Saturday, July 31, 2010

Kanji Beginner: Umi - "Sea/Ocean"

I just got back from a friend's birthday party on the beach, hence tonight's theme (Happy Birthday again, Jason!). "Umi", or "sea/ocean", is a fun 3-in-1 kanji that makes perfect sense once you look at the parts.

The first part in building our "umi" is "mother", which is a woman's breasts (no kidding).

"Person", which we've already learned, is this:

If you put these two together, it means "every" because every man has a mother, right?

Add our third element, "water" 水 (squeezed into a few drops when put into compounds), next to "every" and you have "every water", which is... the sea. Cool, huh?

Friday, July 30, 2010

What Do You Call...? - Those (Usually White) Circles

If you look through vintage kimono, you'll run across more than one that has small circles dyed or occasionally embroidered up along the top. They're family crests, called "kamon" 家紋, or "mon" for short. Mon can feature abstract shapes, manmade objects, or flora/fauna, and are always set in a circle or designed so that they would fit into the basic area of one. They add formality to a garment, in this order:

- No mon
- 1, middle of back
- 3, 1 middle of back and 2 on each side of chest in front
- 5, 1 middle of back, 2 on each side of back, 2 on each side of front

Once heavily restricted, in modern times mon have become a free-for-all where any family can take on any crest, so you can't really use them to trace a kimono's ownership.

Above, crests on the back of a kimono. Below, a different crest. Images courtesy Ichiroya and Wikimedia, respectively.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Common Motifs: Tsuzumi - Hand Drums

You may not know the instrument "tsuzumi" 鼓 but you'd recognize the sound the moment you heard one (check out a video of the small "ko-tsuzumi" 小鼓 being played here, and its big brother "oh-tsuzumi" 大鼓 here). Both are traditional Japanese types of drums and, as far as I know, are a year-round motif for textiles and can be found on a variety of pieces. You might find either the three-quarter view or head-on one, but both will show the circle of the drum and its cords. Below is an example of a ko-tsuzumi, followed by a Nagoya obi, and details of a komon and haori.

All fabric photos copyright Ichiroya and used with permission. Tsuzumi photograph courtesy of Wikimedia.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"Gouk" - Japanese Punk and Goth Fashion

h. Naoto is a Japanese designer/brand most famous for their punk and Goth clothing, some of which I have and absolutely love. They also have a sub-brand, "gouk", dealing with Japanese-influenced modern style.

Great for international fans (and worse for wallets!), h. Naoto also has an English-language online shop with international shipping where you can pick up their stuff, including gouk items and sub-brands within it.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ryu Japan Sale

Peeking at Ryu's site tonight, it looks like he's having another sale: $30-something yukata are down to $22, and the $6 geta I posted about a few days ago are now down to $4.

Edit: Duh, I need to read my email. It's a 40% off everything in the webshop "thanks sale" going on for three days. ;)

(Now you gambling types out there might want to hold off, as I've seen him discount even more on the last day and even the last few hours, but then you run the risk what you want may not be there.)

Monday, July 26, 2010

The "Mai Curren" Style

A relative newcomer on the wedding scene, the modern "Mai Curren" kimono type, a visual mishmash of ancient Heian robes and modern uchikake wedding kimono, is certainly eye-catching. How it catches your eye may vary from person to person!

If you like it, the contemporary one above is on Ebay right now for $980.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A New Kimono Community: Love Kimono

If you have a LiveJournal account, I'd like to invite you to check out the newly created "Love Kimono" community.

The goal is to create a fun, friendly place where LJers of all ethnicities, ages, sizes and kimono styles can share their interest in kimono, whether large or small, through coordinates, photos, questions, projects, scans, and related topics. Non-traditional approaches (kimono hime, Lolita variants like Wa Lolita, kimono-inspired couture, etc.) are welcome!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Mamechiyo Modern: 2010 Yukata

Mamechiyo Modern has recently added several new yukata to their web shop, including "Caramel Popcorn" (the polka dot one), "Pinks" (the flower, aka Dianthus or "nadeshiko", the grey one), and "Ribbons" (the pink and blue ones).

If you're interested in buying them you'll need a third-party shopping service as they don't ship overseas.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Ryu Japan Update - $6 Geta Sale

Ryu has put up 78 pairs of women's geta (wooden clogs worn mainly for summer yukata) for a sale price of $6. Double-check your size with a conversion chart before ordering, however: While it is normal for a little bit of the heel to hang off the back of geta and their more formal cousins zori, if it's more than .5 cm away from your normal shoe size you might find the fit too tight to wear.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pink Rock: Princess Furisode Catalog

Looking around at furisode online, I ran across "Pink Rock", a current "princess furisode" line and catalog that would horrify purists but looks pretty fun to me (click the link then any of the looks to start the catalog photo gallery). High heels with kimono (gasp!), Ed Hardy belts as obi-jime, and giant head-eating bows Lolita fashion would be proud of are mixed in with very bright, very bold colors and coordinations in the front half of the catalog, tapering off to more traditional looks in the back.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Kanji Beginner: Black

This character is a little more complicated than its opposite, "white" 白, but can make sense if you break it down. Black is read as "kuro" and written as this:

The top half is these two squished down a bit:

(field or paddy)
(earth or soil)

I learned this as "If you set a field on fire (my imagining for the four dots on the bottom), what color do you get? Black!"

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ever Wanted to Borrow Your Friend's Clothes?

Because, boy, do I... my friend just bought this gorgeous furisode off of Ebay. We're currently in negotiations for me to borrow it at some point. :)

I'm too old to wear furisode traditionally, but my Gothy nature sees a lot of potential in such an elegant piece! Maybe some Taisho-esque photo experiment with a chaise, a la this famous painting?

Daizaburo Nakamura, "Woman", 1930

Monday, July 19, 2010

Ichiroya Update: Fabric Bolts from $12

For you crafty or do-it-yourself types, today's update from Ichiroya includes a couple of silk bolts for obi marked down to $12, along with some cotton, synthetic and wool bolts on sale as well.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Polyvore Design Inspiration: Water Garden

You may already know about Polyvore, the addictive site that lets you select different fashion and decor items and tack them up to form virtual "inspiration boards". Curious to see if they had any kimono, I tried searching for "kimono", but didn't find much. However, "furisode" pulls up a good amount of young women's kimono.

I took a minute to play around with one, using it as inspiration for interior decor. Whether you want to hang a particular kimono in a room as the focal point, or just use its colors and patterns for ideas, it's a fun way to get new ideas for decorating. This one gives me the feeling of a water garden, peaceful and colorful. I'm imagining a covered patio or maybe living room painted in a very soft blue with a bunch of white flowers and pink, lavender, and true blue accents.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Japanese Recipes: Zaru Soba

During a long, hot day spent outside nothing's better than something chilled for lunch. Japanese cuisine includes several chilled summer dishes, one of my favorite of which is zaru soba, ざるそば, chilled buckwheat noodles.

They're cheap, easy to make, and even vegan-friendly if you trade the dipping sauce out for something else. I will say, however, that zaru soba can be an acquired taste, so if you're just getting into Japanese cuisine you may find this dish a little too fishy or earthy in terms of flavors.

As for where to buy everything, I found both the noodles and sauce at a local Asian market, but if your own supermarket has an Asian aisle you might find one or both there as well.

Zaru Soba Recipe

1. Boil water and add noodles, cooking for 6-7 minutes.
2. Drain with very cold water. I drain the hot water and then add a couple of handfuls of ice cubes along with the cold water and let it all sit for a minute or two, to get the noodles nice and chilled before draining.
3. Add a side cup of store-bought or homemade dipping sauce (search "zaru soba sauce" for a few different options), and top noodles with dried nori (seaweed strips), sesame seeds, etc.  Add grated ginger and wasabi to sauce if desired, and enjoy!

Health Info:

Soba Noodles
Calories: 290
Total Fat: 2% RDA
Sodium: 5% RDA
Saturated Fat, Cholesterol: 0
Carbs: 20% RDA
Ingredients: wheat flour, buckwheat, salt, water

Kikkoman Soba Tsuyu (Dipping Sauce for Noodles)
Calories: 30
Total Fat: 0
Sodium: 31% RDA
Total Carbs: 2%
Protein: 1g
Ingredients: bonito (fish) extract, mirin (rice cooking wine), water, sugar, salt, vinegar

Friday, July 16, 2010

Kimono Lily Update

Another quick post: America-based kimono dealer Kimono Lily updated today with 8 new kimono, including a cute deep blue one with stripes and a snowflake pattern.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Kimono Shopping Online: Two Words to Watch Out For

When shopping online for kimono, you're likely to run across a host of Japanese terms, two of which can lead to an unpleasant surprise if you don't know them: "karieba" かりえば and "karinui" かりぬい.

These words mean the same thing: a kimono that has been basted into the final shape but has not actually been sewn. If you buy a karieba/karinui kimono, you'll have to sew it together yourself or find a seamstress to do it for you.

A visual giveaway for a karieba kimono is that the sleeves will often in photos seem very square down along the bottoms, rather than the more rounded edges you see on women's kimono and the very rounded edges you see on furisode, young women's kimono. Below is a karieba furisode followed by a finished one: take a look at the sleeve bottoms to see the difference.

Photos copyright Ichiroya and used with permission.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Ryu Japan Update - $14 Uchiwa

Short and sweet tonight!

Uchiwa, the round summer fans I've been talking about recently, are now available at Ryu Japan for $14 ($8 plus $6 air mail shipping).

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tsumami Kanzashi Photo Gallery

All credit for this find goes to Immortal Geisha forum member shigatsuhana (thank you!), who first posted a link there to this short article and beautiful photo gallery of traditional folded-silk hair ornaments (tsumami kanzashi).

Among the little pieces of art, made by third-generation craftsman Tsuyoshi Ishida, you'll find everything from classical cranes and maple leaves to whimsical shrimp and watermelons.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Japan in Pop Culture: Yakuza in Predators

For those of you who hate any kind of spoiler, stop reading after this sentence: If you are a fan of gritty, dark sci-fi or action go see Predators, which I found to be an entertaining addition to and return to the feel of the original Predator.

If you don't mind a spoiler or two about the yakuza character seen in the trailers, keep reading!

From a sci-fi geek and Japanese culture perspective, Predators delivers in a truly awesome way by giving us a one-on-one showdown between a kendo-trained yakuza with a katana and a giant, beefy Predator using one of its arm-mounted blades. Hanzo, the yakuza, acquires the sword earlier on in the film, and as the characters are running, decides he's going to make his last stand shirtless in a moonlit field with swaying grass (how many anime and Japanese movies have you seen this in?) armed with nothing but the antique katana.

At first, watching him stand and wait, I thought he'd instantly be toast, but thinking about my own "Walmart" katana knockoff, katana in general do have a pretty good reach and are damn sharp. If you were trained to use one you could definitely put the hurt on someone or something, even if it was bigger than you.

So how did the fight turn out? You'll have to go watch the movie. :D

In the meantime, if you'd like to read more about Louis Ozawa Changchien, the actor playing the yakuza, here's an interview where he talks about his background and the movie. One neat tidbit: He's been studying kendo since the age of 5 and his sensei choreographed the Predators katana showdown.

How accurate was the yakuza character himself? Well, he came well-dressed (believable from my own thankfully at-a-distance sightings of yakuza harassing shop owners), armed with a gun (believable as basically only the mafia carry guns in Japan), didn't come already equipped with the sword (which would have been incredibly lame and Japanese-y stereotypical) and had a dry sense of humor for his couple of spoken lines rather than spouting pseudo-Zen wisdom.

I'm sure some people will complain about this or that regarding the character, but given the genre he appeared in I feel it was a fair treatment and worlds better than how the same character would have been handled ten years ago.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Yukata Project Results

My "yukata from scratch" experiment is finished! I don't feel confident enough to create a pattern for others to follow, but I will say that it can be done. :) In lieu of that I'd recommend Folkwear's kimono pattern. The fabric is a Japanese-print cotton I picked up on sale at JoAnn's, and the yukata took 4 yards at $6 per yard.

The final result is a yukata that I feel would be ok for a costume or possibly Japanese festival, but the cotton is smoother and drapes more than traditional yukata cotton. So to a trained eye, it's apparent the yukata is a homemade one and can't truly pass for a real one. However, for costuming purposes it's not a bad deal at the $24 I spent on it.

Courtney grabbed a few snapshots of me in the finished product, which I'm mostly happy with in terms of sewing save the wobbly collar. The adorable doggy is our neighbor's: he's single-handedly converted me to future Shih Tsu ownership.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Kimono Knowledge: Tsukesage vs. Houmongi

The different types of kimono are usually a comfortable distance away from each other in terms of appearance: yukata are clearly different from houmongi, furisode are clearly different from kurotomesode and so on. Two, however, are very close in how they look: houmongi and tsukesage.

Both feature plain backgrounds with medium or large designs across the hem plus more up on the top half of the kimono. However, houmongi designs flow across the seams uninterrupted, while tsukesage usually feature contained images that sit inside the seams. Houmongi are a little higher in formality as well. The categories aren't set in stone and you'll sometimes see hybrids of the two, but here are some classic examples of each:

Tsukesage: 付け下げ

Houmongi: 訪問着

Images copyright Ichiroya and used with permission.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Common Motifs: Uchiwa - Round Fan

A little while ago I posted about the differences between uchiwa and sensu, the first being a flat, round fan and the second a folding fan. Uchiwa 団扇, as I mentioned then, are a summer item and naturally a summer motif as well. You'll sometimes see them depicted without their tines and handle, but the distinct "Pac Man" shape is still there.

Below are uchiwa examples on a haori (jacket) and a Nagoya obi.

Images copyright Ichiroya and used with permission.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Kanji Beginner: White

Tonight's kanji is a very easy one, and our first step into colors.

This is a grain of rice sticking out of a barrel (and rice is white), or at least that's the way I first memorized it. ;) In combinations it's said different ways (shiro, haku, etc.), but as an adjective (the white paper, the white dress, etc.) it's said as "shiroi" (shee-roy), with the "i" added on 白い.

Be careful not to confuse it with 日 (hi="day") or 百 (hyaku="100").

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ichiroya Update: Summer Obi-age

If you look a couple of posts down, you'll see the otaiko style of tying an obi. That big poofy box in the back is created using a couple of tricks, one of which is the obi-age.

The obi-age is a scarf that goes over a small pillow (obi makura) tied under the poof in the back to hold it up. You put the middle of the obi-age across the pillow, bring both ends around to the front, along the top of the obi, tie them, and tuck the ends and the rest of it in along the top. It's support plus a bit of color in an outfit.

For the hottest months of the year, cooler "summer" items can be worn, and Ichiroya's update today has a few summer-weight obi-age in new condition.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Yamatoku Classic on Ebay - $20 Ko-Furisode - Results Are In!

As I posted a while ago, kimono dealer Yamatoku Classic put up a ton of synthetic ko-furisode (most casual form of furisode) on Ebay for a really low Buy-It-Now price of $20 each.

I snagged two for myself, and they got here today. I couldn't be happier with my purchases! Not only is the wingspan really and truly wide enough (meaning the sleeves reach to my wrist proper) and the kimono long enough for my 5'7" self, but they're beautiful in person. And, as they're synthetic, you can actually wash them yourself (by hand), which you can't really do with silk ones. Here are the two I got:

If more come up in the future, I'd recommend checking them out. I know I might get another one! :)

Monday, July 5, 2010

What Do You Call...? - The Box Knot

Whether in anime, movies or real life, you've probably seen kimono-wearing women who have their obi tied in what looks like a squarish box in the back. This is the most popular style of knot overall, used with Nagoya or fukuro obi for (outside of yukata) both casual and dressy kimono, and is called the "otaiko musubi"お太鼓結び, or "drum knot".

Women in komon kimono with otaiko knots.
Photo courtesy Wikimedia.

In an interesting bit of history, the drum knot gets its name not from its shape but the fact long ago a group of geisha invented the knot to wear to the opening of a bridge named Taiko (Taikobashi). Townswomen began copying them and the otaiko spread from there into standard kimono fashion.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy 4th of July!

My dear friend Courtney did a shoot with me in a yukata, and as we used sparklers I thought it'd make a good post for today. :) Happy 4th to my fellow Americans!

For the outfit itself, I was tempted to experiment after reading Okimono Kimono, so I dressed things up with an obi-age scarf, obi-jime cord, and impromptu obi-dome (obi-jime ornament), wearing them according to some vintage kitsuke tips I recently translated (tall people are helped by a wide ohashori fold below the obi, the obi-age is tucked in more, the obi-jime is worn lower). I purposefully chose an obi-jime almost the same color as the obi to make the obi-dome stand out, but I'm not sure if I like the end result or not.

It was fun, and a big big thank you to Courtney! You can see more of her work here.

All photos copyright Courtney Brown and used with permission.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Yukata Sewing Project: Wish Me Luck!

For my latest personal sewing challenge, I've decided to take a shot at sewing my first kimono, a cotton summer yukata, using no pattern and working out my own instructions as I go along. If it works out well, I'll post my instructions and pattern here.

The idea is to use locally available, affordable fabric to create a yukata that is a good fit and as accurate as possible, for either nice costumes/cosplays or summer festivals, along the way creating simple, customizable instructions even beginning sewers can follow. I know there are several patterns out there already, but me working it out for myself will be part of the challenge.

My local JoAnn's had this lovely cotton print that isn't far off from traditional yukata designs, which often feature clumps of patterns set on empty backgrounds, and exactly enough yardage left for what I need. I'll take it as a good sign for the project. :)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Kimono Coordination: Bold Butterflies

This fantasy coordination is more of a fun one than any strict example, using the strong contrasts of black and white (softened to gray here) and some playful touches in the patterns and colors.

- Kimono: grey and white komon
- Obi: Butterfly Nagoya
- Blue obiage (scarf worn tucked into obi) and obijime (cord around middle of obi)
- Green obidome (obijime ornament)
- Red Taisho haori
- Red zori sandals

Inspiration: Bold, fun looks for a casual dinner or day at a museum.

All images copyright Ichiroya and used with permission.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Youtube Video: Heian Robes

A little snippet of a video, this Youtube clip is still a cool peek into the clothing of the Japanese noblewomen of the Heian period around 1,000 years ago, the juu-ni-hitoe 十二単 (12 layer robe).

In reality 5-20 robes worn atop each other, the most important aspect of this look was coordinating the colors of the underrobes, usually to suggest romanticized themes in nature. The colors used here are a fall combination, meant to evoke maple leaves changing from green to red.

(Juunihitoe is the more common term, while the formal one is itsutsu-ginu-kara-ginu-mo 五衣唐衣裳 (5 layer Chinese-style robe).)