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

Kimono Dressing

I’m exhausted.  I’m beat.  I’m ready for an early night.  But instead, I’m sitting up writing about what I did all weekend, because I’M PUMPED!!!!  Why?  Because I’ve been working with kimono all weekend!

I took a break from my license practice in order to volunteer my time.  Every year, the English teachers in my small Japanese town put on a musical in English.  This year, they did Frozen, but with a Japanese twist.  While most of the main characters have their own unique and recognizable style, a lot of the side characters had to have their own costumes designed and created.  The story has been changed to take place in Japan, and to convey this fact, we raided my kimono closet to put together costumes for many of the side characters.  And a few of the big ones too!

the whole cast fully costumed.  It's a mix of western, instantly recognizable, and kimono.

the whole cast fully costumed. It’s a mix of western, instantly recognizable, and kimono.

The only big characters that I get to dress are the Count of Wesseltown, but in this case, he’s been changed to the Daimyo of Osaka (with Obaka being the mispronounced version of his home!).  He and his bodyguards wear kimono and hakama, and I had to learn hakama dressing in order to get them dressed.  Prince Hans has experience with hakama and gave me a crash course this morning on tying them.  Everyone’s hakama stayed in place during the performance, so I was very pleased!

The Daimyo of Osaka/Obaka (in the gold and black hakama) and his two bodyguards.

The Daimyo of Osaka/Obaka (in the gold and black hakama) and his two bodyguards.

Despite my lack of knowledge on hakama kitsuke, the men are the easy ones for me.  They get dressed before the curtain goes up and they never change costumes.  The women on the other hand, all have to be dressed in kimono, take the kimono off for a costume change, then put the kimono back on.  And some (most?) of the costume changes are really, really, fast.  On three separate occasions, I have six minutes to get two ladies dressed completely in kimono, two minutes to get one lady dressed, and about eight minutes to get three ladies dressed.  I’m exhausted by the end!

I’ve also gotten creative with my kitsuke to make it as quick as possible.

1. For anybody wearing a polyester kimono, I’ve sewn in a ohashori.

2. I taught everyone how to tie the obi makura in place and how to tie the obi age.  While they’re doing that, I can fiddle around with the otaiko at the back.

3. Anybody with an exceptionally quick costume change must have on their padding and eri sugata underneath their other costume.  It gives a bit of a hunchback look, but not something that is too noticable on stage.

The two maids in their matching kimono.  One of these ladies I have to get into kimono, obi, and apron in two minutes flat.

The two maids in their matching kimono. One of these ladies I have to get into kimono, obi, and apron in two minutes flat.

One of the party guests in her kimono.  She's one of the three that I have to get dressed in eight minutes.

One of the party guests in her kimono. She’s one of the three that I have to get dressed in eight minutes.  She’s so short, I actually have the “problem” of having too much fabric to work with! 

Another party guest.  And another lady that I have to get dressed in eight minutes.  I love her headscarf.  She brought in three that could match and took a survey of the cast.  This one was the winner.

Another party guest. And another lady that I have to get dressed in eight minutes. I love her headscarf. She brought in three that could match and took a survey of the cast. This one was the winner.

after all the frantic action of the day, it was really nice to come out and see that the ume blossoms have finally started to come out!

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And I just want to apologize for the poor quality of the photos.  My phone doesn’t take nearly as nice photos as my actual camera.

If you want more information on the musical, they have a website with lots of info on past performances at www.ajetmusical.com

They also have a facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/AJETMusical?fref=ts

 

Thanks for reading everyone!  This between this musical and my license practice I haven’t had any spare time to blog as much as I want to, but my schedule will lighten up late next month so expect some exciting things then!  Thanks!

Renshuu Diary: February 2, 2015

Hello everyone! As I mentioned in my last post, I’m currently practicing (renshuu) for my kimono and kitsuke license.  I’ve been sick all week so today was the first time I could really practice for a long time.  My goal is to dress in a kurotomesode and obi in five minutes.  I’m not there yet, but here is what I accomplished today.  None of these are perfect, and one is downright embarrassing, but I’m slowly learning.

For each attempt, I dressed without a mirror.  The first time I saw what the result was when my wonderful husband took the photos.

First Attempt: 9:42

first attemptThe only thing I really like about this attempt is the hemline, and the fact that the hiyoku (the white, false layer) is wide enough to show.  My obi is crooked everywhere, my obiage is messy, and you can even see my waistbelt under the ohashori at the back.

 

Second Attempt: 8:53

second attemptMy ohashori is neater in this attempt, but my obi is still lopsided, and now the hiyoku is hidden as well.

 

Third Attempt: 8:31

third attemptWell, my obi is looking nicer in the front, but I’d still like it to be flatter at the top of the otaiko.  The hiyoku is still hiding on me, but at least this time I remembered the ougi (small fan)!

 

Fourth Attempt: 8:47

fourth attemptI’m really happy with the way my collars and obi in the front turned out in this attempt, but what the heck happened to my 0tesaki??  I swore I had one when I tied the otaiko! I blame it on the slipping padding I had.  After this attempt, I had to undress entirely, adjust the padding, then get redressed again.

 

Fifth Attempt: 8:32

fifth attemptThis one is just downright embarrassing.  I was tired at this point, I was feeling sick again, my concentration was shot, and it shows.  Everything is just messy and ugly.  Collars, obi, ohashori, everything.  But at least my obiage looks decent.

 

For each attempt, I started by wearing my juban with everything spread out in front of me within easy reach.

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004My datejime, waistbelt, korin belt, clip, and obi ita are placed on the left so I can grab them easily.

005My kimono is folded in the kosodedatami folding style to make it easy to put on.

006My obi is folded and ready to go with all the accessories I need sitting on top.

I hope you found this post informative.  Hopefully I can break the eight minute mark by the end of the week!

 

I’m Still Here!

Happy (belated) New Year to all my readers out there! I just wanted to write you all and tell you that I haven’t forgotten about you. Life has been very busy recently and I haven’t had the time to write. But no worries, I have big plans for this blog in the future.

Right now, I have two very exciting things happening in my life. First, I am the official kimono dresser for my community’s local English musical production. This year they are doing Frozen with a Japanese twist (tanuki instead of trolls etc.). The coronation scene requires a lot of characters dressed in kimono, so we raided my closet to get them dressed! I’ll also be dressing and undressing everyone at each of the six performances.

The second exciting thing happening in my life is that I am practicing for my kitsuke license. In order to become a qualified kimono dresser, I have to dress myself in a kurotomesode and obi (with a nijyudaiko musubi) in five minutes. My current time is at about ten minutes so I have a lot of work to do, but I’m enjoying learning. I’ll keep you updated when I hit major milestones on this journey. Currently I’m dressing, checking my time, undressing, and repeating as much as I can. I’m going to meet with my tester in mid February for some advice so right now I’m in overdrive mode.

I also have a large kimono trip coming up in April. I’m going to Kyoto to see Miyako Odori. While I’m there, I plan to visit and experience nishijin weaving, shibori dyeing, and yuzen dyeing. And of course I plan to write blogs on all of them! I’m also planning another shopping trip to the Toji flea market while I’m there.

And of course I’m planning on continuing my ongoing motifs series. I’m trying to post motifs that are seasonally appropriate, and with spring coming up, there’s a lot to choose from. My top choices right now are ume, sakura, tsubaki, and botan. After that, we’ll see!

Finally, one of my own personal goals for the year is to start the process of making kimono. I’m not sure what I’m going to start with, but I do have a Nagoya obi that is too short to fit me properly. Perhaps turning it into a pre-tied obi would be a good first project. I haven’t decided yet, but I’ll be sure to write about it.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I suspect I won’t be able to post as frequently as I’d like for the next few months. I just want you to know that I haven’t forgotten about you or this blog, but I’m going to be very busy with multiple projects. I’m hoping to get at least a few posts up before April, but expect many, many, many posts in the spring. I pride myself in researching each blog post before it goes up and I do prefer quality over quantity, so expect some high quality, but widely spaced blog posts coming up in the next few months.

Thanks for reading everyone! I enjoy writing this blog and I hope that you enjoy reading it. Keep an eye out on my facebook page, Twitter, or Instagram for announcements of new posts!

To-ji Temple Flea Market

The To-ji Temple flea market is one of the biggest flea markets in Kyoto. It’s a great place to find some bargain kimono, obi, and accessories, as well as other weird and wonderful things.

My first time stepping through the temple gate and seeing the size of the compound and the flea market.

My first time stepping through the temple gate and seeing the size of the compound and the flea market.

History of the Temple

I can’t talk about the flea market without talking about the temple too. The two are interconnected, and I’ve always loved visiting temples and shrines.

To-ji means east temple (東寺) and it was originally part of a pair of temples to guard the capital from evil spirits. The other temple was called Sai-ji (west temple 西寺). They stood on either side of the large Rashomon gate that marked the southern entrance to Kyoto. Unfortunately, both Sai-ji and Rashomon no longer exist.

The main temple at To-ji with the flea market in front.

The main temple at To-ji with the flea market in front.

Construction on To-ji began in 796. By the year 823, construction still wasn’t completed, so Emperor Saga asked the influential monk Kukai (空海)to administer the temple and complete the building project, which he eventually did. He included plans for a five-story pagoda that would be the tallest in Japan. This pagoda, unfortunately, doesn’t survive. The pagoda that is currently on the site was built in 1644.

the current pagoda at to-ji.

the current pagoda at to-ji.

Kukai was responsible for several things during his lifetime. He founded a new sect of Buddhism called Shingon Buddhism. To-ji Temple, Kukai’s retreat on Mount Koya, and the 88 temple pilgrimage on Shikoku, are all Shingon Buddhist temples. The 88 temple pilgrimage is a circle of 88 temples around the island of Shikoku. Traditionally it is walked, but it is also perfectly acceptable to drive, bike, or take a tour bus. When I moved to Shikoku in 2009 I started the pilgrimage. Just over a year later, I completed it. It’s an accomplishment that I’m very proud of and I have very fond memories of it. Because of this, Kukai and his temples (including To-ji) have a very special place in my heart.

Me at the beginning of my pilgrimage.  I'm standing next to a signpost guiding henro (pilgrims) to the next temple.

Me at the beginning of my pilgrimage. I’m standing next to a signpost guiding henro (pilgrims) to the next temple.

 

The Flea Market

The To-ji flea market is held on the 21st of the month in order to honour and commemorate the death of Kukai who died on the 21st of the third month in 835. Locally, the market is known as Kobo-san. The name is taken from Kobo Daishi (弘法大師) Kukai’s posthumous name.

The market runs from dawn to dusk, but usually wraps up around 4:30. The biggest market of the year is the one in December, and this year, luckily, the 21st fell on a Sunday so I leapt at the chance to go!

Of course, I was on the lookout for bargain kimono.  Most of the sellers had their wares in a jumbled heap in the middle and it was a free for all.

Of course, I was on the lookout for bargain kimono. Most of the sellers had their wares in a jumbled heap in the middle and it was a free for all.

Other sellers had all their kimono wrapped in tatoshi.  I didn't stay long at these booths because it was really hard to look through everything.

Other sellers had all their kimono wrapped in tatoshi. I didn’t stay long at these booths because it was really hard to look through everything.

This merchant was selling geta and zori.  She also took custom orders.

This merchant was selling geta and zori. She also took custom orders.

I love this one because the fur wrap looks like santa's beard.

I love this one because the fur wrap looks like Santa’s beard.

There were also a ton of weird and wonderful things that were not kimono on sale.  This is a window in the shape of a kimono.  I couldn't quite figure it out.

There were also a ton of weird and wonderful things that were not kimono on sale. This is a window in the shape of a kimono. I couldn’t quite figure it out.

Bonsai on sale.  There was an entire section devoted to plants and gardening.

Bonsai on sale. There was an entire section devoted to plants and gardening.

Lunchtime!  Some yakisoba really hit the spot and charged us up for the rest of the day.

Lunchtime! Some yakisoba really hit the spot and charged us up for the rest of the day.

Maneki neko (waving cats) and calligraphy brushes on sale.

Maneki neko (waving cats) and calligraphy brushes on sale.

dried fish.   The WHOLE fish.

Dried fish.
The WHOLE fish.

Anybody looking for a cannon to furnish their living room?

Anybody looking for a cannon to furnish their living room?

As you can see, we did alright.  We can't agree on who won the flea market because we both love what we bought.

As you can see, we did alright. We can’t agree on who won the flea market because we both love what we bought.

 

Now for the goodies!  Final cost, 5200 yen.

A nagoya obi with lobster and origami cranes.  This was my first purchase of the day and I love it!

A nagoya obi with lobster and origami cranes. This was my first purchase of the day and I love it!

A second nagoya obi.  This one was only 300 yen.

A second nagoya obi. This one was only 300 yen.

A fancy obijime.  When I bought it, the merchant called it "mecha cheap!"

A fancy obijime. When I bought it, the merchant called it “mecha cheap!”

three date eri.  I'm trying to expand my collection.

Three date eri. I’m trying to expand my collection.

haori himo

Haori himo

A collection of old photos with kimono.  They were 100 yen each, but I was only charged 1000 yen for 15 photos.  What a deal!

A collection of old photos with kimono. They were 100 yen each, but I was only charged 1000 yen for 15 photos. What a deal!

My one purchase unrelated to kimono.  This is a small statue of a tanuki.

My one purchase unrelated to kimono. This is a small statue of a tanuki.

Sodo Kimono Contest

Sqeeeeeeee!  Today I watched the Sodo School of Kimono (makers of the biyosugata) preliminary round for Shikoku and Chugoku.  A few of my friends were competing in the contest (I decided not to due to an extremely hectic work schedule) so I had people I was cheering for!

The itinerary was women’s furisode (using the biyosugata to create a plump sparrow bow), women’s tomesode, women’s casual, men’s category, children’s category, foreigner’s category, and the team category (think synchronized swimming but with kitsuke).  Contestants in each category had eight minutes to complete their kituske, but the fastest kistuske of the day was 2:19! He was a 16 year old who practiced three hours a day.  He ended up winning the men’s competition!

The opening ceremony.  I mentioned it in a previous post, but privacy laws are strict in Japan.  I could only get permission from a few friends to post their photos so I have to censor everyone else's faces to protect their privacy.

The opening ceremony. I mentioned it in a previous post, but privacy laws are strict in Japan. I could only get permission from a few friends to post their photos so I have to censor everyone else’s faces to protect their privacy.

The women's furisode competition.

The women’s furisode competition.

The women's tomesode competition.

The women’s tomesode competition.

The women's casual competition.  The judges are examining their obi.

The women’s casual competition. The judges are examining their obi.

The men's competition.  This is the first place winner.  He's only 16 years old, but he practices three hours a day!

The men’s competition. This is the first place winner. He’s only 16 years old, but he practices three hours a day!

The children's competition.  Contestant #2 wasn't having anything to do with it.  The organizers eventually had to come out, dress her, then take her off stage when she started crying.  She didn't win, but she stole the show!

The children’s competition. Contestant #2 wasn’t having anything to do with it. The organizers eventually had to come out, dress her, then take her off stage when she started crying. She didn’t win, but she stole the show!

These four and five year olds were some of the first children to finish dressing.  The first completed kitsuke clocked in at 3:32.

These four and five year olds were some of the first children to finish dressing. The first completed kitsuke clocked in at 3:32.

The team competition.  Everyone dressed in sync, and at the end, they all checked each other to fix any tucks or wrinkles that may have been missed.

The team competition. Everyone dressed in sync, and at the end, they all checked each other to fix any tucks or wrinkles that may have been missed.

Kimono and hijab work really well together.  This team is from one of the local universities and I think they're from Indonesia.

Kimono and hijab work really well together. This team is from one of the local universities and they’re from Malaysia.

The foreigner competition!  I focused on my friend here because I can actually show her face and she was placed right in front of me so getting photos was easy!  Here she is tying her obi with the biyosugata.

The foreigner competition! I focused on my friend here because I can actually show her face and she was placed right in front of me so getting photos was easy! Here she is tying her obi with the biyosugata.

lining up the eri.  All the competitors had to turn to the side to avoid flashing the judges.

Lining up the eri. All the competitors had to turn to the side to avoid flashing the judges.

Adjusting the ohashori.

Adjusting the ohashori.

tying the obiage after putting on the obi.

Tying the obiage after putting on the obi.

One final check before going to the judges.

One final check before going to the judges.

Second person to finish!  This is my other friend, the only man in the foreigner competion.  I wanted to get more pics of him,  but he was on the other side of the stage and my camera couldn't handle the distance in a dark theater.  Sorry!

Second person to finish! This is my other friend, the only man in the foreigner competition. I wanted to get more pics of him, but he was on the other side of the stage and my camera couldn’t handle the distance in a dark theater. Sorry!

Getting interviewed.

Being interviewed.

Getting interviewed again.  It's really nerve wracking and easy to forget your Japanese when EVERYONE is looking at you!

Being interviewed again. It’s really nerve wracking and easy to forget your Japanese when EVERYONE is looking at you!

Getting the obi judged.

Getting the obi judged.

After the competition, before they announced the results, there were a couple of demonstrations.  First was, I kid you not, dancing while putting on kimono.  Synchronized kitsuke to the max!  A friend of mine managed to film it in two sections.

After that, there was a demonstration of obi tying in the shape of flowers.  Absolutely stunning!

kiku obi!

Kiku (chrysanthemum) obi!

Momo/peach blossom (I think) obi

Momo/peach blossom (I think) obi

 

Finally, the results.

Guess who got first place in the foreigner's category?  CONGRATS!

Guess who got first place in the foreigner’s category? CONGRATS!

She'll get to go onto the national competition in Tokyo next year.  Good luck!

She’ll get to go onto the national competition in Tokyo next year. Good luck!

The is the kimono queen, the grand prize winner of the contest accepting her prize.

This is the kimono queen, the grand prize winner of the contest accepting her prize.

 

 

 

Koto Concert (AKA: A Plethora of Kimono)

A friend of mine (and fellow kimono enthusiast) has been studying the koto for two years and had a concert today with her group.  Not only was the music great, but the kimono…sooooooo beautiful!  Most of the ladies were wearing houmongi, but one woman was in an oshima tsumugi and the other was wearing a gorgeous shibori kimono (maybe oshima, I didn’t get close enough to see her kimono, but the colour is right).

My friend is currently practicing for a kimono dressing competition next month.  She’ll have 8 minutes to completely dress herself in a furisode, create a fukurasuzume musubi (plump sparrow bow) using a biyosugata, and put it on.  Today was a great opportunity for her to practice and her group was impressed with the results.  So much so that when they introduced all the members of the group, the announcer made a point of saying…

“This is nani-nani-san.  She is from America.  She has been studying koto for two years.  Today, she is wearing her own kimono and she put it on herself.  (Audience: eeeeeeeiiiiiiiiiii!!! Sugoi!) Please stand up and show everyone!”  My friend then had to stand up and turn around for all to admire.

Just one more note before I show you the pictures, Japan has very strict privacy laws.  If I don’t have the person’s permission, I have to block out any identifying features which is why all the faces are blocked out.  I only have my friend’s permission.  And with that being said, enjoy the plethora of kimono I got to see today!

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All the ladies dressed to impress

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My friend with the younger members of the group and the sensei.

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Playing the koto like a pro!

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This was one of my favourites. I love how the green haneri stands out against the cream kimono.

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The sensei of the group playing the shamisen.

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A gorgeous shibori kimono.

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I love the way the obi and kimono go together in this ensemble.

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Drool. Drool. Drool.

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The flute player wearing hakama. He was the only man in the group.

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A gorgeous oshima kimono and haori set.

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The otaiko of one of the obis. The first time the audience saw this obi, everyone (including me) was oooooing and aahhhing.

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A very unique way of tying the obijime.

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Her kimono from the front. Her group always insists that she wear a furisode because she is the youngest adult member.

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And her obi from the back. I think she did an amazing job.

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An alternative peace sign to show off the “pickers” (Sorry, I don’t know the proper name for them). She told me that they have to dip their fingers in egg white before putting them on so that they’ll stick to their fingers.

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I wish I could have worn a kimono to this event, but the sad truth is that I overslept that morning and didn’t have enough time to dress.