6/22/2009

Difficulty to keep up traditions


Yukata is suitable for summer. Yukata originated from “yukatabira”, which meant a special thin bathrobe worn during bathing. Yukatabira should originate before the days of the Heian period (794–1185), because it was described on “Engishiki”, compiled in the mid-Heian period. As changing times, yukata became habitual with common people after the mid-Edo period to wear after bathing. At that time, cotton was valuable, but because it feels more pleasant and can be dyed more vivid than hemp, people gradually have worn yukatas not only after bathing, but also as summer casual wears.

I have seen an ukiyo-e where a yukata-wearing lady with a round fan was relaxing after bathing. I heard that people in the past cherished the time after bathing.
Originally an essential dyeing technique for yukata was chugata, which refers to the mid-size of the design motif. Chugata dyed fabrics are now very expensive because craftsmen with chugata dyeing techniques have diminished.
Today I would like to introduce you “Kagozome”, which is one of chugata dyeing techniques. In 2008, “Nakano Dyeing Factory”, which was only one factory in the world inherited kagozome dyeing technique, stopped to produce new kagozome-dyed fabrics. I read the article in the online newspaper that it was caused by decline in demand, because of popularization of imported fabrics with prints.

On kagozome dyeing, the fabric passed through two round-shaped rolling brass stencils, which could print designs on the both sides of the fabric at the same time. We can see different kinds of designs on the both sides, so the fabric seems to be used for reversible yukatas. But actually using these reversible fabrics, stylish yukatas are made, casually showing another side of designs through sleeves and skirts.

On June 20, I attended the night party at MoMA in NY, hosted by UBS, one of the Swiss Banks. Because of the recession, most of banks are heard to pile up deficits, but members of MoMA were invited freely. UBS itself not only collects many modern art works, but also supports to trade art works. Furthermore, UBS supports artists, offers the space they present, and make people have opportunities to see and understand real arts, like the MoMA party.
In this way, UBS, or other big companies, has been supposed to support many artists and art works. But I wonder if it wouldn't be possible to support craftsmen and traditional techniques.

Art should be thought to be creative, while succession of traditional techniques should be thought to be opposite, but traditional techniques have changed through long history, like yukatas. I think that both arts and traditional techniques change with times.
I feel sad to hear the loss of traditional techniques, like kagozome for yukatas. Once we lost a technique, it would be really difficult to recover it.
I feel like I can't do anything on the matters, but I genuinely think that we should realize the importance of succession of traditional culture from generation to generation.

* The upper picture showed Kanda Konya-cho in the Edo period, where many dyeing factories standed side by side, painted by Hiroshige.

6/16/2009

What I think from a men’s kimono

Speaking of summer kimonos, I come up with Miyako-Jofu, which is made by ramie, not silk. Nowadays I am surprised in very high ticket of Miyako-Jofu fabrics on department stores, but from the texture I recall my grandfather, who always wore kimonos, and the coming of full summer. Especially in summer, kimono wearing men look so nice.

To tell you the truth, my grandfather was completely blind. He always wore kimonos, and I didn’t see him in European clothes. Even at home, he usually wore kimonos, not yukatas, which were only worn as night clothes.
When I think back, I realize that the structure of kimonos is reasonable. It seemed to be easy to dress him in kimonos by himself even if he could not see anything. He need not fasten buttons on his clothes. He didn’t enjoy kimono wearing for showing, but he enjoyed tactile sensation of kimono materials. He really wore kimonos as he wore seasons.
So, there is no end to study men’s kimonos. I think that they include hidden luxury.

The book “Notes of general knowledge about men’s kimono” is very useful for beginners. The book says:

Rudeness changes to smartness through many experiences. If you know the image and purpose of kimonos to wear, you can avoid big mistakes.

“Selection of kimonos is the same as that of European clothes.”
“You should select kimonos as you need.”…
The book includes many sympathetic sentences. All those sentences are ordinary and easy, but many people tend to overlook the importance of those sentences when it comes to kimonos.

Outside Japan, many people, even Japanese, think that kimonos are worn as formal wears. But of course, kimonos have many styles including formal and casual wears.
Now American students have been increasing in my kimono class in NY. They want to know not only how to wear kimonos, but also all the information about Japanese clothes. Showing them my real kimonos as examples, as well as related some books, I tell them as much as possible that kimonos have many styles, and that kimono designs and materials are different on each season, because of clear difference of each season in Japan. I would like to serve as a bridge between their simple desire to wear kimonos and real understanding to select and wear kimonos they need on their situations.

6/05/2009

Kimono Stylist for the Advertisement of Verizon Wireless

At the San Francisco Airport
At the day when we needed to switch between summer and winter time, the request for the advertisement poster of Verizon Wireless came on suddenly. The request contained kimono rental and coordination, kimono styling, dressing on site of the shooting. Most of them were thrown at me. Additionally, I had only ten days for the preparation.
The posters notify the service of global coverage for Verizon Wireless cellular phones. I will attend the shooting of the Japanese-version poster. The photographer and producer were all American people. And of course, the clients were all American people.

After I affirmed the direction of the advertisement photo from her image photos, I proposed and selected her preferable kimono as a kimono stylist, coordinated obis and other kimono accessories with kimonos, and sourced all things only for a few days. I should obtain 15 furisodes, 15 komon and visiting kimonos, some men’s kimonos, some children’s kimono for both boys and girls, kimono accessories (obimakura, obiita, and so on), and Japanese style goods including bags and umbrellas. Although the leading time was very short, I should obtain many of them from Japan, due to the lack of items in NYC.

I undertook such a big business as an individual and, at the same time, got fierce pressure, wondering if I could not receive all things from Japan and if I missed deadline, owing to trivial mistakes of transfer. Because of the time difference between Japan and New York, I communicated with Japanese people in the middle of the night. Soon after dawn broke, the producer called and emailed me several times. I had really a sleepless week.

After I provided the producer with some images of men’s kimono, she asked me whether I had men’s kimonos with more gorgeous designs. She might feel that men’s kimonos were conservative. But it was a difficult request for me, because men’s kimonos are generally conservative now. I tried to find kimonos which fitted her request as much as possible. Finally I found it! In the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1603), men’s kimonos were used to be gorgeous with colorful designs. Based on them, the Japanese fashion company, United Arrows, proposed wild and gorgeous men’s kimonos and held the fashion show for “outlaws”. Indeed those kimonos looked eye-catching and colorful, but unfortunately, they were very expensive. Because I should provide many kimonos on the shooting, I could not pay such a big money for just a couple of kimonos. In the end, I had to abandon to use them. Instead, I came up with the idea whether I could use colorful yukatas for men. Soon I consulted with Mr. Kinosihta, the producer of the kimono shop “awai” in Roppongi, Tokyo, because I know he had proposed men’s yukatas to United Arrows. He kindly heard my requests and showed me the yukata he used. But those yukatas had simple, not gorgeous, designs.

Finally I explained the producer about the history of men’s kimono and frankly told her that we could actually see gorgeous and colorful men’s kimono on some Japanese fashion shows, but they were rare and very expensive. She understood the difficulty of using those men’s kimonos for the shooting, but she still hoped more gorgeous men’s kimonos. I realized that it was difficult to convey kimono culture to American people.

Day by day, cardboard boxes of kimonos from Japan were getting built up in my kimono class room. All my students were surprised and asked me what on earth they were. Because of the pre-shooting, I could not show them inside of boxes, but I told them that I would attend the shooting of advertisement photos as a kimono coordinator, stylist, and dresser, and then I coached them how to dress casts in kimonos on the shooting.

It was really hard days like a romp before the shooting. And additionally, some accidents happened on the site of the shooting. Furthermore, another accident happened, when the advertisement photo were published on the Wall Street Journal last month.
Through the business experience of these American advertisement posters, I keenly feel how difficultly I express kimonos under the circumstance where only I attend the shooting as a Japanese professional. But all things including some accidents become funny memories right now.

Recently the producer sent me the final version of the Ad poster.
I appreciate many people both in Japan and USA, helping me.

The poster was protected by poster boards on both sides and packed in a plastic sheet. The producer gave greatest consideration to send me the poster. Thank you again!

6/01/2009

Tea ceremony in cool Japanese style


On May 29th, Book Expo America, the biggest publishing exposition in USA, was held in Javits Convention Center, New York. The students of my kimono class asked me to show procedures for making tea at the booth of Kodansha America. It was an awesome request for me, but I undertook her request, just serving tea for guests. Based on the bonryaku temae, the simplest way of serving tea, which was created by the 13th tea master Ennosai in Urasenke tea school, I showed guests to make teas using a tea tray.

Because it was near June, I wore a summer kimono, ro, ahead of the season. Although weather forecast had called for showers on the day of the event, it became fine and gradually hotter like a “summer day”. I was pleased to welcome guests with a summer ro kimono.

This ro kimono was tailored two years ago at the draper's, Takoya, near Nezu Station in Tokyo, which helped me very much. I fell in love with its fabric at first sight. Hydrangeas in early summer and balloonflowers in late summer are drawn on its fabric. The mistress of this shop said with a full smile, “You can wear a kimono tailored from this fabric all summer long.” Indeed its designs seem straightforward, but I like this ro kimono very much.

Before my performance, I asked a teacher of tea ceremony in Urasenke school to supervise my tea serving. I appreciate her to make time for us.
This time I realized that I love tea ceremony. Soon after I moved to New York last year, I began to take lessons in this city. Tea ceremony actually seems like a mirror of mind. Because I have not been familiar with environments around me and have spent hectic times, I honesty have had difficulty in concentrating on lessons of tea ceremony.
But through this event, I dearly want to continue taking lessons for facing me, on the jump, without protest. The next day, I told my teacher of tea ceremony that the event of tea serving ended successfully. Then I promised her to take her lessons continuously. I will continue tea ceremony in the future.

Link to BookExpo America http://www.bookexpoamerica.com/