Color and Culture

Today, Manhattan is covered by dense fog and we cannot see Empire State Building. The view is like Black-and-white movie. When we express white as "pure white", we image bright white. It is different from foggy white.

The other day, I read about the world of "GENJI MONOGATARI" (It is the oldest novel in the world written by court lady in Japan) and it mentioned about Heian-era’s color sense.
She is author of "GENJI MONOGATARI". She was wearing twelve layered kimono.

Now when we say "Ao(青)" in Japanese it means "blue". But in Heian-era, "Ao" means color between red and black. So “Ao” included variety of color. For example, yellow, green, brown, gray etc...Their color concept was fewer than now. Now Japanese call "blue heron" as "Ao-sagi(heron)" and this name called since Heian-era. Actually, blue heron is not blue. It is white big bird.

Sometimes we call white horse as "Ao-uma(horse)".
In china, theory of Yin-Ynag and the five elements says, "To remove the negative vibes of the year, it is better to see yang thing in spring". They defined spring color as blue(青) and yang animal as horse(馬). And Chinese had a new year event to see "青馬" in the spring. In Japan, white is the top of the color. So Japanese write white horse as "(Ao-uma)" and they cannot change reading so we sometimes call white horse "Ao-uma". Strictly speaking, white horse is "Hakuba(白馬)". "Haku(白)" means white.

Three years ago I saw white horse at Kamogamo-jinjya (It is famous shrine in Kyoto) for new year event. The picture was taken at shrine in Kyoto.
I thought color imagination come from not only from the color itself but from culture background and our own experience.
In Heian-era, court ladies enjoyed their fashion “twelve layered kimono” using variety of colors, even though their color concept was fewer than now. They were sensitive to color combination. Sometimes they made beautiful color gradation and sometimes they present season or their rank or their character by color. Color is important ways of express themselves.

When I was writing the blog there was a thunder and after that the rain stopped and saw the fog burned off.

I saw the stars in the night sky and re-realized the beauty of Manhattan.


Artistic photo shooting

Last year I had joined Mr. Wilhelm’s photo shooting as a stylist. Mr. Wilhelm gets success as a photographer in the United States and Germany. He took photos for American Express and BMW advertisement. He said he has a photo shoot for Virgin Atlantic Airways next day.

He wanted to take artistic photos. The concept was "snack POCKY" and was to match western cloth and obi.

I stylized obi with western cloth as he said. He said "First, we want to try traditional style". I thought it was already non-traditional…Model had long hair with panda ear.
He also said "I want to attach chopstick on the hair in order to make it traditional". I could not understand what he said. It was not traditional… But he repeated "I leave it to you. Please make it Traditional".

After the first shot he admired me and said, "Oh, Hiro's conception is crazy". Um…I just stylized what he said…

Whatever we arrange kimono, we recognize it as "kimono" because Kimono has strong feature. But I think his rich expression will be able to resolve this problem.

Even though we can fix photos with PC recently, he care about trivial matters when he took photos, for example slight back fabrics come out. I was impressed and surprised his concentration.

White-sweater-woman is me. In this picture I am styling obi like object extemporaneously. I am looking forward to seeing those photos.


Beauty of Oshima-tsumugi 4

Although today is a fourth time to talk about Oshima-tsumugi, it is not enough.
This kimono is one of my Oshima-tsmugi. I received it as a Christmas present.

We can see small T shaped splashed pattern (KASURI) in kimono. It is wonderful kimono.
Today, I would like to introduce the process of how craftsman make Oshima-tsumugi fabrics.
Strictly speaking, in recent years, we can say that Oshima-tsumugi is not "Oshima-tsumugi" but "Oshima-kasuri". Kasuri means the fabric which is dyed in the yarn (splashed pattern) and Tsumugi means silk fabric (pongee) in Japanese.
Before the end of Meiji era (Meiji era; 1868-1912), Oshima-tsumugi was made only by hand. So craftsmen needed long time to make one Oshima-tsumugi fabric.
After the end of Meiji era, Oshima-tsumugi's demand increased rapidly and it became difficult to make them only by hand. And craftsmen decided to use Takahata as I mentioned before (See "Beauty of Oshima-tsumugi 3: Pongee yet not Pongee").

There are two steps to weave Oshima-tsumugi fabrics.
First, they weave KASURI-MUSHIRO. MUSHIRO means matting in Japanese.

This is KASURI-MUSHIRO. KASURI-MUSHIRO is made by silk yarn and cotton yarn.
We can see the design of Oshima-tsumugi fabric from KASURI-MUSHIRO.
The white part of KASURI-MUSHIRO is made by silk yarn.

Next, they dye KASURI-MUSHIRO with mud or plant. After they dyed KASURI-MUSHIRO they take off cotton yarn from KASURI-MUSHIRO. And then unplait KASURI-MUSHIRO to yarn. Next they weave the dyed silk yarn and new silk yarn which is substitute for cotton yarn. And make same KASURI-MUSHIRO. And dye again. They repeat this process.

Second, after they dyed all the yarn, they weave the yarns and make a fabric.

Advancements in weaving machine technology, now they can produce more detailed and clear pattern.
Oshima-tsumugi has 30 processes. And production network based on the division of labor. So there exist many craftsmen for each process. To make a KASURI-MUSHIRO (as I mentioned as first step) is heavy work so this process is done by men. And second step to weave Oshima-tsumugi fabric is done by female.

When I saw Oshima-tsumugi, I was amazed not only its beauty but also dynamism.

Oshima-tsumugi's kimono looks really nice with Hakata-obi


Join the Japanese TV program making as a stylist

On January 2nd, from pm6:00 to pm9:00, New Year special program "SEKAI NO HATEMADE ITTE Q" was broadcast at Japan. One of the scenes, the cast was Bobby Ologun family, was shot at Florida and I dressed them Kimono.

I found my name on a staff list. It says I am stylist. It seems like small things but to get a credit is a really happy occasion for me.

The shot was held at Pensacola FL on mid-December.
I thought Florida is warm place but temperature was around 20 ℉ on that day! 
Meanwhile, as you may see from the picture, Mr. Bobby Ologun and his daughter tuck up their sleeves with a sash and patiently continue playing tablecloth trick.

I started styling them at 5:00 AM and we departed on the set around 6:00 AM. The shot end at after 10:00 PM! The shot could not end till they carry out the experiment successfully. I thought it is hard to make variety program.

I feel rewarded for their effort because the program rating was 17%.

Staffs are all nice and kind. One of them rent me a coat. Because I didn't imagine such a cold temperature in Florida so I wore less clothing.
I felt Bobby Ologun family and staffs become united to make one program. The shot was only two days but it was good memory for me to see how they make their program seriously and also program was made by people’s warm heart.

I have got emails from Komagome Waso Academy's teachers in Japan. I was happy that they checked the program.
I was in NY so I could not see the program but I felt I am connected with Japan with Kimono. And the message from Japan makes me feel like they are near me.

I would like to connect with many people and expand my world through Kimono.



On November 16th, Yuuki-tsumugi(made in Japan, Ibaragi and Tochigi Prefecture) was named to the UNESCO list of the Masterpieces of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Yuuki-tsumugi is one of my favorite Kimonos. I already mentioned about this news in Twitter. I was impressed to this news so I wanted to write about it as soon as possible but unfortunately I could not update my blog till today.
I introduced the Yuuki-tsumugi's video at Twiiter. One of the followers gave me a message that she was so impressed at the video and cried.
Production of Yuuki-tsumugi includes 17 stages.

All stages have been done at Yuuki city in Ibaraki Prefecture and Oyama city in Tochigi Prefecture. Two years ago, I visited Yuuki-tsumugi's craft center to experience yarn-dyed technique.
I could not forget the warmth of floss silk since I touch them.

I thought one of the stage, "spin a yarn" sums it up for the wonderfulness of Yuuki-tsumugi. Craftsmen decided whether they spin a yarn thinly or thickly by design drawing. When they spin a yarn, they wet their fingers and spin a yarn to predetermined width.
Ms. Fuku Osato(she has intangible cultural heritage and spins a yarn for 50 years) says "The most difficult techniques to spin a yarn is to spin a yarn flatly. We can judge the quality of Tsumugi by the flatness of the yarn." (Tairyu-sha 紬 素朴な美と日本的な味わい).

Spin from the floss silk means to gather short flock yarn and make one yarn. This process needs skilled craftsmen techniques.

Every time I wear Yuuki-tsumugi's Kimono, I think Kimono starts from yarn.

Some of my students say "Since I began to attend the Kimono dressing class, I started to wear the Kimono which I had never worn before". There is a rare case to wear Kimono especially in foreign country, but I wish if you have Kimono please make a chance to wear Kimono. I think you can see another world by wearing Kimono.

This movie introduces about Yuuki-tsumugi.
I hope you will enjoy it.