture.

Some of those conversations upset people, especially non-Japanese-descent Americans, who thought that Japanese were really all cat hats, floppy socks, gross guys on trains, and whatever the hell is happening in anime this year. Being told that people are people everywhere in the world and that everyone is actually pretty ordinary, like yeah, you still have a dress code. You still have to pay your bills. You still have a lot of apartment restrictions, or troubles of dating, you aren't just going to randomly hook up at Love Hotels (where on EARTH do some people get this stuff?) It makes people really upset. But sometimes it opens up real appreciation and relief for people to know that you know what? Kimono culture isn't super-hard like in movies, and it isn't totally dead, either. Not every-day fashion by any means, but not terrifyingly difficult and wearing them CAN be accessible if you put in time and practice.

I've met Japanese-descent whose culture was stolen from them because of things like American atrocities towards Japanese during WW2. You want to learn what your grandparents weren't allowed to teach? Yes, it isn't fair that it was "cool" for me to learn. I can't fix that. I can give you so. many. free. (Japanese-based, english-language) resources. to learn whatever you want, though. I can point you to people who love meeting new people, and those people are native Japanese. Go talk to them. I can't download information into people's heads or change the past. Unfortunately, I am not Dr. Who. Or I would rescue people who died terribly who should be here, two of whom should have had birthdays this past week, actually. 

What I can do is try to level the playing field using what and who I know. 

People in these groups can't say that they hate how white-centric they are and then ban anyone who posts research-backed, respectful, non-white cultural information under the header of being progressive. This is exactly the sort of thing that makes "progressive" Americans look bad. What is the real answer? I don't know exactly, but I'm guessing that checking source material and prioritizing information that is based in actual experts or well-known people from that culture would be a start. Anti-intellectualism needs to be on the way out: if someone worked to have PhD behind their name, respect that and don't automatically discredit that person as being 'part of the machine' or 'succumbing to indoctrination' or some insanity like this. 

If you are going to learn about the world, you need to learn about the world. To know your neighbours better, you need to learn the history and culture of other places. Learn them as best as you can using critical thinking so you don't fall easy prey to fascist propaganda (on the rise everywhere) or start accepting discrimination of people as being tolerable. I guarantee those people have something to say about being discriminated against within their own culture. You just might not always hear about it in the mainstream. Listen to people knowledgable on the subject, whatever it is, before opening your mouth with an opinion.

Ignoring other cultures because it might expose you to disagreeable ideas or uncomfortable topics isn't going to help anyone. It won't help you. It won't help you expand your world past your front door. If anything, it will allow you to believe in romanticized, often racist historical rewrites of history because you don't know any better to protest. That's.. not good. 

It's okay to like things. Please also examine why you like them. What appeals to you? What don't you like? Why is that? Are you ignoring any critical things about this subject? Are you ignoring something because you really like this subject (for example, wearing kimono in a Chinese restuarant is not just a bad idea, there is a violent recent history between the countries. It is an aggression, even if you don't intend it.) After you think about why you like the thing, you can examine what else you want or need to know about the thing, or change how you express your love about the thing. You don't just have to abandon what you like. You can change and evolve how you see something and how you treat that. 

So this year I will try to make it a practice to make 20 posts. Just 20. 10 new posts, about new things that happened this year, one per month or so. 10 posts about past things, catching up with old entries elsewhere, old journal stuff, whatever. It's only the second week of January and there's a lot on my plate, so we'll see how it goes.

November 7, 2020

Anniversary

It's a few days later than we took them, but it ended up being an Issue elsewhere online and I got too anxious and had to calm down before posting. Bleh stupid brain. Dr. Kaidun Aroo (our grey cat) always tries to make things better- except for photos because he cannot stop moving!

This is a chocolate brown single mon iromuji with pine needle woven pattern, rust-red chirimen obiage, obijime that changes from rust to pale yellow with gold threads running through it in a lattice pattern in the center. 

The obi is of Nara in the fall for this exact season, with hints of metallic gold as well. 

Palest pink silk juban woven with kiku patterns, also dyed with a different white flower pattern that looks like kiku. Figured white synthetic eri, but it's so busy I can't follow the lines to see the pattern well... I'm pretty sure it's also chrysanthemums, though.

The fan is plain white, aged, with a few scattered maple leaves in bright greens, orange, and red, with the tiniest veins of gold. The kanzashi is an alligator clip that matches the motif, handmade from etsy.com/shop/JapaneseSilkFlowers

It came in a washi-covered tea tin to protect it from getting bent in storage, which I still use. I was thinking, I need to find hard-box clear storage since if I can't see something, it 'doesn't exist' (also why my kimono storage is abysmal...)

The komono didn't match, like the datejime, but really can any of us do such a thing besides maybe Youandi or Billy Matsunaga.

Originally, I bought this kimono because years ago I saw a maiko with a chocolate brown furisode paired with a black and metallic gold obi, naturally with the red and gold accessories, white tabi, etc. A hint of lime green in the fan for the winter season oncoming with snow. 

There was another, I think, with a white/red hakata, but I don't remember what else they wore. I think of that sometimes. I wish I had that style! But maybe I could lose some weight to fit into things I bought some time ago (vintage, not really any room to let out) and recreate those outfits. Not maiko-style, but daily-wear fashion. 

November 6, 2020

KimoNovember 2020

A vintage Yonezawa kimono for the beginning of the chilly day in Florida. Eh?? 65F is chilly here... but unfortunately, it did not get colder. Only it was almost 80F in here by 2PM! Augh! I wanted to die from heat! 

A 1970s hanhaba obi, double-sided hakata style, with a subtle maple pattern fan. 

Red, oranges, tans, and bright moegi with metallic gold veins on plain white paper. 

Short-lived outfit today, but maybe tomorrow will be cool enough... 

This was one outfit I managed for KimoNovember2020 but ended up wearing it around the house, including for class online.

May 29, 2020

Can't wait for a haircut...

Gah, my hair in that in-between stage! But like hell am I going to a barber yet... and it's far too hot for a wig today. Just no! 

So today is roses and wisteria with a matching pink and peach bag, peach lace tabi, peachy-pink obijime. Can't tell in the photo, but the obi itself has a shift of pink in it behind the blue. 

I'm waiting at Artlofts Artist Studios to pick some things up, and then I can head back home.

May 16, 2020

1978 Makeup Case Set

Want to see something cool? I've carried this pocket mirror on me most times I dress in kimono. It's from a set bought in 1978. I can tell... because the box still has the receipt in it!

January 22, 2020

Cold weather fail.

It was quite cold for Florida today. I actually like the cold very much, but it was a wet cold that seeps into the bones and hurts and aches all of the joints. 

I tried to pick things that are appropriate for the late January-turning-plum-blossom weather. Reds, bright greens of new leaves pushing through snow, the white of snow and the eggplant purples of January, the pine needles of January, the pinks of February coming on. Deep black going back to the cold and ice, and of Edo and Meiji-era. 

It sort of came together although I don't like the metallics of the obi. It's too formal for the level of komon here. And I didn't tie it tightly enough, so the obiage kept riding up over the obimakura tie and slipping. I was trying to keep those ties off that part of my chest, but there we are... ugh. ::sighs:: Shinier, slippery fabrics like that obi have to be tied differently or they slowly loosen just a little throughout the day. But it had the right green and the pine and plum branch motifs correctly when none of my other items do... and nothing else I own is that green...

A favourite haori woven with black and silvery chrysanthemums was worn over all of it. I wore a thin pale golden shimmery long skirt, knife-pleated like a Homsue-hem juban, under all of it with a tank top for an extra layer of warmth under the pink silk juban. A cherry-red scarf to keep my jaw warm and to keep my throat from getting sore in the freezing wet air. 

Honestly it was a long school day and I was in no mood for makeup. Maybe chapstick but not much else. In retrospect, that was the last day I felt like wearing makeup but probably the best day I should have put it on just to protect my face from the weather. 

Actually, I wore plain black boots with this today. Black with thicker fuzzy socks. My feet are freezing from poor circulation in hot weather, but in cold weather, they turn cyanotic. I can't carry an electric hot pad to save them to class... or call out for a month just because it's cold out...

January 9, 2020

Hatsumode

Hatsumode 2020, the first time I get to wear this gorgeous super-formal kurotomesode featuring lions (komainu)! 

It is from Taisho era, a ~1920 kimono for 2020. Imitating 1920 and "geisha doll" style, I wore a formal shibori shouchikubai "lucky" pine-plum-bamboo obiage and eggplant-coloured obijime, a nod to the lucky eggplant of New Year's Day. Red and gold silk collar attached to the red and gold silk Taisho juban. 

This kurotomesode does not have an included white collar layer. One needs to be sewn in but I didn't have any suitable fabric. It is a layer that goes all the way back to the days of up to 15 layers, and back to the 1900s days of wearing two mirrored layers. Honestly, in Florida, it is too hot to wear so much. I was worried about wearing even this. 

White tabi, of course, the only kind proper for this kimono. I had brocade zori for the outfit, although I lamented not having matching gold ones for the obi.

I even managed to get the mon at the shoulders even this time! 

Golden obi with a kikko motif. Otaiko knot with the tesaki tied in the Kanto direction, with the end facing to the right side. Can you see it? The other direction is Kansai side. Kanto direction is Tokyo area, like Ibaraki, Chiba, Kanagawa districts. 

I need to sew in another layer for the skirt so that it has a dust-safe trailing layer... it'll be on the list of things to get fabric for... or perhaps a damaged kurotomesode to take apart...

Komainu are a type of shishi. These are a Buddhist symbol typically guarding temples. Some have their mouths open, to say Aaaa- while some have them shut, a sound like Unnn-. Together, they are A-un komainu. "A-un," like 'aum' or 'om'. Hatsumode is the New Year, especially the first shrine visit of the new year. This is the day you get a fortune told and if it's a bad one, you tie it to a tree (a Shinto idea) and it is mitigated for the year. 

We don't have such shrines here so the best that can be hoped for is to visit other Japanese and support their businesses and wish them good fortune. For that, of course, the kimono couldn't be worn trailing like this... but since the owner of Yoko's is in love with the style, of course, we had to show how it draped and floated for a short while...

November 13, 2019

Pampass grass kimono

Lucky day today. I had enough time before catching the bus to do some stuff for exams today, get the dishes done, and still dress for the cold in kimono! 

Not used to 50f with wet-cold, so I wore layers of silk today. It seemed as warm as I could handle.

Pampass grass awase kimono, palest pink silk chrysanthemum juban with figured chrysanthemum eri, brocade and metallic gold nagoya obi which is quite short and I suspect for a teenager. Chirimen synthetic obiage in a deep almost-rust red, obijime that is half-green, half rich sparrow brown. Trying to pull shades from both the obi and kimono and tye them together. Tabi didn't matter. I think I wore boots for this one. It was too wet-cold out.

February 7, 2019

In Praise of Mikako

You need to follow Kuumil
on Instagram for this + more.
Mikako of Gion Kobu, in a stunning purple snow-patterned hikizuri with a variegated purple obijime, bright green and metallic gold/white obi, and red obiage with gold and purple fans.

It's the fine details that really makes this outfit as fine as it is- look at the way the obijime alludes to the way the colours change in the fan! The colour changes in the collar! How the lining of the skirt changes against the main colour of the kimono! This kimono is likely the same deep purple as the fans but cameras often make this shade of royal purple dye turn 'blue' when photographed in light. Kimono buyers not familiar with this phenomenon tend to be surprised when buying... to make it "purple" again, it must be in terrible light and deep shadows.

This is what takes an outfit from ordinary to dazzling.

- Paler purple date-eri to match the obijime, very chic.
- The green in the bamboo is the green in her obi.
- The browns on the branches allude to how the golds shine, change, and glow in the lighting on the gold on her obi, the shadows on her fans.
- The white in the obi hinting at the snow falling heavy on trees.
- The twisted ume above heavy bamboo and pine trees- the Three Friends of Winter. This is a specific allusion to the season, and perhaps to the song she is dancing. 
- Deep purple is an allusion to the depth of cold, which is why it is also sometimes worn during the height of summer: to remind people of cool weather. 
- The twisted ume pattern is contained within a tortoiseshell pattern. Tortoiseshell is a pattern of longevity, and ume (plum blossoms) are often the first flowers of Spring trying to break through the harsh snows of winter. They are hardy and thought to ward off evil. 
- On that note, the Three Friends of Winter, known as shouchikubai, are known for withstanding the colder months. This makes them symbols of strength, beauty and longevity. Often you will find them also represented in the hexagonal kikkou (tortoiseshell) pattern, as the plum blossoms are here. This means the obi fits quite well to the hikizuri, but only for someone who knows how to look for it! Think of it like an Easter Egg for kimono lovers...

Of course, I own nothing so luxurious. 

And I really didn't want to take the time to sew new collars. I had a few, but my hands often hurt and also I run out of energy easily. I call this "laziness." I decided I wanted an outfit inspired by this, but wearable for an "everyday" person, not for a specialized entertainer or performance. 

But god, what a performance it must be. And what a decadent treat to wear that outfit!

So I tried to use plum blossom pink, a deep purple kimono with a snow pattern that had paler purple spots on it like shadows of snow? 

The layers of red, red momi and red obiage (alternative: red momi, white shouchikubai obiage with gold threads for shibori sections,), pink juban with chrysanthemums as you can see that hint* of pink juban at Mikako's sleeve... a brilliant green and gold pine and plum obi with a reverse metallic side of silver, which I wore for the plum blossom kimono outfit... and a variegated purple obijime, much like Mikako's. 

I think I wore silvery brocade zori for this one to echo the feeling of 'cold'. 

(UPDATE: it is true! Mikako's hikizuri is actually purple! You can see it here.)

December 30, 2018

Rarely-worn Wool + Kitten Hijinks

 

A rarely-worn wool hitoe kimono that I love, but it's a strange, busy pattern for me. I'm usually so plain for myself but I love patterns like this on objects and other people. So I need to learn to wear them on myself for once and kimono are perfect for breaking that mold, right?

I love the deep blue background and the bright fire flowers and mustard yellows, the brilliant oranges, the pastel purples... these are beautiful! I kind of wish I had a different obiage to wear it with? But the shibori texture visually makes sense. It's just too formal for the komon status.

It was a surprise though. It works quite well with another piece I've been sitting on for a few year that I thought I'd never find a good match for. I've worn this obi before with a plain blue summer kimono but it wasn't a good match. Orange obijime. But I don't think it was correct... I think other options are fine here. I just need to work on them, just like finding a kimono to work with the obi. It takes time. The two red sets seem to work well here, though. I think the purple I have that matches would disappear on the deep black background of the obi,but a pale purple that matches the kimono is too soft for the obi motifs. Don't have yellow, don't have brilliant blue (and is that too much blue?) Lime green maybe? Feels like too much as well. That's why I did orange last time. Not white. I don't know.

As a bonus, here's some Binx hijinks! Binx is a kitten that is temporarily staying with us. We can't keep her. She's DH's friends' cat. It's just an issue of affording another cat and, most importantly, her vet care. 

Also we don't have another cat "available" on our lease, so. Uh. ... IDK. But mostly, she has a double-fang, where the adult fang is coming in and the old one won't come out. She's got a bad rot in between them and there's signs of redness in the gums, possibly infection. So we don't have the money for extractions (over $1000.) The only way to save her would be to give her to an org that swears to adopt her out and get her care, either themselves or under a future owner, if she isn't taken back by the friend soon. She's a sweetheart, but sadly we can't keep her. Alex is SO in love with her, or I would.

September 25, 2018

Otsukimi: 15th Moon-Viewing

Otsukimi isn't coming until later on the 'new' calendar, but it has already passed on the traditional calendar at the first Full Moon of the Autumn Equinox- the same holiday when moon cakes are delivered in China. I delivered some to former bosses (who are Chinese) but I never know what flavour to get- so I typically get azuki, since the red colour is lucky, and their Americanized young kids might like the bean flavour more, since it's more common in ice cream and other snacks here.

In Japan, the holiday takes on a very mochi-flavoured tone: instead of wheat and mung bean/egg yolk moon cakes, balls of pure white mochi are boiled to resemble the moon, and stacked in an arrangement of 15 in a pyramidal shape on a beautiful tray. These are accompanied by clear sake in cups that catch the moon's reflection, susuki branches (a silvery, tall Autumn grass), and rabbit motifs.

Other lucky things to eat are things that resemble a full Harvest moon- fried eggs, yolks intact, things like this. Also, the weather is supposed to cool off by now, so something warm on a cool night would be pleasant.

Since ro weather is to be over now, kimono are being put away for lined items. In Florida... the weather is still in the 90s or hotter, we are still facing hurricanes, and it rains frequently- the blinding kind that causes accidents because you can't even see two metres in front of you while driving. The kind where the ground, the sky, and the cars are all the same silvery colour- and Very Special Drivers don't think they need to turn their headlights on so that you can see them. Obviously, this is no time for me to put away my summer kimono, unless it is to go from a very well air-conditioned place to another well air-conditioned place in something synthetic and washable. This description fits many of my summer kimono, so I wear them all year.

But in this one case... I faced both the humidity and heat to wear relatively seasonally appropriate kimono for Otsukimi, a kimono set I wear only on this night a year.

I own only one woolen, unlined kimono with a pattern something like kenjo-gara in pastel purple and silver, against a background of deep maroon and black, which I did not ever envision myself in but I kept it to pair with my one woolen, unlined obi in brilliant indigo blue with red, purple, and gold motifs.

The obi features round motifs containing rabbits and what looks like it could be a horse? I've never figured out what they were, or what the item near them is... but abstractly, it looks a little like a highly stylized pumpkin, and since this is also close to Halloween, it's adorable. The obiage is a golden yellow with a large white circular haze pattern in it, colours of the Harvest moon. The obijime is to match the purple tones in the kimono; the haneri woven with chrysanthemum patterns.

It rained so much that night, the moon wasn't visible for long in the city. Too many tall buildings, not enough open spaces, so many lights on top of that... but for what we could see, it was pretty nonetheless. <3

August 13, 2018

Akinosuke no Yume - Kimono Ideas

Akinosuke no Yume Kimono Design
I posted this one and some others onto a forum but not yet to this blog. Now and then I think of the kind of kimono I would want to wear, the kind of kimono I would illustrate for books... now, books are easier than ever to have illustrated and published. Since I don't have a proper tablet to learn how to draw on (which is nothing like drawing by hand), I decided that my sketchbook would have to do. What would I wear for all 72 seasons? Muzukashii...

This kimono would be appropriate for mid-March or early April, I think. I haven't decided exactly when I'd place it, but the exact dates typically change from year to year due to the reliance on the Lunar calendar and not the solar calendar. The scanner alters the colours...

The theme of this kimono is Akinosuke no Yume

If you do not know the story of Akinosuke no Yume, it is an adaptation of a Chinese story. Since China and Japan have some significantly different landscapes and climate variances, the story between places has many changes, but the elements are essentially the same. This is one of a few versions of the story I have read:

An aristocratic governor is having an outdoor lunch with some friends. He falls asleep against a cedar tree, and feels like he has awakened almost immediately after... but his friends are gone, left for home- so quickly? As he is getting his bearings, a royal procession passes Akinosuke. Of course, he must be dutiful when this royalty offers to take him to meet their king, so he joins them. He is taken down a long road (then, some say, across a river to a nearby island). Akinosuke is introduced to the king of this land and entertained by him. They get along quite well. By the end of the night, the king has offered Akinosuke a daughter to be his wife. He accepts.

The marriage is actually quite a happy one. Akinosuke is made governor of a nearby land, and he and his wife have many healthy children. The small district is happy and prosperous, a farming town where they spend many years together- until one day, when an army from a place called Sandalvine invades. Many die, and much of the land is destroyed. Akinosuke's wife dies sometime later. When he is informed, he builds a large monument in her honour, grieving, and goes to tell her father what has happened.

As the king falls apart, he tells Akinosuke that his children will be well cared-for, but that Akinosuke is no longer of this kingdom and must return home. The same palaquin that he rode in on has been brought out, now as dilapidated as Akinosuke's spirit. He falls asleep on the ride home, too exhausted to go on.

He awakens again- under the cedar tree, his friends all around him! He had been asleep for only a few minutes! He exclaims how happy he is to see them, and what a strange dream he had! His friend tells him that a strange thing happened during Akinosuke's sleep- a small yellow butterfly came out of his mouth and fell into a line of ants, and was carried off. Under the cedar's roots, an anthill. Nearby, a small pebble was found with the body of a female ant underneath... and nearby, a sandalwood tree covered in vines... with it's own anthill under it...

Akinosuke sobers, and upon realising the fleeting nature of existence, becomes a monk.
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The original Chinese version of the tale is said to have been set in 794 (this would make sense; the Heian era city of Kyoto is a replica of Tang-dynasty capital, and China and Japan traded many things then, including stories). The kimono here is to be sewn with the larger sleeves and perhaps wider body of the Heian kosode, in sakura-turning-peony pinks. The motifs were more difficult to choose without a scene too cluttered.

For nobility ranks, only a hiougi (a fragrant cedar fan used in the courts) would do. This kind of fan has long, trailing tassles, both for beauty and visual balance but also as a signifier of wealth- someone who could afford the silks and time needed to make something luxurious like this.

On the fan should be the motif of sandalwood, the long trailing tassels like vines and roads trailing. Cedar pollinates during sakura season, mid-March to early April; sakura themselves are a sign of fleeting existence of nature and would not be out of place if the motif were woven into the fabric itself, only visible as the light shifts over silk. A few petals may be outlined in a hint of gold; or gold thread details can be put on the fan and other motifs, another sign of luxury and wealth.

The yellow butterfly told of is likely a "Large Grass Yellow"; they migrate throughout the year. The males are yellow; the females are white. A palaquin cart is shown unmanned across a winding path along the bottom. I would have liked to have drawn a procession but I wasn't sure how I should portray it without becoming too direct. In this case, the palaquin would be seen at the hem on the front of the kimono, the hiougi at the back shoulder. The hidden inside panel would show a yellow butterfly and blowing sakura petals. Perhaps a hidden lining of peonies would not be out of place: April's flower to come, and also a mark of nobility and agelessness.

For the obi, a shining water blue, black, silver, and gold pattern of Buddhist wheel motifs in rushing water- the crossing of the river, the turning of Akinosuke's fate, a hint of his decision to come.