Wagasa: Japanese Umbrella

While popular, the wagasa or Japanese umbrella is an often overlooked accessory to kimono and kitsuke.  A friend of mine has produced a video on wagasa for his local TV station.  Enjoy!

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!

Kimono Now

This is a very short post just to let everyone know about another blog I just found http://kimononow.blogspot.jp/ 

Directly from the blog: “Kimono Now is a book that will look at contemporary kimono culture, from the traditional to the modern. This gorgeous coffee table tome will look at exquisite traditional textiles made by hand, festivals, makers, designers, enthusiasts through to clothing companies who incorporate elements of kimonos in their work. The book will cover Kyoto, Niigata, Kyushu, and Tokyo, and go behind the scenes in the ateliers of these masterpiece makers. Will be available Spring 2015.”

I’m so excited for this book and the blog has seriously whet my whistle for it.  I can’t wait until it’s listed on Amazon!

My First Kimono

I got my first kimono in Kyoto during a trip in 2006. Here it is.

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I had come to Japan as a tourist, and I knew nothing about kimono except for (a) I thought they were beautiful, and (b) I wanted one as a souvenir.  I had no idea what to look for except what was aesthetically pleasing to me.  I walked into a used kimono store and was looking around for The Perfect Kimono.  At the time, I thought it would be the only kimono I would ever own, and I didn’t want to regret my decision.  I picked this one because it has all my favourite colours in it, purple, pink, and blue.  I remember the shopkeeper telling me it was a very formal kimono (he probably told me it was a furisode, but I spoke no Japanese at the time and I couldn’t remember the word.)

Then, I wanted to get an obi to go with it.  Again, not knowing anything about kimono, I asked the shopkeeper what she would recommend.  She brought out a pink hanhaba obi.  She told me it would be easier for me, as a foreigner, to tie it.  At the time, I accepted it.  Now, I cringe at the thought.  After living in Japan for several years and studying kimono for two, I know what a faux-pas that is.

I also didn’t get any undergarments.  No nagajuban, no datejime, no koshihimo.  Just a karihimo that the shopkeeper threw in.  I thought I was set and ready to wear my kimono.  But I also realized that I needed footwear.  I spotted a pair of geta at the local market (again, I knew nothing) that had straps that matched the pink in the kimono.  I got them, but I’m proud to say that I never wore them.  Not because  I learned better, but because I realized that they were too small for me.

So to summarize, my first ever kimono outfit consisted of one furisode, one karihimo, one hanhaba obi, and one pair of geta.  Sigh.

Everyone starts somewhere.  This is where I started.  I’m going to go hide in a hole now and burn any pictures I have of me wearing that embarrassing combination.

Welcome

Welcome everyone to my blog.  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I’m going to enjoy writing it.  I currently live on the island of Shikoku in Japan and I have been studying kitsuke and kimono for two years so far.  I find it fascinating and I hope I can share some of my enthusiasm with you.  My aim is to post at least once a week about something kimono related.  It might be information on types of kimono, motifs, seasonality, fabrics, kimono-related trips that I go on, or anything else that I can tie in.  I hope you enjoy it!