4/24/2009

Cherry blossoms in Roosevelt Island


I live in Roosevelt Island, just adjacent to Manhattan Island. There is a long row of cherry blossom trees, called as “Cherry Tree Walk”, in this island along East River. All the cherry blossom trees were presented from Japan.
Now light pinkish cherry blossoms, somei-yoshino, are blooming, but deep red ones, yae-zakura, near Queensboro Bridge have not yet come into flower.
The photo was taken when I go to see cherry blossoms last Sunday. Many people enjoyed looking at flowers, including more Japanese people than usual.
The cherry blossoms look like letters from Japan.

This island has some mysterious aspects. We can arrive at this island by metro just one-stop from Manhattan, but there are no bridges between Manhattan and Roosevelt Island. Furthermore, a ruin of the old hospital’s isolation ward can be seen at the southern edge of this island. The ruin on the photo is labeled as “Smallpox Hospital.” It was built in 1856 and used till 1950. Surprisingly, it was designed by James Renwick, Jr., who was famous for designing St. Patrick's Cathedral in NYC.
Could cherry blossoms be seen from this hospital? I believe patients in this hospital could see them through windows and feel better.

Facing to Manhattan from a yard of our apartment, we can see brilliant cherry blossoms along East River.

4/05/2009

In the corner of Manhattan, “Wrestling the Silk”


The article about my kimono class appears in The New York Times today!

About one and a half months ago, a graduate student in Colombia University, who were aspiring to become a professional journalist, called me to interview me and cover my kimono class. I could understand that her name was Emily and she wanted to cover my kimono class as an article for a domestic newspaper, but because I am a poor English speaker, I asked her to send me an Email for details at any hand. I received her mail immediately. I am pleased that a student in New York City was interested in my kimono class, and so I accepted her interview.
She came to my class for interview at the beginning of March.

In order to show her how to coach my students in kimono dressing, I planed to present her two patterns of kimono class, including the class for a person who anted to learn a skill to dress customers in kimonos and one for a person who wanted to master a technique to dress himself in kimonos. Then two students cooperated with me on the interview.

On the day of the interview, Ms. Masuike, a photographer of The New York Times, who was a Japanese woman, first appeared in my class. I was very surprised, because she suddenly came before Emily appeared. But after a short while, Emily and her friend, Andreas, who had big video recording equipments, appeared and I felt ease. Subsequently, two students came to my classroom. Because many people gathered in the small room, it became bustling. The time just flied by for about five hour interview. It was really a pleasant time.

Just after the interview, I didn’t know whether the article about my kimono class appeared in the newspaper, but I have been very impressed that a graduate students aspiring a journalist found my web pages and called me, my students kindly cooperated with me, and editors of the newspaper, The New York Times, got interested in my small class. I appreciate all the people, who met with each other. I also loved the fact that all the people become single-minded in their efforts to make a good interview.
After the interview, Emily sent me an Email that she was very excited.

Finally, the article about my kimono class appears in The New York Times today!
Its title is interesting: “Wrestling the Silk”, which Emily may feel like watching my class. In this article, she doesn’t write my cooperate name as “Kimono Hiro in NY”, but write me just as “Hiromi Asai”. Because this is not an advertisement, the contact info for inquiries is not included, but kimonos and people wrestling kimonos are described. Her perspective is very interesting for me. In addition, the electric version of this article includes a video clip “The Art of Kimono Dressing” that shows how to wear men’s kimono.
I thank all the students coming to my kimono class.

My class is in Roosevelt Island, in the small corner of Manhattan. I am very pleased that one of my dreams from Japan blossoms in The New York Times.
Thank you for finding my dream, Emily!

The following is the article in The New York Times.
Wrestling the Silk (The New York Times on April 5, 2009)

4/03/2009

Things passed down beyond 100 years

I attended the preview party of “Into the Sunset: Photography's Image of the American West” at MoMA in New York City last week. I visited the museum, wearing my kimono. It was my third time visit of the preview party at MoMA wearing a kimono. Every time fashionable people gathered at the night museum, but the only one who put on a kimono was I. So, it took a little courage to have a kimono on, but I always felt comfortable sense of tension and went back to my first objective.
I moved from Tokyo to New York City last June because of my husband’s business. Then I opened kimono class at home, but because I didn’t know how New Yorkers can accept kimonos at first, I tried to put on a kimono outside as occasion offers. Furthermore, I have visited preview parties wearing a kimono, whenever I have received invitation cards for preview parties from MoMA.
At the museum I was addressed by many people, especially women. One lady looked at my kimono and said to me “So beautiful!”

When I visited the preview party of Miró last year, the couple from Peru, who worked as media persons, asked me if they could have a photo taken with me. After we took photos, we talked about kimonos. The photo on the left side shows the couple and me with Yuki pongee kimono and Shioze obi in patterns of Anesama Ningyoo dolls. At parties, I always realize high interests in kimonos, and through kimonos, I have an enjoyable time to talk with many people who address me.

After this preview party, I had a dinner at the Italian restaurant just in front of the museum. After the preview party of Van Gogh last September, I had a dinner at the same restaurant, putting on my favorite Bingata kimono. Staffs remembered me and told me that I always wore a beautiful kimono. Staffs asked me something about kimonos. This time, I wore a kimono made in the Taisho period (1912-1926). When I told them that the kimono was made almost 100 years ago, they all were surprised. The photo on the left side shows the kimono I put on this time, which was a komon kimono almost 100 years ago.

The title of the exhibition at MoMA is “Into the Sunset: Photography's Image of the American West”. We can see many photos of landscape and people in the American West, some of which were photographed more than 100 years ago. Beauty has no time barrier, although either kimonos or photos express beauty differently.

I had a pleasant dinner at the Italian restaurant “Il Gattopardo”, which serves us delicious south Italian and Sicilian foods. “Il Gattopardo” means the leopard, which is named after a famous movie ““Il Gattopardo” directed by Luchino Visconti. The movie describes Sicilian impoverished aristocrats with beauty and gorgeousness. It may be passed down throughout the ages.


Hiromi Asai