Kimono Diary: October 19-25th, 2015

How can you say no to these faces?

How can you say no to these faces?

Welcome back! I hope you all had a good week. I’m a little late with this diary because my Sunday was very busy. Not with kimono related events, but with a visit to a local farmer’s market, dinner with friends, and a couple of unexpected guests we picked up (after we almost hit them!) on the way to dinner. Kittens! I have really bad cat allergies, so I couldn’t touch them, hold them, or help clean them up (and I wanted to so badly, they were so cute!)   Fortunately, the friends we were with were thinking about getting some cats anyway, and it was love at first sight! As you can imagine, our evening plans got a little waylaid.

This week, there were two large events that dominated my kimono life. First was my second day helping to dress kids for shichi-go-san. I’m finally getting a handle on the boys and on the three-year-old girls, but I still struggle with the seven-year-old girls, especially with the ohashori. The kimono are designed to fit a wide variety of girls, so they’re larger than usual on most girls, and there’s a ton of extra fabric I have to squirrel away under the obi. I’m only an assistant helping my teachers, but there were so many kids on Saturday that I had to dress kids myself. I ended up dressing the seven-year-old girls up until the ohashori, then switch with my teacher to dress another kid. I’m hoping to get some more experience next week and finally get the hang of it.  I also got a nice compliment at the end of the day.  The manager asked if I would be around next year, because she wants to hire me directly for the period of shichi-go-san.  I guess that means I didn’t screw up to badly!

The other big event in my life is the beginning of a new series of videos on my Youtube channel. I call it Pop Culture Kimono, and the goal of these videos is to introduce kimono knowledge to the general population through popular characters in movies, games, etc. People complain so much about cultural appropriation with kimono and people thinking that kimono=geisha and I hope to dispel some of those myths. My first video is on a video game called Fatal Frame 5. I worked with a good friend of mine who publishes let’s plays on her Youtube channel, and Fatal Frame 5 was her first game (incidentally, she’s also the friend with two new kittens at home!)  You can see the video in my previous post.

That’s all for this week. Enjoy your kitsuke!


Kimono Diary October 12-18, 2015

What a week! It seems that my weekends are becoming busier than my weekdays, and this weekend was no exception.


Yes, shichi-go-san. This past weekend, and for three weeks in the future, I’ll be volunteering at a local photo studio dressing children for shichi-go-san. I’ve mentioned my practice sessions in past kimono diaries, but this weekend I got to put those lesson into use. My teachers and I dressed kids from as young as one year old, all the way up to ten years old. Yes, it’s traditional for only three, five, and seven year olds to get dressed, but when you have a sibling as well, lots of parents want to have pictures of their kids together.

For the really little babies, I got a big surprise looking at the kimono that they wear. It’s actually two pieces that look like a completed kimono and hifu combination when they’re on. The bottom half is just a skirt with an elastic waistband. Really, really convenient for dressing a squirming, crying baby!

And boy, was there crying. I was actually expecting them to cry when they saw me (the foreigner) especially the really young ones, but that didn’t seem to be the thing that set them off. It was things like not liking the feel of tabi on their feet, being around too many strangers (not just me), and being forced into the third outfit of the day by their over-eager parents (they had tiny suits and costumes as well as kimono).

The oldest girl we dressed was a ten-year-old girl (her younger sister was seven). For young girls, kitsuke is different from adult kitsuke. For example, the collar sits right against the neck instead of being pulled back, and a shigoki goes around the bottom edge of the obi. However, when a girl turns ten, she begins dressing like an adult, so these features change. We were constantly checking with each other if we should do certain elements like the child version, or like the adult version when we were dressing her.

Sorry, there are no pictures of this part of my weekend.  Restrictions on privacy and all that.  However…


Sunday=Aki Matsuri

And you thought matsuri only took place in the summer! Aki matsuri (autumn festivals) are very different from summer ones. The gods are taken from their home temple in a portable shrine to another temple or shrine nearby. They’re accompanied by drums and gongs either pulled or carried by a group of men.

My husband was invited to carry the band along with about forty other people. This presented a conundrum to me, to wear kimono or not to wear kimono. I decided to wear kimono, and chose a fancier yukata that I wore with a juban. Since it was still so warm, I didn’t want to wear a fully lined kimono, and I didn’t want to stand out any more than I already do.

Then, just as I had finished getting dressed, a different aki matsuri passed right by our apartment, and not a single person was in kimono. That fact, combined with the fact that I had no idea how long or far I would be walking, meant that I decided to undress and change to western clothes.

And I’m kinda glad I did. The festival ended five hours after it started, and there was nowhere to sit down, except on the ground, something that I was reluctant to do in jeans and t-shirt and would not even consider doing in a kimono!

And the matsuri was wonderful. Lots of sake and snacks for people participating in it, kimono worn by the priests that looked like they came out of the Heian Era, and lots of people to talk to. I had a ton of parents pushing their children in front of me to practice speaking their English. This brought on reactions ranging from “No way!” (said in perfect English) to kids begging me to become their English teacher at school and promises to come back next year.

My husband had a tougher time of it. He was a part of the carrying team, and he’s several centimeters taller than everyone else there. He just couldn’t find a comfortable position to carry a large log on his shoulders without stooping and hurting his back and his sides. He told me as he laid down that night, “It hurts when I live!”

Before the pain started!

Before the pain started!


You can see the portable shrine in the front of the procession.

You can see the portable shrine in the front of the procession.

My husband's attempts to find a comfortable position.

My husband’s attempts to find a comfortable position.

Food and sake!

Food and sake!

The musicians.  They were so cute!

The musicians. They were so cute!

I love the way they tie up the sleeves on the furisode so the kids can play during the breaks.

I love the way they tie up the sleeves on the furisode so the kids can play during the breaks.

Even the priests get to enjoy the sake and food.

Even the priests get to enjoy the sake and food.

That’s all for this week. Happy kitsuke!

Kimono Diary October 5th-11th, 2015

This week consisted of three things; video editing, teaching, and wasai.

Video editing and filming took up several hours of my weekend, unfortunately, some of those hours were wasted when I realized that the camera was set to the wrong frame rate.  I had to do it all over again, most of it in the last 12 hours.  And to top it off, Microsoft Word updated itself and is now crashing whenever I try to access this particular blog post that I wrote yesterday.  Time to do it again!  It hasn’t been a happy day.

For teaching, I had two lessons on Saturday, one private and one group lesson.  In the group lesson, I had fewer people than usual, only three students, but I found that it’s a good number.  If I have more than five students, I find that I can’t divide my attention evenly between my students, especially if I have one that is particularly struggling.

I had another wasai lesson this Saturday too (yes, my Saturdays are incredibly busy.)  We measured everything three times, found mistakes in our math, remeasured and remarked everything, and finally, after an hour, made the crucial cut to insert the gusset into my yukata.  I have a ton of homework to do including finishing installing the gusset and sewing the side seams.  It’s a lot of work, but my next wasai lesson won’t be for a month since from next week, I’ll be helping my teacher dress children for shichi-go-san!

Sorry for the lack of pictures this week, but there wasn’t really anything to photograph!  See you all next week!

Kimono Diary September 28-October 4 2015

Hello again!  I hope you all had a good week.  My week didn’t start off all that great.  I’m collaborating with a friend to create a kimono based video for youtube (she’s a fantastic video editor).  While I was casually flipping through my notes, my heart sank.  I realized that I had used the wrong word to describe a garment.  What a goof on my part!  It only got worse when I messaged her and she said she no longer had the editable versions of the section in question.  AHHHH!  However!  When we got together on Friday, we found the autosaved edits on her external harddrive.  Thank you Adobe gods!

I managed to post about a couple of new motifs this week too.  I’ve decided to expand my geometric patterns section, so I added asa no ha and same komon to the list.

I also got together with my kitsuke teacher to practice dressing children for shichi-go-san.  In two weeks, my weekends will be taken up by helping my sensei dress small children for shichi-go-san for a local photo studio.  We started off by practicing on a small, child-sized mannequin lent to us by the photo studio to practice on.  And after that, I got to practice on my teacher’s grandchildren who are just the right age and size to practice on.  And they were so patient with us too!  Until it got too hot that is!

Photos or it didn't happen, right?

Photos or it didn’t happen, right?

Finally, I went kimono shopping with a friend of mine and managed to grab the steal of the month!  I gorgeous kimono bag in great condition that was originally 120,000 yen, and I only paid 700 yen.  I was really lucky that I spotted it before my friend.  One of us would have gotten it in the end.

Have a good week!

The bottom is a separate compartment for your zori.

The bottom is a separate compartment for your zori.

In the top half, there is a built in hanger for your kimono.

In the top half, there is a built in hanger for your kimono.