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…
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!”
That’s all for this week. Happy kitsuke!