Uchikake made by organdie for bride.

I sometimes read the magazine “Hanayome”, which means bride, published by Hyakunichi-So. The November issue of this magazine contained the 40 year history of costumes for brides in Japan. It also contained successive works by the first-prize winner of Chiba Masuko Award, which is the most prestigious prize for dressing brides in Japanese styles. All the professional kimono dressers would have a longing for this award. I also have a longing for it.

On this magazine, we have been able to see many kinds of kimono-style, which vary across the ages. Interestingly, the May, 1987 issue had the special feature articles about “new kimono-style”, containing kimono with high-heeled shoes. I realize that the combination of kimono with boots looks modern at first glance, but actually has a long history.

Recently, I received an inquiry about an uchikake made by organdie for bride. Of course I have known this uchikake, but I’m surprised to receive this sort of inquiries, because I am usually asked traditional pure Japanese styles outside Japan. Originally, organdie is the sheerest cotton cloth made. Because of its stiffness and fiber content, it is very prone to wrinkling and slightly shiny. Nowadays organdie is sometimes made by silk, called silk organdie. Indeed, an uchikake made by organdie is lighter than a traditional uchikake, and therefore, it is supposed to be popular at a wedding for person who doesn’t often wear kimonos.

Long, long ago in Japan a wedding was held at home. A bride must purify herself early in the morning, visit a shrine or a temple for informing ancestors of the wedding, and move to groom’s house with go-betweens. In the meantime, she wore a heavy uchikake over a kakeshita kimono. I think that it is reasonable to use heavy uchikakes for such a solemn ceremony.
Shinto-style wedding, which is more informal than old-style wedding, was established during the Meiji period (1868-1912). Nowadays, many weddings are held in much more informal party-style. Brides need not wear only one dress, like a traditional heavy uchikake, during her wedding, and can wear a couple of costumes, including a Japanese kimono and Western dress. Because the air conditioning setting in the wedding hall is comfortable, if sense of the season could be found in the design or fabric of her costume, we can put uchikakes into various styles.

Therefore, I think that an uchikake made by organdie is good choice for a bridal costume today. It looks refreshingly cool and light, like a ro kimono, gauzy weave kimono. Because it is translucent, we can see a beautiful furisode inside of it. Synergetic effect among a furisode and an uchikake made by organdie could make a bride more beautiful. She should look like an angel with plumage.

The photo shows a bride with an uchikake made by silk organdie, which is extracted from the August, 2002 issue of Hanayome magazine.


I will voice my wish.

I visited Los Angels last week. During my stay in Los Angels, I met wonderful people of LA kimono club, the former chairman, Mr. Takase, the present chairman, Mr. Tsurukame, and the treasurer, Ms. Kobayashi. LA kimono club started 10 years ago. In 1999, Mr. Takase, Mr. Tsurukame, and some friends decided to form a club "KIMONO O KIYOU KAI ("Club to Encourage the Wearing of Kimono"). On New Year's Day at 1PM (1-1-1), 2000, seven gentlemen and twelve ladies wearing Kimono gathered and took photos in front of the sculpture by the famous artist , Isamu Noguchi, in JACCC Plaza in Little Tokyo, Los Angels. Gradually club members increased including non-Japanese people and on March 15, 2003, many kimono lovers met to form LA kimono club with the agreed objective of promoting mutual understanding and cultural exchanges between the US and Japan through kimonos.

I contacted people of LA kimono club to ask to meet them in Los Angels. Although I suddenly contacted them at the last minute to go, they kindly arranged an opportunity to meet with me. Furthermore, they generously invited me to attend the annual meeting on February 15, if I could prolong my stay in Los Angels. But I had to leave Los Angels early in the morning on February 15; I should regrettably decline their kind invitation this time.

I met them at Kyoto Grand Hotel in Little Tokyo, where Mr. Takase designed. When I arrived, Mr. Takase and Ms. Kobayashi sat on the lobby. Ms. Kobayashi wore a wonderful kimono and obi with beautiful white and green color. Her beauty reminded me the budding season, when setting-in of spring passed and Japanese bush warblers began to sing. I took her picture forthwith.

I enjoyed speaking with them very much. I was ashamed to talk about my dream on kimono. They listened intently to me.

I said, “My dream is to make a network of kimono in America, but I could not make my come true, if only I desire it in the corner of New York. Mr. Tsurukame said, “At first, one person raises an issue. Just around the same time, many people notice the same issue. Once one person stands up for the issue, other people can stand up and gather for resolving the issue.” He told me that one action of one African American women, Rosa Parks, who refused to obey bus driver’s order that she give up her seat to make room for a white passenger in 1955, led to change of the American society. Indeed, anybody could propose the issue and start to act at first; but somebody should raise the issue. So, I decide to act for my dream.

Mr. Takase said with smile, “The network would spread, the general meeting in USA would be held, and more than one thousands of kimono-wearing people would gather.”
I will voice my wish!
That would be the first step to make my dream come true.
I am deeply touched with connections through kimonos. I appreciate the member of LA kimono club for their kindness and cordial advises.

* This photo shows the members of LA kimono club and me in Kyoto Grand Hotel, Los Angels.

LA kimono club http://www.lakimonoclub.com/eMain.htm


Men's kimono in tea ceremony

The lecture entitled "Modern Teaism Series: Tea Life" by So-oku Sen, the next grand tea master of Mushakoji-Senke, one of the three main tea schools in Japan, was held at the Japan Society in NYC on February 10th evening. I went to take the lecture with students of my kimono-wearing class. Because I took a lesson of tea ceremony that morning, I realized that the spirit of Rikyu Sen, the founder of tea ceremony in the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1603), was modern rather than immortal. And I felt magnificent about tradition and creativity of tea ceremony.
Modern Teaism Series So-oku Sen: Tea Life

One of my students asked me about the haori cloth So-oku Sen worn. It seemed cool and light for her, like ro, which means gauzy-woven silk kimono, usually used in summer. It is called Jittoku, but I forgot the word and shortly answered that it was a men's formal wear in tea ceremony, like a monk cloth. Usually I get a sense of cloths for tea ceremony like this, like that, but I notice to be unable to explain that.
After returning home, I checked men's kimonos in tea ceremony in order to explain it concretely. Men's kimono is simpler than ladies', and so more subject to error. There are many things we have to understand about men's kimonos in tea ceremony.

Jittoku is described as follows:
"Jittoku has experienced many changes of style from the Kamakura period (1192-1333). Interestingly, jittoku made an allusion to retirement in the Edo period (1603-1867), because a retired old man wore a jittoku at home. Recently only monks and professors of tea ceremony wear Jittoku. Jittoku is a wide-sleeved haori with a unique form, on which waist bands are stitched."
On the custom of tea ceremony, men who have to practice were unable to wear jittokus. I have looked that the grand tea master wore a jittoku, but it was actually a formal wear for a well-practiced tea master. So, men seldom wear jittokus in tea ceremony in Japan.

In general, iro-muji, piece-dyed plain kimono, with crests and hakama made by Sendai-hira, mostly pinstriped, are men's formal wears in tea ceremony. But yarn-dyed omeshi kimono is also suitable for most of the casual tea ceremony. Hierarchy of tea ceremony is classified as Shin-Gyo-So. According to this hierarchy, some suitable kimonos are recommended for the situation. Please refer the following web site, which unfortunately has only a Japanese page and shows more suitable kimonos only for ladies.
Kimono Club: kimonos in tea ceremony

As it is often said that tea ceremony is composite art, there are many rules about kimono. Some people may feel that these rules are troublesome, but once we enjoy these rules, we could feel surprised at spatial spiritual world of tea ceremony.
However I think we need not cling to traditional styles. So-oku Sen told us that tea world should not be too distant from real modern world. I also suppose that we should not care so much about traditional rules of tea ceremony, wearing kimonos and sitting on our legs, but we could enjoy tea ceremony itself.
Soon after I start practicing of tea ceremony in Tokyo, I sometimes visited tea ceremony, where most of attendants wore kimonos, with a European clothe, because I could not imagine kimono-wearing in tea ceremony. All the attendants generously greeted me and I was deeply impressed by their hospitality. Actually, I felt like touching essential spirit of tea ceremony without wearing kimonos.
After these episodes, I become more interested in tea ceremony. Because I prepared season words on each weekly lesson, I realized change of seasons more sensitively. Being conscious of seasons in my life, I have naturally been able to select kimonos, suitable for seasons and situations, and enjoy kimono-wearing. For example, looking tender green outside, I should go outside with a ro kimono, especially a lettuce green kimono.

There may be no rules, which are correct and which are wrong. I think that we enjoy everything about our life style, learning sense of distance between nature and human. Actually, tea ceremony seems to tell us how to associate with nature. Someday in the future, I would like to understand a part of world of Rikyu Sen, who pursued relationship between human and universe.

Following list shows references about men's kimono in Japanese. You can get them at
"Men's kimono by Ginza Motoji"
"Basics of men's kimono wearing"
"Note of general knowledge about men's kimono"


Needle mass: Hari-kuyo

Today, February 8, is the day of needle mass, called Hari-kuyo in Japanese. Komagome Waso Academy, where I go to learn Japanese dressmaking, was closed on that day. Last year I visited Awashima-do of Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa, Tokyo for the purpose of placing needles, with teachers and students of the Japanese dressmaking class. Today, seeing my calendar, I realize that it’s been almost a year since I visited Awashima-do.

Formerly, on the day of needle mass, housekeepers as well as all kinds of professionals using needles idled over their works including dressmaking and clean up their needle boxes. In general, on the day they visited Awashima Shrine for making appreciation to needles and wish for progress in needle works. So they held memorial services for needle, stinging soft tofu or konjac food by old nails or bended needles.
There are some differences on the day of needle mass from one locality to another in Japan. In addition, there are various origins as to needle mass, but I believe that Awashima Gannin in the Edo period (1603-1867) originally propagandized appreciation to needles and women, and started needle mass, saying that needles could cure female disorders and relieve sufferings of women. I think that needle mass is so friendly for women.

In our Japanese dressmaking class, all the students brought bended needles in the second half of January. Teachers put and keep them in a can until the day of needle mass. Everyone treasured bended needles very much. I had known needle mass, but it was not until I visited Awashima-do that I specifically thanked needles. Nonetheless, I had not thought to junk needles and had kept them as unavailable things. I, as one Japanese person, should intrinsically have sprits, caring and appreciating all things, a sense of “Mottainai”.

After the needle mass, we went to the restaurant for lunch. At the restaurant, I found that I lost my makeup bag. I might lose it in the taxi. Fortunately, the taxi driver found my lost bag and brought it to Asakusa. I felt that the day of needle mass is really friendly and gentle for women.

The photograph below shows teachers and students of the Japanese dressmaking class in front of Senso-ji Temple on the day of last needle mass.