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.

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: 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.

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!