The Twelve Days of Kitsuke: Preparation and Folding

Merry Christmas everyone!  Yes, it’s early, but this year I have a very, very large present to give you all.  So big that it requires twelve days of giving.  Here it is.  The project I’ve been working on for months (if you saw me refer to video editing in my kimono diaries, this is what I was referring to!) The Twelve Days of Kitsuke!

This series will show you how to tie a wide variety of musubi using a wide variety of obi.  Now, the actual musubi tutorials will start appearing in December, and we’re still a few days away from that.  This is like a stocking stuffer.  In this video, I’ll show you how to fold and prepare your obi and accessories in preparation for getting dressed.  That way, you can be ready when to tie your obi in December.

I hope you enjoy the series, and enjoy the run up to the holiday season, regardless of what you are celebrating this year.

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Kimono Diary: November 17th-23rd

Things were up and down this week for me. Fortunately, the ups outnumbered the downs. But only by one. So here’s what happened.

First, I finished it! Just a few hours ago too! The project I’ve been working on since September! I have a Christmas present for all of you. Starting later this week, on my YouTube channel (here) you can find (drum-roll please) The Twelve Days of Kitsuke! During the month of December, I will be posting videos (about every other day) with instructions for tying twelve different obi musubi. I hope you enjoy the videos. It’s the least I can do for everyone who has read my blog, contacted me, liked my Facebook page, and generally let me know that what I am doing is appreciated. So thank you so much everyone, I hope you enjoy the videos.

The second good thing that happened is that I finally got back into teaching after a month’s hiatus. It was really great seeing my regular students again. We moved on from hanhaba obi to Nagoya obi this week, and we’ll continue again next week.

Now for the bad news. I had a wasai lesson scheduled for Sunday. Again, my first in a month. But things weren’t going my way on Sunday. I woke up with a massive migraine. I had to cancel and I spent all day like a vampire; in the dark. I finally started feeling better around five at night. I survived on saltine crackers and green tea that day. Needless to say, I didn’t get much done that day.

Hope you all have a good week!

Kimono Diary: November 2nd-16th

I know, I know. I broke a promise! I promised to write a kimono diary every week, and last week I missed it. My apologies, but honestly, nothing kimono related really happened that week. I just couldn’t think of anything to write about. This week was markedly different though!

First, I finished my last day of dressing children for shichi-go-san. I had a squirmy-wormy boy this week. He just couldn’t stop moving, even with me and his mother telling him to stand still. I struggled to dress him, and my teacher had to redo a couple of things when I was done. I know that I dressed a lot of kids to the standards that I, my teachers, and the studio keep, but my mind keeps going back to the few kids (like Squirmy Wormy) that I know I missed something on. It wasn’t anything major. Just small things like a seam being too far to the front, or a collar showing too much, or an obi showing too little. Those things bug me. And even if the parents didn’t notice, I did. Usually after it was too late to fix it. The one saving grace I had was that I know the photographer was the last line of defense. If the child wouldn’t look good in the photo, then they would be sent back for redressing.

I went kimono shopping with a few friends on Sunday. They had lists of things they wanted to add to their collection, and I was their walking, talking, encyclopedia armed with a himo to help them try everything on! They came away with bags full of wonderful kimono, hakama, haori, and other goodies, and I even got some good deals in as well.

I also had an unsettling experience that reflects back on my kimono diary. I had tried on a kimono, tied the himo, and then got distracted by one of my friends asking a question. When I refocused on getting dressed, trying to create the ohashori, I felt a sharp tug on the back of my kimono. I turned around to find a woman pulling on the kimono and telling me how to put it on. I actually took a step back because it made me feel so uncomfortable and told her I was alright. And just like many times before, it took several repetitions of “I’m ok.” And “I’m a kitsuke teacher.” For her to finally back off. It really was very, very disconcerting.

My upcoming week should be good as well. After a month, my wasai lessons will finally be starting up again, and I’m finally looking at the tail end of a long, long project so I’ll finally have time to dedicate to other things, like posting more info on this blog. I always feel that the motifs section gets forgotten about, and I’m hoping to add some more motifs soon. If anybody has any motifs that you’re particularly interested in, please let me know.  I usually try to write about seasonal motifs during the appropriate season, but I’ll also take requests.

I also ended up adding some practical info on dressing children for shichi-go-san. You can find the post here.

Have a good kitsuke week!

Shichi-Go-San

Shichi-Go-San (七五三) is a milestone event that celebrates the health and well-being of three, five, and seven year old children.  Traditionally, three-year-old boys and girls, five-year-old boys, and seven-year-old girls celebrate this event, however many parents nowadays will get all their children dressed up in kimono at the same time regardless of how old they are to get family photos.  The children get dressed in kimono, take photos, and visit shinto shrines.  The actual date of shichi-go-san is November 15, but children often get dressed up and take photos in the month before this date.

For more information on how to dress a child for shichi-go-san, click here.

Kimono Diary: October 26th-November 1st 2015

I always hesitate to go shopping in new kimono stores.

For those of you who don’t live in Japan, you may be shouting at the screen right now. “How could you not like going into new stores??? Think of all the beautiful kimono and obi that you’re missing out on!”

Well, I had two experiences this weekend that highlight exactly why I don’t enjoy going into a new store for the first time. They were both more negative encounters than most that I have had. But before I get to these more negative experiences, here’s how a usual interaction goes.

 

I will enter the store and start looking around. Almost immediately, a sales clerk will start following me around. Really, really, close. This bothers me in ANY store I go into, so kimono stores are no exception. But then, usually, they will point at something and say, “obijime desu.” (This is an obijime). “Obi desu.” (This is an obi).

Now, I understand this reaction. I am a foreigner in a store that sells items that most Japanese people don’t have a lot of knowledge about, let alone a foreigner. They don’t expect me to know anything. I understand. But it gets old very, very fast. Especially when I visit multiple stores in one day. When it does happen, I usually respond with “Hai, fukuro obi desu ne?” (Yes. It’s a fukuro obi isn’t it?) Showing them that I have even a bit of knowledge usually gets a positive, surprised reaction most of the time, and it usually leads to a conversation about kimono and kitsuke.

These initial interactions have led to some great relationships between me and some of the local stores. They know what I like and how much I’m comfortable spending and they are quick to show me new pieces when I come in. They are also the ones to explain to new customers that I’m a teacher and I know what I’m doing when they see me trying on a new piece for size. These shops are my favorite places to shop. I feel very comfortable there.

This weekend, I discovered a local flea market, complete with kimono vendors. I had never been there before, and I expected the usual interactions that I’ve had before. Here’s what happened.

 

I spotted a kimono that I liked and examined it for damage and size. I quickly figured out that it was too small for me and put it back. As soon as I let go, another shopper, an older woman, ran up to me, grabbed the kimono, and put it on my shoulders. Here’s the conversation that took place (all in Japanese).

Woman: Let me dress you in the kimono.

Me: No, that’s ok. It’s too small.

Woman (to the stall owner): Do you have a himo?

Me: It’s ok. I’m a kitsuke teacher.

Woman: un (sound of acknowledgement) then measures the length.

Woman: ah, it’s too small.

Me: Yes, I know. I’m a kitsuke teacher.

Woman: The length is too small.

Me: Yes. The yuki is too small too.

Woman: Eeeeeeeh! You know what the yuki is?

Me: Yes. I’m a kitsuke teacher.

Finally, after three repetitions, she had heard me. And we had a great conversation after that about tea ceremony (she turned out to be a tea ceremony teacher).

But it bugged me. Again, it took me throwing out a technical term for her to actually listen to what I was telling her. It was a minor annoyance I know, but it was still an annoyance.

 

The second event happened the same day at dinner at a friend’s house. He had a friend over who wanted to try out his English, and the following conversation took place.

Man: Can you wear kimono?

Me: Yes, I can.

My proud husband: She is a kitsuke teacher.

Man: You are liar.

Ouch. That hurt. Yes, I know there was a language barrier. The same word in Japanese (uso!) has a lighter connotation than liar and I know he was just translating directly from one language to the other, but it got me wondering if I should just print off a copy of my license and keep it in my pocket to prove it. As it is, I did have a photo of it on my phone and pulled it out to show him.

And I realized something; that I will always have to prove that I know what I’m talking about. Every day, as long as I am a kitsuke teacher, I will be second-guessed and dismissed until I prove that I do know what I’m doing. It’s a depressing thought. And I know it’s not exclusive to me or my situation. But it’s still depressing.

I don’t like having to prove myself every single time, and that is why I hesitate to go shopping in a new kimono store.