Kitsuke Dressing: The Performances

One yukata.
One kendo set.
Two men’s kimono.
Three hakama.
Six women’s kimono.
Ten obi.
Fifteen chances to dress people in kimono.
Hundreds of himo, korin belts, tabi, and other accessories.

This has been my life every Saturday and Sunday for the past three weeks.  I wrote about this experience earlier here.  Basically, the foreign community in my area put on an annual English musical, and this year I was the official kimono dresser.  I raided my kimono closet to dress ten people in kimono.  Five of those people I had to dress twice during each show, with the shortest turn around time being two minutes.  It was exhausting, stressful, but a also a great experience that I’d love to do again.  It was great experience in dressing others, and I got really fast at it too!  I just wanted to share some of the photos that various people took during the past few weeks.

Working on tying hakama.

Working on tying hakama.  I was half dressed myself when people started to finish with their makeup, so I had to stop dressing myself and start dressing everyone else.

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She's so small I have the opposite problem to what I usually have, too much fabric!  I have to tie the waistbelt around her ribcage for the ohashori to end up in the right place.

She’s so small I have the opposite problem to what I usually have, too much fabric! I have to tie the waistbelt around her ribcage for the ohashori to end up in the right place.

The Daimyo and his bodyguards.  I had to learn how to tie a hakama pretty quickly to dress these three.

The Daimyo and his bodyguards. I had to learn how to tie a hakama pretty quickly to dress these three.

I love those hakama!

I love those hakama!

Four of my kimono people.  The three ladies I dressed in eight minutes just before this photo was taken.  The hems are a mess, but I'm happy with the collars!

Four of my kimono people. The three ladies I dressed in eight minutes just before this photo was taken. The hems are a mess, but I’m happy with the collars!

Celebrating after a successful show.

Celebrating after a successful show.

These are only a few of the photos I have.  The rest of them are on my facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/readysetkimono

Ume (梅) Plum

DSC_0155 DSC_0152Name: Ume (梅) Japanese Plum Blossom (A.K.A Japanese Wild Apricot)

Seasonal Association: Spring

When To Wear It: January – March

Auspicious: yes

Seasonality

Japan is a long, mountainous country. Its geography means that it has radically different temperatures and weather during any particular season. Winter in Okinawa, Kyushu, Kansai, and Hokkaido are very, very, different. Seasonality rules for kimono motifs was established by the nobility of the imperial court, which was based in the Kyoto region. Therefore, the time frame for what is considered spring is set by the weather in Kyoto, even though there are still snowstorms happening in Hokkaido. Essentially, the traditional season and the climatic season at any given time can be very different from each other.

Before the Meiji Era, Japan used a different calendar (a luni-solar calendar). According to the modern solar calendar, the traditional four seasons are as follows.

Spring: February 4-May 4 (first, second, and third months)
Summer: May 5-August 6 (fourth, fifth, and sixth months)
Autumn: August 7-November 6 (seventh, eighth, and ninth months)
Winter: November 7-February 4 (tenth, eleventh, and twelfth months)

Japan and the Culture of the Four Seasons – Haruo Shirane

This traditional seasonality, which rules all seasonal kimono motifs, would place the blooming of ume firmly in the first month (spring) even though there is still very likely snow on the ground. Like the crocus in the west, ume is seen as a harbinger of spring.

History

Before the Nara Period (719-794), when you said the word “flower”, many people thought of the ume first. In fact, there were more poems written about the ume than the sakura during this period. Even today, when the flowers bloom, there are viewing parties and festivals to celebrate their arrival.

Besides being the first flower of spring, ume is also associated with academic success and passing entrance exams. The main reason for this is due to a man called Sugawara no Michizane (845-903), a famous politician, poet, scholar and student of Chinese literature in the Heian period. During his career, he rose high in the imperial bureaucracy, but was falsely accused of treason and was exiled to Kyushu. This act led to the story Tobi Ume Densetsu (The Legend of the Flying Plum Tree). It’s said that Michizane had a favorite plum tree in his garden in Kyoto. After his exile, the plum tree missed him so much that it uprooted itself and flew to Kyushu to be with him. After his death, Michizane was exonerated and enshrined as a Shinto deity of scholarship, Tenjin. Many of the temples dedicated to him, including Kyoto’s Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, adopted his favourite flower, the ume, as their symbol. Every February, students writing the annual high school and university entrance exams go to these shrines to pray for luck with their scholastic achievements. The exams themselves are also held around the time that the ume blooms, strengthening the connection between the ume and academic success.

Kimono Design: An Introduction to its Patterns and Background – Keiko Nitanai

http://www.jref.com/history/sugawara-no-michizane/

Shochikubai on a hanhaba obi.

Shochikubai on a hanhaba obi.

Shochikubai
松竹梅

The kanji that make up shochikubai include matsu (pine) take (bamboo) and ume (plum blossom). The name comes from the Chinese reading of the characters instead of the Japanese reading (sho=pine, chiku=bamboo, and bai=plum blossom). This combination is known as the “Three Friends of Winter.” It’s a very auspicious combination, and although all the motifs are associated with winter (or the announcement of spring in the case of ume), it can be used year round.

Identification

Ume are shown as a flower with five petals that are perfectly round. It can be easy to confuse it with the other classic five-petaled flowers, the sakura (with a notch in each petal) or the kikyo (with pointed petals).

This is an ume with a double layer of petals.

This is an ume with a double layer of petals.

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This obi has ume blossoms as well as buds in it’s design.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Variations

Neji ume are stylized blossoms and are shown with the petals twisting around the center of the flower.

The small orange blossom with five petals is a nejiume. The larger blue flower is a nejikiku (twisted chrysanthemum).

Korin ume is a highly stylized version. In this design, the five petals are still visible, however they are not distinctive.

Note: When I acquire this motif in my collection I will add a photo of it.

Umebachi is five large circles (representing the petals) placed in a circle around a sixth, smaller circle.

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 Finally, Begin Japanology has done another great video on the ume.