Many of you may know Washi, that is Japanese traditional paper made using fibers from the bark of gampi tree, mitsumata shrub, or the paper mulberry. Washi-Choso is the kind of carving art using Washi, wires, wood, hemp strings, and clay. This art is not very popular and even not many Japanese know it.
The artist of Washi-Choso, Utsumi Kiyoharu (内海清美) is the great master.
He was born in Tokyo in 1937 and graduated from Tokyo University of Arts. His major concepts of the art is people in the Japanese traditional history. He has made the Pope a present of his art called “Susanoo”. In Japanese mythology, Susanoo, the powerful storm of Summer, is the brother of Amaterasu, the goddess of the Sun, and of Tsukuyomi, the god of the Moon.
Oiran was a kind of courtesan of highest rank in Edo period (1600-1868). Some people may express it a prostitute, however Oiran became celebrities of their times outside the pleasure districts. Their art and fashions were often set trends among the wealthy, and because of this, cultural aspects of Oiran traditions continue to be preserved until these days.
For men, in order to see Oiran, they had to frequent the red-light place until they were allowed to see by Oiran.
In that sense, they had to pay the fee several times without getting any services. When finally allowed to see, Oiran came to the meeting room accompanied by several young female attendants.
Once Oiran sit down in front of the man and started smoking. During this time, she made an intuitive decision whether she would like only to talk with him or give him “full” services.
If she did not like the men, he would never be allowed to see her again !
When Oiran went outside officially, they made a long gorgeous line like parade, called “Oiran-Dochu”(花魁道中).
This meant “Fashion Show” to the people in the town, as well.
Takao-Dayu was one of the most famous Oiran in Yoshiwara (吉原) which was in Taito-ku (台東区) in Tokyo. Takao-Dayu was not only one woman, but it was the prestigious name taken by several women who were beautiful and had special skills. It is not clear how many women succeeded the name, there are 4 views that say 4, 6, 9, or 11. The most interesting skill that one of the several Takao-Dayu had was capability to fix the clock !
Another interesting fact is that those who frequented to see Oiran were not only men, but young women also did.
It was not because they were gay, but they wanted to learn their fashion sense, like Kimono pattern, hair accessary, and coordination.
Ms. Uchiyama, who makes Kimono gown was coordinator of this event and played “Watering Girl” role !
There was a male Shitate-ya (仕立て屋), who is very rare nowadays.
His live sewing can be seen at YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/user/KimoKame
Male Kimono maker
The house was decorated with several Kimonos and fabrics.
Although, the events finished and there were no live exhibition of sewing now, the place is very nice to visit.
It is only 400 Yen to enter the Museum.
If you have a chance to visit the suburb of Tokyo, why don’ t you try ?
Just like everybody enjoys coordinating daily cloths, it is fun and exiting to consider which Obi to choose for Kimono and how the Obi is tied.
There are a lot of ways of tying Obi depending on the situation you wear Kimono, how old you are, and what kind of Obi and Kimono are selected.
Most formal and standard Obi tying is called “Niju-Daiko”(二重太鼓).
“Niju-Daiko” is possible only when “Fukuro-Obi” and “Maru-Obi” are used because other kind of Obi are too short and too narrow for the tying.
“Niju-Daiko” is suitable for many kinds of Kimono, such as “Tomesode”, “Homongi”, and “Komon”.
When you wear “Furisode”, “Fukuro-Obi” or “Maru-Obi” is chosen as well, but the way of the tying Obi should be gorgeous like below.
This tying is called “Fukura-Suzume”(ふくら雀). “Fukura-Suzume” means Sparrow with its feathers puffed out in winter to warm itself. This leads to wish Wealth and Prosperity, a traditional lucky motif in Japan.
On the other hand, if you wear “Yukata” or “Komon”, a casual Kimono, “Hanhaba-Obi” is good for them.
One of the popular tying of “Hanhaba-Obi” for young girls is “Bunko-Musubi” (文庫結び).
It looks like ribbon or butterfly, but “Bunko” means “Book Box”.
Nowadays, there are few opportunities to wear Komono, even in Japan.
Then, think about how to utilized Obi in a different way.
How about for a table runner ?
If you have only 2 humble Tsumugi Kimonos as your hand and need to wear either one of them at New Year Party, which do you prefer ?
The entire image of Kimono changes depending on the coordination with Obi.
In addition, accessories for Kimono, such as “Obijime” and “Obiage”, as well as “Haneri” play roles of “spice” that pluses a nuance.
“Obijime” is the strap that holds Obi.
“Obiage” is the scarf-like fabric that covers inner strings and decorates the edge of Obi in front.
“Haneri”, that is not shown in the pictures this time, though, is the fabric that covers and decorates the collar of “Juban”, Kimono underwear.
Now, there are 3 patterns of coordination for each !
A. This kimono fabric is called “Some-Oshima” (染め大島), a kind of “Oshima-Tsumugi” (大島紬) that is very famous fabric produced in Kagoshima prefecture.
Usually, the pattern of “Oshima-Tsumugi” is inwoven, however, the pattern of “Some-Oshima” is dyed after the fabric is woven.
A-1 Oshima with Tsumugi Obi
A-1 is coordination with “Tsumugi” “Nagoya-Obi”, “Tsumugi” “Obijime”, and yellow “Shibori” “Obiage”.
A-2 Oshima with Maple Obi
A-2 is coordination with Maple motif “Nagoya-Obi”, thin & round “Obijime” with color ball charm, and light-green “Chirimen” “Obiage”.
A-3 Oshima with Chrysanthemum Obi
A-3 coordination is with Chrysanthemum motif “Nagoya-Obi”, thin & round triple color “Obijime”, and yellow “Rinzu” “Obijime”.
B. This Kimono fabric is called “Yuki-Tsumugi” (結城紬), that is very famous “Tsumugi” produced in Ibaraki prefecture. Its inwoven pattern is “Sakura” petals.
B-1 Yuki Tsumugi with Fukuro Obi
B-1 coordination is with “Fukuro-Obi” of openwork, green flat “Obijime”, and light-green “Chirimen” “Obiage” (same one in A-2). ”Sakura” motif “Obidome”, a brooch like accessary for “Obijime”, is put as an additional accent.
“Fukuro-Obi” is usually for formal or semi formal Kimono, however this is called “Share-Bukuro” (洒落袋) that is for Komon Kimono.
B-2 Yuki Tsumugi with Hitta Nagoya Obi
B-2 coordination is with “Chirimen” “Nagoya-Obi” with dotted pattern called “Hitta” (疋田), thick & round “Obijime”, and “Obiage” with same fabric as “Obijime”
B-3 Yuki Tsumugi with Stripe Nagoya Obi
Finally, B-3 coordination is with “Nagoya-Obi” with Stripe “Tsumugi” fabric, black flat “Obijime with “Obidome” (same one as in B-1), and red “Shibori” “Obijime”. This “Nagoya-Obi” was remade from the fabric that was originally Kimono.
Leaf peeping in autumn is one of popular seasonal events for Japanese people along with “O-Hanami”, Cherry blossom viewing, in spring.
Especially, maple leaves with their color changed in red are very beautiful, so that, they are one of the most popular leaves in autumn.
Japanese people have loved nature and incorporated it into their lives since ancient times.
As you know, Kimono is one of the representatives.
Traditionally in Japan, you will be regarded as “Iki” (粋), meaning snappy, if you take the seasonal fashion in advance just before the beginning. But, if you wear Kimono with Sakura motif in autumn, you will be regarded as “Busui”(無粋), meaning clunky.
Maple leaf is very popular motif for Kimono and Obi as much as Sakura.
Maple leaf motif Nagoya-Obi
In general, motif of colored maple leaf is loved very much as a symbol of autumn, however, do you know there is a green or non-colored maple leaf motif for Kimono ?
You can wear Kimono with motif of green or non-colored maple leaves in “non-autumn” seasons.
Of course, winter is not the season because all the leaves fall down from the trees.
In that sense, from spring to early summer will be the good timing.
Maple leaf motif Komon Fabric
As mentioned earlier, Japanese have valued the seasonal sense, and not liked to take one non-seasonal item in the different season for long time.
Recently, however, emerging modern Yukata fabric tends to be free from the old traditional sense of value.
Usually, colored maple leaves are not used for the pattern of Yukata, that is worn in summer, because it is the symbol of autumn, but as you can see in the below picture, it is actually used now !
Maple leaf motif Yukata Fabric
Although, this may be unacceptable for senior Japanese people who adhere to traditional seasonal sense, changes like this could be one of the keys for younger generation to carry on the torch of Japanese cultures with which enjoying and developing.
What is “Obiage” (帯揚げ）? Have you heard of the name ?
It is one of decorating item for women wearing Kimono, and it is common way these days.
(Men do not use Obiage for their wearing Kimono.)
However, the history of putting Obiage is not very long.
It is said that a Geisha in Fukagawa, Tokyo, invented Obiage as a combination with new Obi decoration, called “Taiko-Musubi” in around 1877.
The purpose of Obiage is to hide the string that bands Obi on Kimono.
Obiage used for Taiko Musubi
Obiage is shown on the edge of Obi, and between Obi and Kimono
Then it became popular around 1907.
So, when you look at the pictures drawn before 1870′s, there were no women putting Obiage.
Now, there are many Obiage with a variety of colors and textures sold.
Because they are so pretty and beautiful fabric, we thought that it would be very nice if they were used for scarfs wearing with modern cloths.
Although many of you may have heard the word, it is a genre of Japanese woodblock prints and paintings produced between the 17 and 20th centuries.
“Ukiyo”(浮世) literally means “Floating world” where current life exists, but not exactly real life or another life.
So that, the motifs of Ukiyoe had been not only beautiful landscapes but also, sexy lives, dramas, and fashionable cultures at that time.
At beginning (about 1657-1763), most of Ukiyoe motifs were beautiful women and Kabuki actors.
Motif of beautiful woman was limited to high ranked prostitute, or hetaera, at first, then expanded to Geisha, waitresses in the restaurants, and even to ordinary pretty young women.
Allegedly, Hishikawa Moronobu (菱川師宣) is the pioneer of Ukiyoe, and one of very famous Ukiyoe artists we know. His representative work is “Mikaeri Bijin” (見返り美人), meaning “back looking Beautiful woman”.
Mikaeri Bijin by Hishikawa Moronobu
Kansei San-Bijin by Kitagawa Utamaro
As Ukiyoe played a role of poster or bormide for Kabuki actors, it spreaded to deal with Sumo restlers, as well.
In the mid-term (about 1764-1803), Ukiyoe artist started picturing daily lives of Samurai and went into illustrating books, which became one of thier important works.
Illustration in the book “Tokaidochu Hizakurige” by Jippensha Ikku
Latterly (about 1804-1868), in alignment with sublimated town culture of the society, themes of Ukiyoe diverged into details, where areas of “Landscapes” and “Birds and Flowers” developed and came into fashion.
They depicted daily lives, travel lives, and admiration for nature of the people, humbly but outstandingly.
Katsushika Hokusai is one of the reporesentative of this time, and he is one of the most famous Ukiyoe artists we know, as well.
Fugaku Sanjurokkei Sunsyu Ejiri by Hokusai
Flower by Hokusai
It is said that he influenced Vincent van Gogh , a famous impressionist painter from Netherland in 19th centuries.
Hokusai was so mysterious that it has been said that Toshusai Sharaku (東洲斎写楽) and Hokusai is a same person although Sharaku has been treated as one independent Ukiyoe artist, who suddenly disappeared after his short term activities.
Otani Oniji, a Kabuki actor, by Sharaku
There were hundreds of Ukiyoe artists, and it is impossible to describe about all of them !
Ukiyoe had another aspect that played a important role of “media”.
For example, when famous people died, their portraits were printed and published with their past record and condolences.
It can be said that Ukiyoe had some influece on the newspaper that develpled in later period.
Now, we found fabrics for Kimono and Juban that have motifs of Ukiyoe, and made them on sale on our shop page. They are very interesting and rare items.
There are a lot of historical traditional crafts all over Japan, including clothing, food, interior, stationary, and so on.
If you would like to see and learn about them, why don’t you visit “Japan Traditional Crafts Aoyama Square” ?
It has database of detail information about the crafts in each area.
When you look at the category about woven fabric, there are 34 kinds of fabric in 17 prefectures, and for dyed fabrics, there are 11 kinds of fabric in 7 prefectures.
Of woven fabric kinds, most famous among Japanese people are, Yuki-Tsumugi, Kihachijo, Oshima-Tsumugi, and Kurume-Gasuri for Kimono, and, Nishijin-Ori and Hakata-Ori for Obi fabric.
Tsumugi weaving is not gorgeous, but has humble beauty of the texture that represents typical Japanese wording “Wabi Sabi”.
Tsumugi was loved mostly by ordinary people, and has been worn on casual occasions in these days.
Nishijin-Ori is, on the other hand, is characteristic of its luxuriousness weaving with gold and silver strings, that used to be worn mostly by noble people in days of old, and has been utilized in formal situation these days.
Of dyed fabrics, Kyo-Yuzen, Kaga-Yuzen, and Bingata is vary famous among many Japanese people, even those who are not interested in Kimono.
Kyo-Yuzen is provably typical Kimono fabric that most of foreigners will imagine.
Kaga-Yuzen is dyed by the almost same way as Kyo-Yuzen, however, its is less gorgeous and characteristic of its vermiculate leaves in the pictured pattern.
Kaga-Yuzen (vermiculate leaves)
Japan Traditional Crafts Aoyama Square also has a showroom in Aoyama, Tokyo, where, hundreds of hi-quality folk crafts all over Japan are regularly shown and you can actually buy them.
They also provides biweekly exhibitions and most recent planned exhibition in the Square is about the crafts in Fukui prefecture (from 8/31 to 9/11). It seems to include ceramics, lacquer crafts, edged tools, and paper crafts.
Traditional Craft Square_1
Traditional Crafts Aoyama Square 2
Traditional Crafts Aoyama Square 3
If you plan to have a trip to Japan and would like to find something Japanese traditional, why don’ t you check the site before you fly ?
You may be able to find the aspects of Japanese tradition that you do not know yet !
Summer has come. Japan has four seasons and we enjoy the changing seasons. In summer, it is very hot and humid. Therefore Japanese has been devised ways of avoiding discomfort. Japanese summer goods appeal to our sence of eye, smell, hearing, touch and make us cool. Make you cool with Japanese traditional summer clothes, interior, wind bell sounds, or any other items we present here and discover the Japanese traditional wisdom.
1. Yukata - The Yukata is a casual light cotton kimono for wearing in summer. Yukatas normally have very brightly coloured designs on them. Japan is one of the few modern countries where the traditional dressing is still “trendy”. Today we wear Yukata and go to the traditional Bon-Odori, summer festivals and fireworks shows. The relative simply design of Yukata means Japanese women can, with some practice, put this kimono on unassisted.
During the Heian period (8 to 11th century), the nobles wore yukatabira (yu - bath and katabira - under clothing) after taking a bath. In time, the term shortened to yukata.
Later, the wariors also started to wear yukata, and during the Edo period, when the public baths become very popular, the yukata became widely worn by the public.
In the old times, before the air conditioning, the Japanese people developed traditional ways to help cooling off during hot summer days… One very interesting technique, still largely practiced, is the use of the traditional furin. It is usually made of glass, ceramic or metal. It has a clapper with a string and a rectangular card.
In Japan, the furin is a very popular item during summer and is usually hung from the eaves of a house or in front of the windows. The distinctive sound of the wind chime signifies a breeze, providing some psychological relief from the intensely hot and humid summer. These wind-bells give poetic charm to the Japanese summers. There is also a fancy strip of paper called tanzaku that hangs from the bell’s clapper. When a breeze comes, the tanzaku swings and causes the clapper to hit the bell. This results in the bell’s ringing.
3. Sensu (holding fan) & Uchiwa – The history of the fan is not at all clear-cut. When you think of how simple the basic idea is, a tool that is a bit more efficient than a hand waved in front of the face, it is obvious that the fan is likely one of those inventions that sprang up at around the same time in most civilizations on the earth – at least the ones in warmer climates. The fan that symbolized position, and expressed personality, however, the fan that was art, seems to have developed in the East.
One early form appeared in Kyoto, in the ninth century, when the cost of paper was prohibitive. Ordinary records and such were kept on thin slats of wood (the kind you might see today being burned as votive offerings in some Japanese temples). It seems that someone got the idea of binding a number of slats together at one end and running a string through them at the other, thus creating a crude, but effective sensu.
The uchiwa has become a symbol of the Japanese summer and can often be seen with its wooden or bamboo handle stuck into the sash at the back of a light cotton kimono or even a pair of jeans. They are often painted or printed with designs that suggest cooling breezes or streams, or the flowers of summer. Uchiwa are also a popular advertising handout in Japan. They are made, in that incarnation from paper or plastic, with more garish illustrations, and often a hole in the covering material in lieu of a handle.
4. Uchimizu （打ち水）- a typical Japanese traditional custom which consists in splashing water over the pavement in front of the stores, houses, shrines, temples or inside the Japanese gardens. Traditionally, uchimizu is done by using a bucket and a wooden ladle, by people dressed in the traditional yukata. An interesting detail is that the water used for uchimizu is not tap water, but recycled or rain water.
Now ? We use a little bit more technologies to survive the heat of summer. These are just a few examples of modern summer items.
1. Cool Mattress Pads- Japan sells these cooling pads to go on top of your mattress. It keeps you cool while you sleep. An alternative to this is to fill Hot Water Bottles with Ice Water, wrap them in cloth and put them in your bed. Nothing like a cool-refreshing sleep to leave you recharged and ready to go.
2. Aisunon (An ice scarf) – Japan sells these re-freezable ice packs (AISUNON or アイスノン) that fit inside of this cloth sleeve that goes around your neck. It does help quite bit.
3. Higasa (Anti UV parasol) - Anti-UV parasols from Japan are exquisitely beautiful yet practical products that provide protection from damaging ultraviolet radiation, relief from the hot sun, and protection from light rain showers. These parasols have been crafted using a stunning range of fabrics, styles, embroideries, lace and other intricate embellishments.
Can you imagine ever using a parasol as a form of sunblock? Parasol usage is far from exclusive to Japan; it’s prevalent all over Japan, a country where having milky skin has been hailed as the ultimate sign of beauty since who knows when.
“Gofuku no Hi” (呉服の日) is coming soon !
It is May 29th.
“Gofuku no Hi” means Kimono day, made from the word play “GO(5)-FU(2)-KU(9)”.
Many Kimono shops provide discount sales on the day with pricing 5,290 Yen or 52,900 Yen on most of their Kimono products.
By the way, “Gofuku” is another naming of Kimono, meaning cloths of “Go”(呉), the ancient name of the country, a part of current China in the 3rd century.
So, allegedly the origin of Kimono, whose way to wear is to lay left side on the right , came from “Go”
We are also planning to “Gofuku no Hi” sales with new products on our website, such as “Yukata” (浴衣) and ”Noren”(暖簾).
As many people may know, “Yukata” is casual summer Kimono. Japanese people enjoy wearing “Yukata” especially on summer festivals, called “Matsuri”(祭り) in Japanese, or fireworks display.
Here, you can see many non-Japanese people are enjoying “Yukata”, as well !
“Noren” is traditional Japanese fabric dividers, hung between rooms, on walls, in doorways, or in windows. They usually have one or more vertical slits cut from the bottom to nearly the top of the fabric, allowing for easier passage or viewing.
"Unagi" reataurant 2
They are mainly used by shops and restaurants playing many roles such as a means of protection from sun, wind and dust, advertising, and signs for showing the shops and restaurants are open for business. If they are taken down from the entrance, it means that the shops and restaurants are closed.
Both “Yukata” and “Unagi” are kinds of summer feature that you may hear about in various opportunities in near future.
As those who are interested in Kimono culture or Japanese history may know, “Juni-Hitoe” is a diminutive for Kimono with several layers. This plant was named after “Juni-Hitoe” Kimono by some Japanese who regarded how these flowers lay resembling that of “Juni-Hitoe”.
Juni-Hitoe was worn by noble women in “Heian” era around 10th centuries.
Although “Juni” means twelve in Japanese, it does not necessarily have 12 layers, but usually ranges from 5 to 7 layers. And,,, total weight of “Juni-Hitoe” becomes around 20 kilograms !
Ladies in this era must have endured to be fashionable…
Kimono is tradition but there is a movement among kimono designers seeking to bring the traditional Kimono into the modern world.
Tokyo Fashion Week ran from March 18 through March 24. There were green fashions from the designer who dressed Lady Gaga as well as a modern updates on the traditional kimono. About 15,000 people gathered for the Tokyo Runway Show to watch street styles, a show put together by Japanese creators seeking to switch to ready-to-wear brands and “real clothes consumers”. The third generation Kimono designer Jotaro Saito presented his “Futurism” collection, featured beautiful kimono in a variety of bold patterns and vivid colors with models wearing traditional sandals and being trussed up in “obi” sashes with fabric featuring horizontal-lining, checks and polka-dot.
Tokyo Fashion Week, 2012, Jotaro Saito
Tokyo Fashion Week 2012, Jotaro Saito
Kimono for daily wear is Jotaro’s philosophy. His stunning creations are a respectful nod to traditional kimono design bringing bold colors and modern patterns using the standard kimono form, which has taken the art form to new heights.
He has also carried his art form beyond Kimono to various works of art for restaurants, hotels, museums and shopping districts and his design work has been incorporated into household items and furniture.
Please dry in shade for a few days before you put them into the drawer or closet after wearing.
Please dry in shade for a few days at least once a year in order to prevent the spots due to humidity or aging even if you do not wear.
If you would like to clean
We do not recommend you to wash Kimono, Kimono Jackets, Kimono Coat, and Obi at your home as they are delicate silk products.
If you would like to clean them, please confer with the proffessional dry cleaner, or you can contact us for advice and to clean them in Japan.
(Required to pay reciprocating shipping and cleaning costs)
KimoKame is a labor of love from a team of Japanese who want
to promote high-quality Japanese handmade products to the world.