5/21/2009

Ougi fans


Ougi fans were sent from Kyoto. It came to New York all the way from Japan.

This fan was made by Miyawaki baisenan, which is a specialist shop of Japanese style fans. The sender told me that if you would not know fans made by Miyawaki, you should not talk about fans. Miyawaki baisenan was founded in Kyoto as Omiya-Shinbei in 1823. It is a long-established store, which have carried on the torch for more than 180 years. In the Edo period (1603 -1868), this shop invented decorative fans, which had original designs going along at the time. Still now this shop develops various kinds of new fans, created by traditional techniques and designs.

It is said that ougi fans pass through craftsmen eighty seven times until they are completed. Fans are completed after hundreds of accumulated fine hand works, which don’t fit in so easily with modern automatic manufacture. Only craftsmen with proficient skills can make them. It is really necessary to hand these techniques on to the next generation. I think that “Miyawaki ougi fans” are like treasures, accomplished through accumulated long histories.

All fans are self-manufactured in Miyawaki baisenan. The pink color of this fan is originated from nature of Kyoto, dyed by Kitayama-sugi, Japanese cedars in Kitayama near Kyoto. All raw materials are originated from nature of Kyoto.

Making things seem to be a mirror of life styles and folkways in the area at that age. Many craftsmen have been trying to hand down Japanese traditional techniques of making kimonos and ougi fans, which have basically no time barrier, and even develop them in accordance with newer era. This is exactly expert craftsmanship.

I feel so luxurious, when I wave this Miyawaki ougi fan, made in Kyoto, to make cool in NY.

Link to Miyawaki baisenan (Japanese only)

5/12/2009

Shima stripe: The simpler, the more beautiful.

I think things that seem simple are more profound. They would have great potential to produce infinite changes. Whenever I see striped kimonos, I keenly realize the profoundness of the simplicity. A student of my kimono class likes shima striped kimonos very much. When she coordinates a colorful obi sash with her striped kimono, the striped kimono looks more fashionable. I also like shima striped kimonos.

As for shima stripes, there are many many words which means stripes: katuo jima (bonito stripes), komochi jima (seed stripes), sensuji jima (fine stripes), daimyo jima (lord stripes), taki jima (waterfall stripes), tatewaku jima (boiling stripes), dandara jima (multi-colored stripes), mansuji jima (very fine stripes), mekurakin jima (most finest stripes), bou jima (vertical stripes), yatara jima (irregular stripes), yoroke jima (staggered stripes), kapitan jima (captain stripes), touzan jima (exotic stripes), etc.
Shima stripes are named somewhat crudely, because as was seen in “Sougodai zoushi” published on 1528, shima striped kimonos were originally used by persons of humble stations, not by persons of noble origins. But shima stripes gradually became fashionable. I think Japanese beauty sense was so smart!

Shima stripes, which imply more various meanings than concrete designs, are imaginative. We would never get tired of looking at shima stripes. Shirou Oshima wrote the followings in his literature “Shima stripes and Japanese sense of beauty.”

Stripes of yellow and black are used in toll bars of railway crossings or No Trespassing signs, because they are very vivid. (An omission)
But especially from Japanese sense of beauty, undressed self-assertiveness is thought to be shabby. Neutral colors and suppressed designs have been preferable in Japan. You could ask me whether brilliant furisodes suppress designs, whereas traditional beauty designs on furisodes should hide individuals. Audaciousness is not permitted. Furisodes have traditional designs which everybody can accept, so they can be seen without hesitation.

Indeed when my student coordinated a colorful obi sash with her neutral-color striped kimono, stripes looked more beautiful. Shima stripes lack assertiveness, but they have great potential to produce variations. In addition, they develop personal appeals. The simpler, the more beautiful. What a wonderful sentence it is!

It is my striped kimono, purchased in Asakusa, Tokyo.
Its black skirt looks smart.


5/05/2009

A very happy letter from Japan

A student, who acquired the second-class instructor diploma for kimono-dressing in my class, authorized by the national Japanese clothing consultant association (NJCCA), went back to Japan one month ago. Today I receive her mail that she gets her job at the bridal salon in Gina, Tokyo. I am very pleased and want to call her, but now it is midnight in Japan, so I will congratulate her by mail afterwards.

She helped me to serve as an assistant kimono stylist, when I undertook a contract as a kimono stylist for the shooting of the advertisement in New York. I recall that I was very pleased to give one of my students some payment at the first time. Through business with American people, the techniques of dressing have been recognized as profession by the client and producer. At the day of shooting, my student and I did our best together to dress models in response to clients' requests. She came to my kimono class for only a few months, but she not only made progress in dressing rapidly, but also had a confidence to work in this field. Furthermore, thanks to supports from the student, I myself can overcome numerous hurdles in NY. I am very proud of her. I am very pleased that her dressing technique links to her profession, and further blossoms in Japan.

5/04/2009

Kihachijyo (Yellow Hachijyo)

The first one of the pleasures on kimonos is to wear them beautifully, but another is to meet them, which look like mirrors reflecting Japanese local manners with traditions.

Today I introduce you Kihachijyo. Kihachijyo fabrics, very elegant striped and checked cloths, have been woven on Hachijyo Island, which is located 290 km south of Tokyo. They are especially famous for fabrics dyeing with vegetables with yellow stripes. Kihachijyo kimonos are wonderful and interesting, because they are produced in rigor of the volcanic island’s nature, but with easygoing characteristics of southern island’s manners. The big book with title of “Kihachijyo” on the photo was published in 1975. Only 1500 copies were published. We can see the second box inside the box of this book. After we open the second box, we can finally open pages.

Surprisingly this book includes some real kihachijyo fabrics. You can see one of them on the photo. There are a lot of beautiful photos of kihachijyo fabrics in this book.
I have been interested in kihachijyo, since I saw a photo where Masako Shirasu, who I yearn for, wore a kihachijyo kimono. I can imagine that Masako Shirasu slipped into a kihachijyo kimono in her daily life. Kihachijyo kimonos are never glitzy, but provide us pronounced impression for the variety of stripes and colors.
Originally they were articles for presentation to tycoons in the Edo period (1603-1867). In the late Edo period, they became popular casual kimonos in Edo, former Tokyo. Subsequently, in the middle Meiji period (1868-1912), many women used them regularly as casual wears.

This book includes the history of Hachijyo Island. I am quite interested that Hachijyo Island was called as the island of exiles. It says in this book that the people in the island welcomed exiles and causalities, and that because either highly-educated people, like samurais or monks, or professionals with techniques were exiled to the island, the island culture have been brought to an advanced state of development with a mixture of cultures around Japan. I think that various kinds of people gathered in the small island and produced the unique culture. I, living in NYC, sympathize with that situation, because Hachijyo Island seemed like New York City, the city of melting pot of different ethnic groups.

Like wonderful kihachijyo fabrics were produced in the small island, where people from a variety of different fields gathered, various dreams on art, fashion, business, science, etc are achieved in Manhattan, where people from a variety of different fields, and from all over the world gather with dreams and hopes.

The author, Urano Riichi, wrote in the afterword, “Far south from Japan’s mainland, kuroshio, the Black Stream, laps the beach and sun shines brightly in Hachijyo Island. On the other hand, sometimes no birds fly and no letters arrive at this exiled Island. Kihachijyo fabrics, originated in the Island with extreme contrast, have supported islanders’ lives as only important merchandise, or previously as important articles for presentation. Kihachijyo is a symbol of islanders’ hope and expectation to eliminate darkness of the exile island.”
Like kihachijyo, woven with islanders’ hope and expectation, I would like to make my dream come true with my hope and expectation. In addition, I want to carry my achievement to other people.


Full-page kihachijyo fabrics on the book