The reception of the Serizawa exhibition in Japan Society

I attended the preview reception of the Serizawa Keisuke exhibition in Japan Society, New York. Many his works were exhibited and worth seeing. Serizawa Keisuke was a Japanese textile designer, designated as a living national treasure for his katazome stencil dyeing technique. He was largely affected by Yanagi Soetsu, called as a father of industrial designers, and became a leading member of the mingei movement founded by Yanagi Soetsu.

It was my pleasure to see kimonos dyed using stencils by Serizawa, which were affected by ryukyu bingatas. I found one kimono with bingata designs. Kumadori, the technique of color gradation for bingata dying, made his works vivid.
Of course eye-catching colors looked impressive, but superior sensitivity as a industrial designer should make his works stereoscopic, if they were worn by somebody.

I also saw calendars and book covers he designed. I felt nostalgic. Old days, I had seen book with such book covers at my grandfather’s room.

I met many wonderful Serizawa’s works. At the same time, I was introduced to the artist who tries to bring new perspective to the traditional culture field. It was a nice meeting with him. In addition, I met a person who has taken care of us after my immigration to New York City. I spent a great time!

Information of the exhibition
Serizawa: Master of Japanese Textile Design
From Friday, October 9 to Sunday, January 17
Japan Society, New York

The photos show scenes of the reception party.

The first dance lesson in a long while

I have started taking lessons of Japanese traditional dance in New York City. It was the first lesson in a long while.

When I visited the studio of my teacher, she showed me her stage costume, because she would perform the dance in a few days. The obi had a ready-made ribbon, which formed kichiya-musubi style.

Kichiya-musubi knot is originated by Kamimura Kichiya, a famous kabuki actor who specialized in female roles in the Empo period (1673-1681). He created it from karuta-musubi knot, which looked a sequence of three cards and was used both by men and women. He made broad obi, which we are using now, popular with ladies through kichiya-musubi style.

In this way, the roots of obi tying are interesting. Prof. Sasajima told us that its origin is in the style of yokozuna (The top rank of sumo wrestlers). Now we can see two types of rope tying in yokozuna: unryu type and shiranui type. Unryu-type yokozuna has a draw knot and shiranui-type yokozuna has a bow knot.

When I see stage costumes, I am always surprised how variable obi tying is. I should be aware of the origin and history of obi tying, including rope tying in yokozuna.

This time I have no photos of my dance training, so I will show you photos of sumo wresting in Ryogoku Kokugikan. I had gone there last year, a few days before I moved to New York City. I watched sumo wrestling at the box seat, wearing a kimono.

I confirmed Yokozuna Asashoryu with unryu style and Yokozuna Hakuho with shiranui style at the ring entering ceremony.

Surprisingly, Ozeki (the second rank sumo wrestlers) Chiyo-taikai won strong Yokozuna Asashoryu. After the fight, cushions, which audiences used, flew about! Because all the fights were serious, unexpected results always happen.

I learned the dance act: Itako-dejima. Really I met a wonderful teacher and enjoyed the dance performance. I am looking forward to taking the next lesson.


A boyfriend ties an obi for a lady.

An American lady living in Ohio State asked me to take kimono lessons during her stay in New York City. She had stayed in Japan for two years and had an experience to wear a kimono. She had tried to put on a kimono by herself looking at the book of kimono dressing, but she could not put on it as shown in the book.

On her mail, she asked me to make her lesson for telling how to put on a kimono by herself and how to tie a fukuro obi in the plump sparrow, fukurasuzume, style. It is difficult especially for beginners to tie by themselves a fukuro obi in the plump sparrow style. So, I suggested her that it is capable to tell somebody how to tie it for her. Surprisingly, she wanted me to tell her boyfriend how to tie it in the plump sparrow style.

At the day of her lesson, she truly came to my class room from Ohio State with her boyfriend.
In the first one hour half, I coached her to put on a kimono. As she might have tried to put on a kimono by herself several times, she was quick to acquire it. But she was struggling with Nagoya obi tying in the proper otaiko style.
Then, after a short break, I coached her boyfriend how to tie a fukuro obi in the plump sparrow style for almost two hours. She put on a furisode like as a trial horse.

I think it’s very cool to see that a man ties an obi! Her boyfriend looked an otokoshi, who dresses maikos in gorgeous kimonos and tie a long darari obi as only a male professional in Hanamachi, Kyoto. Usually I use not only my arms but also my whole body to hold an obi-makura for keeping a shape of obi’s hill and to bind the band of obi-makura. On the other hand, her boyfriend used only his arms to make a beautiful shape of obi’s hill easily. How powerful man is!
I felt a little frustrating, but I realized that man’s muscular strength is suitable for obi tying, when I saw his obi tying. In the Edo period (1603-1868), Segawa Roko, an onnagata of kabuki (a male actor who specialize in female roles) created an original form of otaiko-style obi tying. After his bunko-style obi tying unfastened on stage, he quickly fastened the short end of obi and made obi a new shape: Roko musubi. I think it was highly visible that the onnnagata kabuki star tied a long heavy obi on stage. Similarly, I believe it seems impressive that man tie a long and heavy obi.

This photo shows his obi tying in the plump sparrow style for her. Because he mostly acquired this obi tying, I further wanted to tell him the hiyoku (aioi) style and demonstrated it to them. But he said, “It seems more difficult to have balance in the hiyoku (aioi) style. It’s OK only for acquiring the plump sparrow style today.”
When I folded up kimonos after our lesson, he continued to review his operation.

Recently I received an Email from Ohio. She wrote that she reviewed how to put on a kimono and could put on it by herself, and further her boyfriend dressed her in furisode in the plump sparrow style. I am pleased to hear that she and her boyfriend want to acquire other styles of obi tying in the near future.
I think it is wonderful that a man learn how to tie an obi for his girlfriend.