Friday, November 26, 2010

Tea for...fifteen?

I meant to post about this sooner, but completely forgot in all the job-search thesis hubbub.

A little while ago, I was on a big tea kick and was perusing craigslist and kijiji for a teapot to match the art-decoish creamer and sugar we received as one of our wedding presents, when I came upon a sale for about 15 teacups for $30. My hubby said I could buy them, so I went ahead and arranged to pick them up. It's a varied collection, leftovers from someone else's, but I don't mind. I don't think I'll need to keep all of them, and I definitely have my own personal favorites.

It was kind of a learning experience for me, as I never knew there were so many different cup shapes. I don't know how else to describe them, and an admittedly-quick google-search didn't bring me anything that would describe the shapes, so all I can say is that there are some that are 'classic' teacup shape, some broader, some smoother, an octagonal one, one with rounded bits at the bottom...and the saucers are all different, too. The cups are from different manufacturers, and some have little gold numbers on the back which I assume were applied by the collector to mark them. I believe almost all of them are bone china.

Some of the manufacturers represented in this collection include:
Ridgway Potteries
Royal Albert
Royal Winston

A few samples (thumbnails, so click to see larger):

teacup,tea teacup,tea teacup,tea teacup,tea

Which one is your favorite? You can find the entire gallery here. It was my first time taking pics like that, and I'm quite pleased with the results. I tried to give decent descriptions in each info bit on photobucket, such as manufacturer and a description of the motif. If you know more, have more info, or know of any resources, please let me know! I found a few when looking for information, but those with more experience can probably point me in the right direction. I'm not interested in appraising them, really, just finding out more about them in general. I have much to learn about this new 'hobby'/collection of mine.

~A page with info on the makers marks and backstamps~

I still haven't found an inexpensive enough teapot to go with our creamer & sugar set, but I'll know it when I see it!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hallowe'en Weekend Kimono Coordinate

I am procrastinating on job apps (my mind just can't take doing them for several hours a day any more), and so I thought I'd share my latest kimono outfit with you all. I didn't get pics of me in it, as it was dark and late.

I wore it to a showing of Repo: The Genetic Opera at the Bloor Cinema. It had a shadow cast, which I'd never seen before, and was fairly interactive if one wanted it to be. It was my first Repo experience, and while unusual, not bad. I did get a Coffee Crisp and a Kit Kat (minis) out of the deal, as it was Hallowe'en weekend. :D

As was all dressed up Nagoya-girl style in pink and floofy bows and lace, so I figured I'd wear kimono, too. Not as a costume, but as fashion, but people out that weekend wouldn't know the difference. I honestly did feel more comfortable in it that weekend as I didn't feel as "odd", as people could pass it off as Hallowe'en wear and not "what a weird girl".


I laid out several outfits, and then asked which one to wear, and he chose this one. I totally agreed; I liked it. It was more of a real outfit than something a little crazier for Hallowe'en.

I wore a hitoe wool komon that has a black base with a kikkou (tortoise-shell) pattern, and in the pattern is flowers and little ochre dots. I paired that with a homemade easy collar that used a white-on-white embroidery, a tsuke obi in red with velvety details, a yellow sash (from Nebuta, haha) that I used as an obiage and a red obijime that matched the red of the obi. For warmth, wore it with a basic black haori that has a few white shibori spots on it (to pick up on the white in the kimono). Paired this with my adorable Victorian-ish boots and a black hat and my Hallowe'en purse (silver-grey with a sparkly bat).

At the show, a member of the shadow cast approached us and complimented us on our outfits. XD She was in a white kimono, wrapped right over left as she was dead (and informed us of such, so she obviously has kitsuke knowledge; her whole outfit was fairly well worn). She expressed interest in finding out more about the fledgling Toronto Kimono Club, so it was a bit of a motivator for us to get moving on that and figure out a first event.

We got a few compliments from others on the street ('nice dresses', 'cute costumes', etc); one lady (50+) stopped and complimented me - not on my outfit, like I thought she would - but on my purse. XD

So without further ado, here are images of the outfit. Any questions, please ask!

kimono,obi detail
kantan eri boots

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Gifts from Chicagoland

This post is also long in coming, as technically, I received these items before I received the items from Youko-san. Since I'm sitting around the house trying to be productive and catch up on stuff (I have a list of things to do), I figured I'd cross this one off. Whoo!

So, basically, the backstory in a few sentences: I met at a JETAA event, and we kind of hit it off. We mostly met only at JETAA events until I had more time during the day and could meet her at her place of work for lunch. We'd talk about our time in Japan, Chicagoland, jobs, JETAA, kimono, etc. She encouraged me to take out some books from the JIC library, which was fun.

Anyway, before I left the city, she mentioned that she had some kimono stuff she'd never use again and offered it to me. I said I'd gladly take it, and here's the lovely haul:

  • 2 obi
  • kimono and juban
  • 2 obijime
  • accessories for fashion and wearing
  • kanzashi (she now has very short hair and thus they are kind of useless for her)
  • parasol

  • All pics are from photobucket and clickable thumbnails.

    Let's start with the obi! I received my first tsuke-obi from my friend, starofpersia. I have yet to wear it, but I think it'll match a kimono I have on hand. It's got black flocked velvet design in what I think is clouds or water (anyone confirm or deny?).

    obi detail

    The other obi is also red-based (I think she also has a thing for red :). Just today when taking pictures of the items I found that it is a maru obi. I had thought perhaps a dance obi as the design is silver, but now knowing it's maru that makes more sense. The design is also flowing and looks like waves. Since it's not a summer obi, I figure it can be worn anytime, though on either side of summer is probably best. I think it'll match my honfurisode (bridal furisode) very well [it's green].

    maru obi Maru obi detail

    The kimono is an iromuji in one of the most common colors - pink! I would have said it was my first one, but I had one already in a different color, so it's my second one. The rinzu pattern is bamboo and grass, I think.

    The juban is a basic white juban; I needed more, so this is great. It's got a detail pattern of chrysanthemum (kiku) woven in. Needs a little work cleaning the collar, but I'll likely cover it with a han-eri anyway, so I'm not overly concerned about it. I just can't remember if it's polyester or silk; I'll have to take a closer look later. Likely silk, just older, as starofpersia said she often shopped at the markets in Kyoto.

    Pink & White detail on juban

    I also received some accessores for wearing kimono: a kohrin belt, a 'magic' datejime (one that's rubbery and does up with velcro), 4 himo (2 pink and 2 white), and a makura. Naturally, just about all the accessories are pink. XD The makura is my second one, yay! It looks big enough to use for furisode musubi, so that's nice and handy. I also received some tabi, as she's not going to wear kimono any longer, only yukata.


    Fashion accessories were also received. Whooo! I received a cloth for wrapping things or wiping hands (like a small furoshiki) that is blue-based and printed with sakura petals; a matching blue fan with characters on it, a mirror backed with pink chirimen, and a little envelope thing for carrying flat things (I forgot the name for it, haha oops) that tucks into your collar or obi. It's also chirimen with little plum flower (ume) details.

    Accessories Fan detail

    Since starofpersia has very short hair now she doesn't have need of hair ornaments, so she passed them on to me as I have long hair. There's a few things on pins like bobbypins: a little fishy and some glass bobbles. There's also cute pink cherries and a sparkly snowflake. The fanciest is a sakura with some pearls on a hairstick.

    Kanzashi Sakura kanzashi

    One of my favorite things from the gifts from starofpersia is this lovely beige parasol. :) It's small and cute, and super-duper adorable. The lace pattern is so neat and feels delicate, and it does provide enough shade when out and about (I had to test it). I've wanted a kimono parasol for a while and now I have one! Though I'd also like another one that's a bit bigger, and maybe in black, for matching more Western wear. XD

    parasol parasol parasol


    Tuesday, September 7, 2010

    Kimono Cafe Day in the GTA

    Kisa-chan and I decided since we had a holiday here (Labour Day) we'd dress in kimono and go to a somewhat local cafe (Caffe Demetre), and these are the results:

    Kisa is wearing a poly kimono with dots and lines in pretty blues, purples, and pinks with a pink Nagoya obi, pale pink/yellow obijime, and yellow obiage. It was a dreary day, so she wanted to lighten it up and make it a little more cheery.

    I'm wanted a 'cute' look, and I wore my poly hakama (dreary day meant I wanted to wear covered shoes) with a hitoe stripe kimono (not sure if it's silk), a green hanhaba with flowers, and my flowered haneri. Hairstyle is my new default side-bun with twists. Kisa-chan decided the outfit had a Meiji-ish look as it was stripes with hakama and books, and I agreed. Unfortunately, even with some safety pinning, my juban sleeves were too long. Oh well, I'll fix it for next time.

    It was fun to wear kimono again; it had been a long time for both of us.

    We nommed on cheesecake and iced cream and had a ton of coffee while plotting future endeavors. :lol:

    Not looking for critiques, just sharing!





    OMAKE (the wind caught my hakama and it was something I found hilarious):

    Tuesday, August 31, 2010

    1964 World's Fair Sakura Odori Program

    I'd seen this on eBay forever, and when it dropped in price, decided to go for it. I had assumed there were geisha dancing, but it seems it's a dance troupe and not geisha. Still, the images are interesting, and the drawings of the costumes are quite pretty.

    I tried to find more information about the dancing troupe online, but couldn't find much. There's a bit of history information about the fair itself - seems it wasn't sanctioned by the official group and thus no major countries were present (there was a fair coming up in Montreal in a few years).

    This comment, “Watch a Japanese troupe dance to exciting new rhythms combining traditional music and jazz." came from the 1965 National Geographic.

    This page has a small blurb about the Japanese pavilion, which looks like the wall of a moat that surrounds a castle.

    This site also has a little bit of info about the pavilion, along with a picture of the annex and a pic of the dancers (looks like awa odori).

    Critical Past's website has a few videos of the exhibition and the Japanese pavilion:
    video 1 and video 2.

    Other links and videos about the 1964 World's Fair in general.

    I've uploaded all the images to photobucket, in their own gallery. I scanned them in; the booklet was just the size of my scanner, thank goodness. I was worried it would be a bit too big.  The program has drawn images of some of the costumes, pictures in black and white and color, the names of all the dancers, an intro from the organizer, and information about each of the dances they performed and who performed them.

    The 1964 World's Fair Sakura Odori Program gallery.

    Here's a preview (clickable thumbnails):

    Cover page 2

    page 17 page 24

    Sunday, August 29, 2010

    Gifts from Youko-san

    When we went to pic up Chicago stuff in July, my then-fiance and I stopped by Joliet to visit a kimono-friend, Youko, I made while in the city to have dinner and peruse her kimono collection. Dinner was a yummy all-you-can-eat sushi with Sapporo and Asahi beer (mmm, it was good, and started me on a Japanese beer kick). However, we were surprised you couldn't just order sashimi, and they were surprised we were used to being able to do so. So, we invited them up to Toronto to visit and we'll take them for sushi to return the treat, and for poutine (her husband has wanted poutine forever, but whenever he visits for business, they always take him for steak).
    Anyway, after dinner, we looked through her kimono collection. She's addicted to YJA, and is from Nagoya, so she shops in Osu whenever she's home. She had some wonderful pieces that I seriously coveted! I'd have taken pics if it weren't so dark (it was late by the time dinner was finished). We had a good time chatting about kimono, styles, and fashion. I always get "fudangi" and "kasuaru" (casual) kimonos confused, but she said to think of it like "fudangi" is "around the house wear", like sweatpants, and the casual kimono are like capris or nice jeans. It was a fun analogy. XD One of my favorite pieces of Youko's was a black haori that had lobsters and cute goldfish and totally reminded me of Moonblossom.

    She also possessed her grandmother's (or first grandmother in law's?) wedding kimono and juban; beautiful black furisode from the Taisho period and exquisite red and white shibori juban. She obviously doesn't wear them, but she was the only one in the family interested in kimono, so she inherited it. She also has a beautiful summer weave mirror-image crested purple tomesode with white flowers on it; simply stunning and in wonderful condition for it's age. I tried to convince her not to have it made into a dress; I hope I succeeded!

    As we were going through her collection, she confessed she hadn't worn all the pieces, and likely wouldn't wear all of them, so she gave some to me! I was surprised and totally elated. She quite literally created my summer kimono wardrobe (now I need a kimono to wear with them). lol

    I received two obi, both natsumono, a long haori (which is in style, yay retro!), and some fabric scraps as we both sew. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with them yet, but I'll think of something.

    Click "read more" to see pics!

    Sunday, July 11, 2010

    Notch in my Himo

    In June I received an email from a girl looking for someone who could dress her future sister-in-law in kimono at her wedding. I replied with the contact info for Sun-san and a friend of mine. I wrote her back two days before the wedding and she replied that everyone was busy because that weekend was festival weekend (there were 2-3 natsu matsuri's going on that weekend) and all the Japanese people were busy, and she wanted to know if I could do it.

    I was going to go to the festivals, but decided this was an opportunity not to be missed, so I said "yes". So, Saturday night I reviewed how to tie Otaiko musubi (drum knot, the common one) since I don't ever tie that one when I can do something fun, and hoped things would go okay on Sunday.

    The wedding wasn't in Chicago proper - in fact, it wasn't in Illinois at all - and required a rental car. So I drove out there on a Sunday (1hr), and dressed her sister-in-law, who was lovely. The bride's fiancee is Japanese and that's why his sister wanted to wear kimono. She had all the required himo and everything, so that was nice (I'd brought some just in case). I dressed her in less than half an hour, and that was taking my time, so I'm happy with that. She's also way skinnier than I am used to, being Japanese (I've only dressed Western bodies before). Most amusing was her mother and her family talking about how it was funny that an American had to dress a Japanese in kimono because none of the Japanese knew how. lol Knowing some Japanese pays off. XD

    So, though I could have left (in hindsight, wishing I had), I stayed for the ceremony. It was beautiful and they're an adorable couple. I left right after that.

    I didn't have a rate set, having not done it for pay before, but they were generous and paid me about $100, plus covering the car rental to get out there. I think they were satisfied with the kitsuke (I was) and super relieved someone could come and do it.

    I'm excited that I can put this "notch" in my belt (or should that be himo?), so to speak, and super grateful for the opportunity.

    And without further ado, here are two pics of the woman I dressed (with a fuzzy face for anonymity's sake) [clickable thumbnails]:

    Photobucket Photobucket

    Monday, February 22, 2010

    Kimono Sunday

    The recently formed Chicago Kimono Club had a kimono-wearing event on Sunday, February 21st, from 1-3pm. I’ve invited people and advertised it to the JETAA community and on IG, but I was the only attendee who was not Japanese. That’s okay! I’ll keep at it; it’s good experience.

    I was debating all day Saturday and Sunday morning if I’d wear kimono, but I decided against it and even forewent haori. I didn’t want to put on kimono there due to the sarashi being a bit of a hassle and requiring no modesty whatsoever (for the uninitiated, a sarashi is a 10m length of white cotton wrapped around the body, often under kimono; it can be seen on some taiko players, wrapped around their middle). I tried to find a picture of one on a person, but I could only find a picture of sarashi in a package.

    A few people dropped by to say hello, but there were 6 or 7 people who stayed for the entire time. Aside from myself, there were the founders of the NCJAA (New Chicago Japanese American Association), Youko-san and Sugano-san, another woman who wanted practice with obi only, and two women in their 20s who were in the US for school. They were the ones mostly learning to wear kimono, and one of them takes koto lessons as well (but I forgot which one). One girl had the cutest haircut, and it really suited her and the kimono look. It gave her a modern retro look.

    [Don't mind the glasses, it's for anonymity.]

    Halfway through, Sun-san showed up. Sun-san was instructing at the last seminar. She was a kimono dresser at a salon, and can do it very quickly. I asked her this time how she learned, and she said that first she was a hairdresser, but expanded her services. She practiced by dressing people every day for a year, and so got good that way. I understand now why she said she wasn’t licenced or from a particular school; she just had to learn as a matter of course.

    She showed some quick-dressing when she arrived. She had the juban and the kimono already together, held by a clip. Instead of a chikara-nuno (an extra piece of fabric sewn to the collar to help keep the back of the collar down), she had a himo sewn to the midline of the juban, about one stretched-out hand distance down the back from the collar. It came though the arm holes and tied in the front. When the himo ends were equal in length, she knew it was straight. To get a V-shape in the back, you sew it once, in the middle; for a U-shape, sew it in the middle and 2 sides, to hold those down (under the shoulderblades). You can also do this with safety pins in a pinch.

    Once that was tied, she tied the himo which had been sewn to her nagajuban, and quickly aligned her collar and tied it. She had it on in a minute or less; it was truly impressive! (She was waering it over her clothing, but it still was quite smooth.) On this, she wore the kimono. Instead of holding the front and grabbing the back seam and lifting up like I was taught, she holds the ends of the collars out in each hand, lifts up, and lowers it down until it’s the right length. Following this, she does the usual alignment of the skirt seams and ties her koshihimo.

    Making her ohashori was different, and a snazzy, fast trick! It looked nice and smooth, too, and it was something I’d never tried. She aligned the kimono collars, showing 1.5cm of juban collar on each side of the cross-point, and tied a regular himo just under her bust. Then, she reached in from the right and folded/pushed the inner layer out of the way, so the ohashori was one layer, and then used a rubber/polyester datejime (but you could use a non-polyester one) and placed it low, just a few inches above the ohashori. It didn’t cover the upper himo at all, and held the inner fabric out of the way. I tried this on a girl who I was helping teach kitsuke, and it works! It’s so easy. Maybe hard to explain, but one day I should get pictures or a quick video to show what I mean.

    Following this, she put on the hanhaba obi, tying it in a bunko/chocho (butterfly) variation. The whole thing, even with her talking, was about 5 minutes. Ahhh, I love learning different ways to do things!

    As for myself, I was paired up with one of the young Japanese women, and I taught her how to tie bunko obi, as she was young (and honesty, I can’t tie bunko without a lot of practice… one crutch of always using a biyosugata). When Sun-san came in, she complimented it, and the girl had tied it herself, so that was nice.

    Afterward, we cleaned up, had tea, and chatted. Sun-san is doing a kimono show at the Japan Festival 2010 near Mitsuwa Market on June 26th and 27th. I hope to be in Canada by then, so I can’t go, though the festival looks like a lot of fun and they were hoping I’d show up. They want to have another event in May, before I leave, sort of as a farewell. How sweet! I’m supposed to pick the day based on my schedule, but I think anytime but AN weekend is okay.

    All in all, glad I went. It was nice to see my Japanese friends again, try out my poor Japanese, and pretend I was in Japan (being in a back corner of a building with only Japanese people will do that).

    Sunday, February 14, 2010

    The Impermanence of All Things: Heike Monogatari Biwa Concert

    On Thursday, the 3rd of February, Hiraoka Yoko performed in the theatre on the third floor of the Ida Noyes Building on the University of Chicago campus. The event was sponsored by the Center for East Asian Studies.

    Hiraoka Yoko is known for koto, shamisen, and biwa. She studied under Iemoto Suga Kouka, and has been given the performance name Youka. Her teacher, Suga Kouka, is an inheritor of the Yamato-ryu Biwa-gaku style under Living National Treasure Yamazaki Kyokusui. Her training is strongly centered on the classical medieval collection of The Tale of Heike.

    The Ida Noyes building is a lovely old building with interesting architecture. It reminded me of some of the buildings around Queen’s Campus or old churches. The buiding had character. The hall had a small stage, about 3 – 4 feet high, and murals on the walls. One side had large windows to look out onto the rest of the campus, or the glowing lights (as I was there when it was dark). The stage lacked a spotlight, and so was lit with a large table lamp, casting a warm glow over the biwa and seiza cushion. The back of the stage was blocked by a velvet ochre curtain.

    Ida Noyes Hall

    Ida Noyes Hall Theater

    Hiraoka-san came out wearing modern red kimono that looked fuchsia in the warm light. The sleeves were long, perhaps 60cm, and the ends were black with white and gold specks. The sleeves also had butterfly motifs. It reminded me of an altered furisode, giving a mature but still youthful feeling. The picture I found is of the same outfit, but the dateeri color she wore for the concert was green, which was the same color as embroidered kiku (chrysanthemum) on her gold obi. It gave a slight nod to spring, but was appropriately formal and not overly so. Her hair was in a ponytail with a barrette and a black tulle bow kanzashi.

    Hiraoka-san gave a lecture recital that lasted approximately 90 minutes. You can read more about it on her website. It was both informative and entertaining. It was my first time hearing biwa, and it reminded me of the shamisen in a way. I couldn’t tell if the biwa accentuated the singing and storytelling, or if the storytelling accented the biwa music. The Tale of Heike was originally shared through biwahoshi (storytelling with biwa music). Her renditions were accentuated by slides showing reference images and pictures of shoji screens.

    The parts of The Tale of Heike that she performed included Gion Shoja, which opens with the classic lines, “The sound of the bells at the Gion temple echoes the impermanence of all things”. She also performed Nasu no Yoichi, the tale of the archer knocking a fan off the enemy’s boat in a tossing sea, and The Tragedy at Dan-no-Ura, about the drowning of the young Emperor.


    I attended with my friend, Sugano-san, who is a koto instructor in Chicago. She was telling me about having dinner with Hiraoka-san the night before, and how enjoyable it was to catch up. It makes me wish my Japanese was better, as she has some amazing connections!

    Unfortunately, we could not take pictures in the hall, and my camera is terrible in low-light, so I found the photos online to illustrate this post. The outfit in the picture is the same as she wore to the concert at Ida Noyes Hall. You can see more pictures of her and learn more about Hiraoka-san, biwa, koto, and shamisen music, at her website. Her 2010 performance calendar is available. It seems she’ll be visiting Colorado, Pennsylvania, Kansas, and Florida in the future.

    Here is an article in the Chicago Weekly about the concert.