Meisen Kimono

Meisen kimono is really attractive. The fabric of meisen kimono is yarn-dyed, which can express its vividness of color.

Meisen kimonos were originally made by silk-raising farmers for private use. Their fabrics were woven by thick weft thread, made by high quality unevenly spun silk thread from waste cocoons. People in the Edo period (1603 – 1868) were obliged to wear chaste kimonos after the saving act was proclaimed in 1839. So, meisen kimonos became popular for ordinary people in Edo (Tokyo). In the Meiji period (1868 – 1912), combed with warp yarn, striped patterns were woven. Furthermore, in the Taisho period (1912 – 1926), splashed-pattern Meisen kimonos were created using doupioni. From the late Taisho period to the early Showa period (1926 – 1955), Meisen kimonos became more prosperous, because they showed various kinds of eye-catching designs and colors, and in addition, they were sold at affordable prices. Meisen kimonos in their prime had fancy colors and designs, which might be Western-conscious. Meisen kimonos actually have represented modern kimonos, called “Taisho Roman”.
As you see in the photo, Meisen kimonos are characterized by their aesthetic property of ikats using yarn-dyed silk materials and their venturous colors and designs.

Last week, I worked at the shooting with my clients. I accommodated and coordinated various kinds of kimonos, but they preferred piece-dyed yuzen kimonos rather than yarn-dyed meisen kimonos. I am interested in their preference on kimonos in USA.
On the contrary, recently in Japan, yarn-dyed meisen or pongee kimonos become more popular. Maybe these kimonos are selected for smart casual wears, wore in many different locations. I think that kimonos are being more ordinary fashion in Japan.


Kabuki costumes and traditional technique

I find the entry about costumes of Bando Tamasaburo, a famous kabuki actor of female roles, in Ginza Taizo Blog. Anyway, please see the photo on the blog!
Making kabuki costumes for Bando Tamasaburo (Photo)
How wonderful it is! I desire to see Bando Tamasaburo wearing this kimono.

Kiritata Ken wrote an essay about Kabuki Costumes in Kyoto Shoin’s Art Library of Japanese Textiles.

Most first-time viewers of Japan’s traditional performing arts are fascinated by
the intriguing costumes and masks. The costumes worn in Kabuki are remarkable in
their extraordinary shapes, colors and in the variety of stage techniques that
enable instant costume changes. The original objective of the performing arts
was to attract the attention of the gods and entertain the people, and for this
reason, the costumes and staging were gorgeous.
The following description of
Ichikawa Danzo’s costume was added to the illustrated program for Koiwataru
Enishi no Shakkyo, one of the most popular dance dramas performed at the
Fujikawa-za in Osaka in September 1784.
“1. Light blue satin (uchikake
overgarment) with an arrow-wheel design. Embroidered with gold
(Excerpts from Kabuki Costumes by Kirihata Ken)
When I read it, I can clearly imagine costumes on the stage. The attraction of kabuki and its costumes was supposed to be energy of people at that time.

I have heard from a master of the wholesale merchant that genuine articles make us impressed rather than reasoned transcending time. When I see these wonderful costumes, I have a real desire to leave them transcending time. According to the Ginza Taizo Blog, we can know that making each costume of Bando Tamasaburo has a very difficult process. But it is actually more difficult and essential to protect traditional techniques of craftsmen, who make these costumes. The encounter between Bando Tamasaburo and craftsmanship with great care, combination of Japanese traditional arts and techniques, enables completion of these costumes as achievements of craftsmen’s sweat and tears even now. No, it's almost like a miracle. Only the encounter between Bando Tamasaburo and Ginza Taizo, both always pursue genuine articles, may accomplish the authentic world.

Genuine articles make us impressed transcending time.
We should not decide that there used to be many good things in the good old days, but should meet with genuine articles which we want to leave for posterity. Then, it’s important to have a strong desire to make them actually leave for posterity. Once we know which should be left for posterity, we could naturally understand the importance of craftsmen’s techniques.
Therefore, it is my sincere hope that as many people as possible meet with genuine articles.
As for kabuki costumes, they are not legacies of the past, but future treasures, in which we should pursue beauty.

I watched the picture of Bando Tamasaburo’s costumes many times. I want to see their real things. But I surely faint with emotion, if I could see Bando Tamasaburo wearing these costumes.


Tone color of shamisen

I went to hear the concert “music from Japan” on March 7 and 8 in New York. The contents of this concert were mainly composed of the shamisen performance by Tokiwazu Mojibei V, which included various kinds of performances from traditional to modern ones.

For the purpose of learning classical Japanese dance, I went to the dancing hall of Prof. Nishikawa at Ichigaya Daimachi, Tokyo. When I changed into kimonos at its dressing room, I sometimes heard shamisen sound. At this concert I heard shamisen sound after a long interval, and so I remembered the dim light of the dressing room. I felt very nostalgic for shamisen sound. Further I was overwhelmed by real shamisen performance.

Through this concert, I became acutely aware that it is important not to lose sight of the preciousness of real things. But it is actually difficult not to lose sight of the preciousness of real things.
Some days ago, I visited my favorite blog by Mr. Kinoshita, who is a chief manager and producer of the kimono shop “awai” and saw the message that cherry blossom flowers began to sprout with the photo. Indeed it is important to find subtle changes in everyday matters. I should forget the mind to feel small or subtle changes around me.

I always feel pressed to tell how kimonos are wonderful. Sometimes I focus on kimonos themselves in my life, but kimonos look more beautiful in contrast to environments. I should not forget the mind to feel small or subtle changes of nature, seasons, and in addition, music. Through open mind, I could deliver the heart and essence of beauty of kimonos to people all over the world. I believe that if we live outside Japan, we keep pursuing real things through open minds, hearts, eyes, and ears.
After the concert, I walked at the Upper West Side of Manhattan with the afterglow of shamisen sound by Mojibei-san. The scenery was different from usual one. Reminding every scene in my usual life, I would like to keep pursuing beauty of kimono.
Music from Japan: http://www.musicfromjapan.org/index.html


Costumes of the Opera “Madame Butterfly”

Recently, I went to see the opera “Madame Butterfly” at the Metropolitan Opera House in NYC. The modern interpretation was wonderful. It looked like a musical, rather than an opera. Especially, the interpretation using Bunraku puppetry looked unique. Just one month ago, I saw the opera “Lucia di Lammermoor”, which had really traditional interpretation, so I was surprised that the interpretation was quite different these two operas.

At first, I felt there was something wrong with costumes of this opera. I wondered if they would be really kimonos. Regardless of their roles, all Japanese male characters wore ikan-sokutai, full Japanese court dresses of traditional fashion. On the other hand, Japanese male characters wore outrageous costumes, like mixture of kimonos and twelve-layered ceremonial robes. In addition, they wore plastic wigs on their hair, which looked like Japanese coiffure. Actually I first felt discomfort, but gradually felt that their costumes were consistent with their play. This change of feeling was interesting. The interpretation of this opera was simple and modern, not likely to be associated with the historical background. If reality and historical authentication of the costumes were pursued, a balance between interpretation and costumes should be lacked. Therefore, I realize that it is not indispensable to make costumes of stage arts historically authentic.

Stylists need not limit the costumes of the opera “Madame Butterfly” to the rigid concept of “kimono”. Total coordination between interpretation and costumes should be needed. Because the interpretation of this opera is, so to speak, cosmopolitan, the costume could be cosmopolitan.
Kimono has conventions and rules, especially in Japan. It is easy to deny this stylist’s challenge, only because we regard these costumes as nothing authentic, but I disagree with that kind of old way of thinking.

I was supervised on dressing in historical kimonos by Prof. Sumi Sasajima, at the same time, on dressing casts of the opera “Madame Butterfly” in kimonos with the historical background. Indeed it is important to re-create costumes authentically, but beyond authenticity, I think that as for costumes of stage arts, it is more important to totally coordinate their costumes with their interpretation from holoscopical viewpoint. It should organize well-established understanding of the stage world.