Sunday, February 28, 2010

Word Play: Kawaii

I once ran across an interesting, but false, claim on the Internet (imagine that, I know ;) ) where someone asked on a message board what "kawaii" meant and the answer they got was that it meant "kao ga ii" - "the face is good".

This was the linguistic equivalent of a near miss: "kakko ii"(kah-koh eee), meaning "the form is good" is a general word for "cool". Kawaii (kah-wah-eee), as proof that truth is stranger than fiction, literally means something that "is possible to love". 可愛い No pressure there!

I did hear folks using it in Japan while I was there, usually younger women but older women and occasionally men too. Of course, you'd never call yourself kawaii, but other people, pets, clothes, female pop singers, keychains, food and just about everything and everyone else is fair game, with a certain sort of squeal of delight as part of the delivery if you're female and young. As a young-ish woman myself who lived there long enough to subconsciously acclimate, I had to deprogram when I got back because an American woman in her late 20s cooing over stuff just gets plain funny looks here in the States.

Men prefer "kakko ii", of course, when it comes to describing them, which makes sense as most American men I know would give me a funny look if I said they were "cute" rather than "cool".

One last note! Be careful when using the word, as it's one vowel away from "scary" - "kowai" (koh-why). And that's not how you want to start a friendly conversation. "Wow, you look terrifying!"

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Panel Tips

Last Halloween, I did a beginner-level panel on kimono at OniCon here in Houston, and it was a lot of fun. I'm currently in talks to hopefully do two more local panels back to back, one at Kamikaze Con next month and then one at Anime Matsuri in April. I'll be hauling a lot of silk around!

I'm certainly not perfect at presentations, but I'd like to share some tips gained from that first experience, other panels I've watched or been part of, and my background as a teacher. Panels don't always need to be formal affairs at a convention: you might find yourself wanting to do one on samurai for your school's anime club, a tea ceremony intro for International Day at your college, or a presentation on kimono for your Japanese class. So how can you do one that will be both educational and fun for your audience, and stress-free and fun for you?

- If you know enough about the topic at hand and love it, you're halfway to a good panel already. People respond better to a presenter who is actively and obviously interested in the topic. :)

- Treat the audience as you would want to be treated. Smile, be friendly, and never talk down to them, no matter how obvious you may think the answer is to their question. Knowledge and learning happen in positive, welcoming environments where students feel "safe" to ask questions.

- Involve the audience. Ask them questions as you talk, eliciting answers from them. If you think back to school, the teacher who peppered her talk with questions probably held your attention better than a teacher who talked as you passively sat there. It also creates more of a personal "connection" between you and the audience.

- Manage your time well. Rehearse your panel at least once and jot down the topics you want to cover and how much time you will spend. It can be as easy as an index card listing things like "Kimono History: 5 minutes". That way you can stay on track throughout your presentation and speed up or slow down as needed. Part of this is also wearing a watch, as you can't guarantee the room you're in will have a clock.

- Have fun! If you've never spoken in front of an audience, you might be nervous. I'll admit that despite almost six years of teaching, I was nervous before my first panel! The best way I've found to relax is imagine that you're talking to your friends, or if all else fails the old public-speaking trick that everyone out there has a watermelon for a head. It's impossible to find watermelons intimidating, right? ;)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Mao and Mai Asada - Heian Style!

Congratulations to Japan for its silver medal with skater Mao Asada! While looking at her and her sister Mai's official website, I ran across a couple of adorable childhood photos featuring her and Mai, who's in Heian style dress-up. Too cute!

Heian robes, the ones worn by the nobility around 1,000 years ago, were different than the kimono we know today, as you can see in Mai's simplified version. You had a white proto-kimono garment acting as underwear tucked into hakama pants, usually red or scarlet, and then layers of trailing robes worn over it. Here's a shot of the full-on adult woman version, which ranged from 5-20 layers depending on the occasion, rank and so on. Informally, it's known as juunihitoe (十二単 "12 unlined kimono"), and itsutsuginukaraginumo otherwise (五衣唐衣裳 "5 layer Chinese style clothing/costume").

Image copyright user Rori of Wikipedia.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Kimono Coordination: Balancing Patterns

Today's coordination topic is patterns. As mentioned before on here, contrast is a big part of putting together a visually-pleasing kimono look. Contrast of varying degrees is accomplished through color, but can also be created through patterns.

If you have a very busy komon, with small, fine patterns all over, go with an obi that is either a solid color or has large, bold patterns. If you get one with a small, fine pattern, it will blend into the kimono most of the time and make visual mush out of the outfit.

Kimono with large, bold patterns, like many furisode, can look great with finely patterned obi. If there's enough blank color on the kimono around the obi area (furisode, houmongi, irotomesode, kurotomesode, etc.), any pattern obi will often look good. (Fine patterns "work" because they are immediately surrounded by blank color and then the pattern kicks in further out on the kimono, and bold patterns because they'll pick up the pattern on the kimono further out).

To get a feel for what patterns look good and what don't, you can look around at kimono catalogs, which often feature fully-coordinated looks. Not only are they fun to look at, but they can also help train your eye. Here's an online catalog of a recent furisode collection, and here's Mamechiyo Modern's kimono sales page, where you can click on kimono you like to see additional photos of them coordinated.

One important thing to remember is that, just like in Western clothing, some pattern combinations will be to your taste and some won't. It's also entirely possible to have tacky looks in kimono as well: as far back as author Lady Murasaki about a thousand years ago, people were playing fashion cop. ;) So if you think a particular ensemble looks really bad, you're probably right. Trust your instincts, find what you like, and after a while you'll find you've developed your own sense of coordinating patterns.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ichiroya: Cheap Yukata Obi, Loooong Hikizuri

Ichiroya's updates today included a ton of cute, brand-new hanhaba obi, perfect for yukata or casual komon (small pattern) kimono, starting at $12. In a twist of fate, two days after I posted about the lack of hikizuri wide enough to fit my arms and one day after I bought a kurotomesode to hack up to make one, Ichiroya also has just put up an unusually long and wide hikizuri. Doh!

It's not specifically a geisha one, nor is it my style, but for anyone else out there looking for a reasonably priced (for kimono) hikizuri in a rare "tall size" to mock up for a geisha costume, it's not a bad choice at $180 compared to the real thing. :)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ebay Seller Review: Japanese Antiques

This is another ongoing series you'll see here on this blog: whenever I purchase something from Ebay, as time allows, I'll review my experience with the seller.

Earlier this month I found a good deal on a men's formal silk kimono and haori (jacket) set in great condition ($60 Buy It Now) from seller Japanese Antiques. I've been wanting to finish out a men's outfit after getting some formal striped men's hakama for Christmas, and this looked like a great and affordable chance to do that (men's stuff can at times be more expensive than comparable women's formal wear, I guess because of the relative rarity on the secondhand market?). Below you can see the set and the detailed inside lining of the haori jacket.

Communication: Good. They let me know when my package shipped and kept me up to date.

Speed: Great! I chose SAL shipping, the slowest and cheapest option, and was told it would take 3-5 weeks. To my surprise, I received the package 11 days later.

Quality: The item was exactly as described, in "very good" condition. To be honest, I would have called it excellent because they said there were spots on the inside left lining of one of the collars but I can't find any. I wouldn't advise thinking this way all the time, but I did notice while living in Japan that often the tolerance for defects was a lot lower (what most Americans would give a 9 many Japanese would give a 7, etc.), so to be honest while I was very happy I wasn't too surprised it wasn't as bad as was described.

Packaging: The items arrived wrapped in plastic and then sent in a thick plastic bag, which as they're soft and not rigid presents no problems.

Shipping/Handling Fees: I paid $26.80 for insured SAL. Given the weight of the silk and expense of shipping things internationally from Japan, I feel this is a fair price.

Overall, I was extremely pleased with Japanese Antiques and my purchase. I'd definitely buy from them again in the future!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Geisha Costume - The Lament of the Long Arms

One of my goals for 2010 is to put together a "starter" geisha costume for conventions or Halloween or just because I'm obsessed with pretty, detailed costumes... ehehehe.

Well, part of the original plan was to save up money and get an honest-to-God geisha trailing kimono, a hikizuri (which I'd still like to get for collecting purposes at some point). However, looking around I've come to the realization I'm either just too tall at 5'7" or have freakishly long arms, because the "wingspan" from sleeve cuff to sleeve cuff, as collectors sometimes call it, of all the geisha hikizuri I've seen for sale aren't nearly wide enough for the sleeves to sit properly at my wrists.

So I've expanded my search to include really detailed kurotomesode (the formal black women's kimono with patterns along the hem), as you can occasionally find ones that are wide enough and that to the mostly uneducated American eye could pass for a formal geisha kimono. The plan is to get one wide enough at the arm-span for me, since that can't be altered, and then hack it in half across the middle to add in extra fabric and make it longer (since that section will be covered with an obi anyway). For anyone out there surprised by this idea, please understand that Japan itself has a long tradition of chopping up kimono for various reasons, either for recycling from too much wear or just because a lot of vintage secondhand kimono have very little resale value compared to the original prices and sell better as craft fabrics.

The altered kurotomesode idea is also much cheaper and I wouldn't mind it getting beat up at conventions and such, but at this point it's not really price: I'd rather have sleeves that fit me than an authentic one that sits halfway to my elbows and obviously fits wrong. Interestingly enough, online dealer Ichiroya has for sale a hikizuri that was made in a similar way: a kimono chopped with fabric added. So I have historical precedent for this! ;)

I'm bidding on a possible kurotomesode candidate right now. If I win it, I'm one step closer to getting my outfit going. Next step, an authentic geisha-style wig! I can always trade out the kimono for a legit one later if I can find one that fits, but the wig needs to be a real one in order to look nice.

So how about y'all? Does anyone have any costume or kimono goals for 2010? :)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

And the Number Shall (Not) Be Four...

Tonight is a crash course in gift giving!

1. You should never give a Japanese person four of something, as one of the pronunciations of "four" in Japanese is the same as "death" (shi 四 vs. shi 死).

2. Ladies, you're due some chocolate coming up on March 14th (White Day), as that's when men are supposed to give women chocolate. Valentine's Day in Japan is the other way around. Feel free to spread this idea around America. ;)

3. If you take a trip, even if it's just to the next city over, you should always bring back small omiyage お土産 for your co-workers and friends. Omiyage are small souvenir gifts that usually are a small box with samples of a famous food or tourist trinkets from that city or area. They're easy to find around major train stations, and nothing says you can't buy one for yourself too if it's something especially delicious. :)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The NYC Tokyo Fashion Festa

Yesterday saw several Japanese indies designers bring their latest looks to New York City's famous design school FIT with the Tokyo Fashion Festa, a show and live music performance.

The show ran the gamut from fun and frilly Lolita fashion designers Baby the Stars Shine Bright to Goth-friendly Black Peace Now. Mixed in were some kimono looks featuring bold, non-traditional patterns like hearts and skulls: you can check them out over at Stephie Gina's great Flickr set.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Cute Cottons!

Ryu Japan has just put up some great modern, pretty cotton bolts that are meant for yukata (summer cotton kimono) but could be used for any number of cute clothing projects.

At some point I'll post a dress I've made myself using a yukata: the fabric tends to be stiffer than broadcloth you'd buy in a local fabric store but is pretty easy to work with.

I'm also hearing that there was a kimono segment at the Tokyo Fashion Festa hosted by FIT in New York City today: more on that tomorrow after I get more info!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Kimono Coordination: Forbidden Colors

Much as in Western culture, there are two colors you have to be careful with when it comes to getting dressed in kimono: black and white.

Occasionally online you'll see solid black (women's) kimono with family crests, black or black-on-black pattern obi, or other black accessories going for dirt cheap. This is because they're for funerals (the kimono itself is called a mofuku 喪服). Traditionally, a woman would wear solid black for and immediately after a funeral of a close family member. After some time, the kimono would become a dark color while the obi and obijime cord around the middle of the obi remained black. Next would be the obi, leaving only the obijime black. When that finally changed, the official period of mourning was considered over. The subtle cues sent by this slowly shifting ensemble allowed a complete stranger, at a glance, to determine how recently a loved one had been lost.

Black is a formal color for men, but is not restricted to funerals.

All-white or white-on-white pattern outfits suggest one of the following: death or marriage. Brides, depending on the style of wedding, will at times wear a solid white outfit (shiromuku 白無垢, as seen below), and corpses are dressed in the same solid white.

If colors appear with white or black as a base, that changes things and renders the kimono or obi wearable outside of the former ceremonial circumstances. One example is the kurotomesode, the most formal kimono for a married woman, which is always black (kuro) with a pattern along the hem. "Normal" obi can also be found incorporating black or white.

Image copyright Ichiroya and used with permission.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Enjoying Ebay: Choose Your Words Carefully

If you're shopping for Japanese items on Ebay, it can be challenging trying to sift through all the junk to find legitimate, authentic items.

One way to narrow down your search is to use the specific Japanese names of what you're after, no matter how rare or esoteric you think it might be: you'd be surprised at how much you can find that way. Here are a few random ideas to show what I mean:

Geisha items:

geisha kanzashi (not perfect at weeding out junk, but more specific than "hair ornaments")
geisha katsura (geisha wig)

Samurai items:

jinbaori (surcoat used with armor)
yoroi (armor)


koshihimo (hidden ties)
obiage (obi scarf)
yukata (this and all the following are types of kimono, more or less from casual on up)

The use of the names doesn't guarantee authenticity, of course, but it can go a long way in narrowing down your search. Kimono are a lot easier to find if you don't have to pass over 8,000 satin bathrobes to get to them. ;)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Samurai Loyalty: Honor and the "Get Out of Death Free" Card

I'm currently reading my way through an interesting samurai biography (The Last Samurai: The Life and Battles of Saigo Takamori, review to come once I'm done), and part of the beginning touches on their famous loyalty to their lords, which included both "individual" and "institutional" aspects.

In the first way, samurai loyalty could be shown in the medieval idea of "junshi", 殉死 the act of committing suicide upon your lord's death rather than going on to serve another lord.

Junshi required the lord's prior approval, and was technically outlawed in 1663, but "remained a model for individual loyalty". This showed a samurai's connection to his lord as an individual man, rather than just the title of lord itself.

However, if your lord was being a jackass, you had an out. ;) Samurai were also called upon to guard the "state" of the lord, the good of his holdings and kingdom and the future of his heirs. This was institutional loyalty, and gave samurai the right to directly disobey their lords if they felt their lords were making poor decisions (gambling away the estate, marching into a battle for the wrong reasons, etc.), or opt out of junshi if they felt they could better serve the state by living.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Planning Ahead: Spring Festivals

Cherry blossom season in Japan, usually mid-March through April depending on where you are, is an amazing time of year: the cherry trees bloom out in huge waves of pink and white, people come out for (not always sober) flower viewing parties, and it really does look like every postcard and anime you've ever seen. ;)

Several cities in America have their own cherry blossom or spring Japan festivals, including Washington D.C., Philadelphia, New York, Houston and Branch Brook Park in New Jersey. These are great places to have fun, learn more about Japanese traditional culture, and if you're a kimono fan a perfect excuse to plan outfits for. Now is actually a good time to start putting a look together, especially if you're new at kimono and need the practice or would rather pay cheaper, slower shipping on online purchases to avoid the last minute cost of EMS shipping.

Check around and see if there will be one in your area: you might be surprised! As for me, I'll definitely be attending the Houston one. I'm not sure yet what I'll wear, but I do have a pink houmongi (visiting wear formality) with cranes I might use if I can find the right obi for it by then.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day Kitsuke

Happy Valentine's Day! Inspired by a recent red-and-white Ebay find ($10 silk kimono, woo hoo!), I tossed together a themed outfit for today using it and the very first obi I ever bought, a gradiated pink one that looks red in the photo. Doh! The red and white tassel ornament came from the back of a little girl's obi, so I added it in the kimono-magazine trend of sticking random stuff to the top of obi. ;)

The kimono, due to its small repeating pattern, is called a "komon" and is just above a cotton summer yukata on the formality scale. Traditionally, it's worn with a half-width hanhaba obi, as seen here, or wider Nagoya obi. I'm pretty new at actually wearing non-yukata kimono rather than collecting them, so I apologize for any messiness or mistakes.

Anyway, here's to love of all kinds, and spring coming soon! :D

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Kimono Coordination: Complementary Colors

First of all, a big thank you to my lovely friend and reader "pony_parade" over on! She made a syndicated feed for this blog, so if you're on LJ and would like to get automatic updates when I post, please check out the feed over here.

She also requested a post on kimono color coordination, which is something I'd like to make a regular part of the blog as there's so much you can do with it. :) So today we'll kick that series off with a simple introduction to "complementary colors" in color theory.

You might remember the color wheel from art class. The simplest color wheels usually feature red, yellow, and blue (your primary colors that can't be broken down any further), and orange, green, and purple (secondary colors, ones made from primary colors).

If you look directly across the color wheel from one color to another, that opposite color is called the complementary color. Those two colors, when used next to each other, will always pop visually. For example, blue and orange, green and red, and purple and yellow.

When it comes to kimono, contrast or "pop" is considered very important in putting together a good look. You can play with colors to create different feelings, just as you can with Western clothing, but the idea of contrast will be in there somewhere. You're not likely to see a blue kimono with the same color blue obi, obiage scarf, and obijime cord. It's boring just reading about it!

So let's see in practice how you can use complementary colors in putting together kimono and obi: I've borrowed photos of a single kimono and obi and done some crude hue shifting in Photoshop to show the basic principle. (I also used the same one over again so as to focus on the colors alone rather than individual kimono or obi.)

Do you have to always put blue with orange, or red with green? Nope! There are a lot of other ways you can go about matching kimono and obi, but, especially for beginners, the simple relationship of complementary colors can be a good, foolproof way to narrow down choices and put together workable combinations.

Top image copyright Wikipedia, all others copyright Ichiroya and used with permission.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Ryu Japan - New Zori for $20

I just posted a couple of days ago with a Ryu Japan update, but I saw this this morning and figured it was worth mentioning: the site has a bunch of pretty and brand-new zori 草履 (more formal sandals) for $20.

The catch is that, while they're labeled "for 23-25 cm", they're 23.5 cm long. When I lived in Japan, I always bought 24.5 cm shoes or LLs, as sometimes cheaper shoes came in sizes like clothing. I'm an 8.5" in American shoe size.

I decided to try my luck on a cheap vintage pair of 23.5 cm zori off Ebay awhile back, as traditionally with geta and zori it's ok to have a little bit of your heel hanging off the back. I figured, "Hey, it's just a centimeter! How bad can it be?"


Well, let's just say that if I go to Hell those zori will be waiting for me. They are the most painful things I have ever worn in my life (the thong on the strap isn't high enough, so the straps pinch down across my foot and cut off circulation after about a minute). They're nice display pieces for my panels at this point, and that's about it.

That said, if you do wear an honest-to-God 23.5cm shoe (about an American 7: you can check your size here), these zori are a steal for the condition and price. I believe they're a more formal type of zori with the wide strap like that, but if any of my fellow kimono fans can give more info, that'd be great.

Enjoy your Friday! :)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Healthy Haramaki

Yesterday saw me home sick from work. I'm doing better now, but while we're on the topic, let's talk about haramaki! (腹巻)

It comes in a few different forms, but a haramaki in the modern day is a "belly wrap", a long length of fabric wound about the stomach for warmth underneath other clothing. I learned while in Japan that old customs hold that the stomach is the center of your health. If you keep your stomach and core area warm, then you can stay healthy.

An old Japanese boyfriend, who was a fan of cheesy Chinese martial arts movies, would come over and watch them at my house with me. The Japanese were often the bad guys in these movies, and one time a Japanese spy who had been passing himself off as Chinese was revealed when the main character walked in and found him... dun dun DUNNN... wrapping his haramaki around himself.

The boyfriend started laughing and I asked what was so funny. He explained that it was really old-fashioned and stereotypical that a Japanese guy would always have a haramaki on no matter what, sort of like an American constantly walking around with a hamburger in his hand.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sales Updates: Kimono Lily, Ryu Japan

Kimono Lily, a U.S.-based kimono dealer, updated today with several lower-priced kimono. Sewers and crafty types may also want to check out the fabric bolts put up today over at Ryu Japan.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

1,000 Views and Sayuki's Oprah Appearance

First of all, a big thank you for 1,000 views! :) It's been a little over a month since I started this blog, so I was surprised to get to 1,000 this quickly. I'll try to do my best with it, and thanks again!

As mentioned in an earlier post, the world's only Western geisha, Sayuki/Fiona Graham, made an appearance on Oprah today. I didn't see the segment itself, but Oprah's site has a recap and some video for those who are interested in it. It was pretty cool getting to see video of a banquet with geisha attending, even if very short, and read a new story about them in my native language, rather than having to translate it myself.

So, if you saw it, what did you think?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Kimono Secret Arsenal: The Tsukuri Obi

Traditionally, a casual hanhaba (half-width) obi knot is secured with nothing but itself. Through careful tying, it will hold itself and the knot together. Wider and more complicated obi and knots use a few other items, but the idea is basically the same.

If you're just getting into kimono, taking a strip of fabric over ten feet long and wrestling it into a good obi look can seem pretty intimidating. But not all hope is lost! The tsukuri obi (作り帯) is ideal for beginners, kimono-for-a-day costume cosplay folks, or more experienced wearers who just want to simplify getting their outfits together.

A tsukuri obi (also known as a kantan obi 簡単帯 or tsuke obi 付け帯) is pre-tied: it comes in two separate parts, one the back knot already tied, and the other the long strip that goes around you. You secure everything with hidden cotton cords.

For yukata, summer cotton kimono, I'm not a fan of hanhaba tsukuri obi because the bow is usually fairly stiff, making them easy to spot. However, I saw plenty of young women in Japan using them so it's not considered "cheating": to each their own!

You can also find tsukuri obi for more formal looks and knots. If you're curious, try searching "pre-tied obi", "tsuke obi" or "tsukuri obi" over on Ebay or at online dealers.

Image copyright Pitke and used with permission.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Saints Fan Kitsuke

Congratulations to the New Orleans Saints for their win in the Superbowl!

Should any kimono fans reading be Saints fans, allow me to recommend a way to show your team spirit:

You're welcome. ;)

On a more serious kitsuke (kimono wearing) note, when looking through casual "hanhaba" 半幅 (half-width) obi, keep in mind that metallic obi like this are most often used for dance and not daily wear.

Image copyright Ichiroya and used with permission.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Western Geisha on Oprah This Tuesday

Fiona Graham, an Australian anthropologist, got off to a rocky start with some Japan-watchers when she first appeared on the geisha scene back in 2007, presenting herself through press releases and a personal website as history's first Western geisha (a title that could arguably go to Liza Dalby, a fellow anthropologist who quietly and informally worked as a geisha back in 1975-76 as part of her studies of the culture).

In the few years since, more details about her training and her changing attitude (she now plans to work as a geisha indefinitely rather than just for a little while) have won over some who initially doubted her. I, for one, don't know enough to judge her efforts but recent articles like the one linked above leave me impressed with her hard work and perseverance in such a demanding world.

Those curious to see Sayuki, the geisha name Graham goes by, can check out her upcoming appearance on Oprah this Tuesday as Lisa Ling travels to Tokyo to interview her.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Learn Japanese With Lost

In a neat pairing of two things I enjoy, right now you can hear real, live Japanese on American TV thanks to Hiroyuki 広之 Sanada 真田 (if you remember the grumpy bad-ass samurai from The Last Samurai, that's him), who is playing a character on ABC's Lost as of this season. I just caught up today after about four years away from the show (yay for plot summaries!).

Sanada is a Japanese-born and bred actor, and it was fun to see and hear him in the show. For the sake of plot and spoilers I won't discuss his character, but if you missed the opening episode you can catch both parts for free over at the network's site.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Sumo Wrestler Asashoryu Quits

Here in Texas, the half-joke is that football is the state religion. Sumo in Japan is one step up from that: originally it did serve a religious aspect and was incorporated into Shinto ceremonies. For example, all the stomping around helped scare demons away from places about to be blessed or show humans wrestling with spirits and gods.

To this day, the sumo world is a very tight, very conservative society: wrestlers are largely expected to be quiet, obedient, humble and well-behaved. One who has never been very good at that is the Mongolian-born Asashoryu 朝青龍, who became famous as a yokozuna 横綱, the highest level of sumo wrestler, while I lived over there a few years ago and by wins is the third-best sumo wrestler of all time.

He was always in the papers, either for his amazing wrestling or his acting up out of the ring: illegally pulling the hair of a competitor, pretending to have a hurt ankle only to get caught playing soccer, etc.

Despite his rock-star status in the sport, last month he finally went one step too far for his elders, allegedly getting into a drunken fight outside a Tokyo nightclub and breaking a guy's nose. Today, when summoned for questioning by the Japanese Sumo Association board, he turned in his resignation and apologized for all the trouble he's caused.

Image copyright petra_langader1

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

When Blue Isn't Blue

One of the disadvantages of buying clothes of any kind online is that you can't see the garment in real life. Between the lighting in the room where the picture was taken, any editing done, the calibration of your monitor, and differences in personal opinion regarding what color a color is, you can occasionally get surprised by what ends up in your mailbox.

I won a fukuro (formal) obi off Ebay a little while ago, and in the pictures it looked to be a true blue obi, which surprised me because I haven't seen that many blue fukuro ones. Well, the package arrived tonight, and it's a gorgeous, true... purple.

Purple is my favorite color, so it's all good, but it was a gentle reminder to not get too attached to the exact color you see on a screen.

If you're shopping for a very specific color, try sticking to sellers that allow returns. You can also ask the seller to provide the hex decimal number of the color, but again, with monitor calibrations the color 990000, which might look dark red on your screen, might be dark orange on theirs.

A final random note on color: While in Japan I noticed "red" seems to be broken down into two cultural ideas: what Americans would call a true red, the Japanese think of as a "Chinese" red. "Japanese red" is, to me, a very deep, intense red-orange.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Kimono Sewing Patterns

First of all, thanks for y'all's input! I'll keep it in mind as I write this month's entries. :)

Tonight I'd like to mention some kimono patterns for my fellow sewers out there, or folks with really nice friends/family who sew, anyway ;).  Making your own kimono can be a good idea if you're after a very specific color or pattern for a costume, if you're too small or big for most vintage kimono or as a hands-on way of learning more about them.

Japanese Kimono Pattern: Folkwear 113(shown on right here)
Simplicity Sewing Pattern 4080 (I've seen some people complain about fine details of the accuracy of this one, but it's a big step above the next two if you can't get ahold of the Folkwear one)

Not recommended, as construction is sort of in the right ballpark but missing major features like proper seams that would come from a narrow bolt of fabric, obi are wonky, weird fabric choices, etc.:
McCall's M4953
Butterick B6698

As a note, beyond the question of accuracy I don't actually recommend sewing kimono as a way to save money on them in general. For example, if you make a cotton yukata (summer kimono), by the time you buy the yardage in a decent quality cotton and spend the time making it, you might as well buy a real one off of the Net as your cost is going to end up about the same.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Share Your Thoughts

Today's entry is my 30th: it's been just about a month since I've started this blog. I've enjoyed writing about what I know, and also the blog giving me a reason to go out and learn new things. I'd like to say thank you to those who follow my posts, stop by and comment. Thank you so much for visiting!

So now it's your turn: Please share your thoughts about this blog here or send me an email if you like (info atttt thekimonolady dotttt com). What do you like about it? What would you like to see improved on? What should go? What would you like to see more of?

It's always good to get feedback, and I'd appreciate any y'all care to give. My goal is to make this blog fun, interesting, a place to learn new things, and useful when it can be (how-tos, sales info, etc.). For you, how can I make it more like that?

Let me know, and thanks for stopping by!