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Summer kimono and yukata designs which benefit pet foster programs

Beautifully designed products to help pets without owners

We recently heard about another really beautiful yukata and summer kimono design from Felissimo, which is a brand with beautiful and playful designs for various products, of which the profits benefit pets without owners. You can check our the Felissimo Facebook Page for more detailed information about their cause.

The yukata and summer kimono design that caught our eye is a design with lovely cute kittens playing with ajisai hydrangeas that blossom in June.

Looking in detail at the designs and its patterns on a lavender background, you can find the kittens in different poses behind and around the hydrangea blooms.

A full 360° look at the beautiful hydrangea design. The yukata are made of 100% cotton and will keep you cool in the hot summer months. 

They have also created other products like these awesome bags with the same design. This looks like an absolute must have for every cat lover!

 

If you are interested in buying these from Japan, we would love to help you. Just send us a message in the form below:

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One time chance to get real oiran geta from the 1800s

Oiran geta up for auction

Lurking the internet and watching our social media feeds, we have found something that you all might find interesting.

Currently there are real original oiran geta from around 1800 to 1867 on auction on yahoo auctions.

Link to the auction

If you think “I need to get me some real oiran geta!”, you should be prepared to shell out some good money. The current bid is at 666.666 Yen, which translates to 6.100 US dollars! What a bargain!

If you don’t want to participate in the bidding war, you can also just use the instant purchase option, which is with 777.777 Yen only around 1.000 US dollars more expensive. So why not make sure you get these geta?

In case you wonder what the geta look like, here a couple of pictures from the auction:

Oiran geta up for auction

Oiran geta up for auction

Oiran geta up for auction

Definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity to buy geta like these.

How do you walk in oiran geta?

In case you are wondering, of course after instant-buying these geta, how you actually walk in those, we found two great videos for you:

 

Now go out and have fun with your newly purchased oiran geta!

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Weekly Kimono Finds 02/2016

Cyberjapan in kimono

Welcome to our new category “Weekly Kimono Finds”, where we will review what happened in the Kimono and Japanese Fashion scene. We closely follow many regular kimono wearers and kitsuke lovers around the world and already have presented quite a few in our Kimono Showcases. From today on, we want to share our kimono finds with you on a regular basis. Let’s get started!

Rikarin, the Tokyo Fashion Blogger

Rika, or Rikarin as she calls herself, started as a decora girl in Harajuku. Being part of a group of decora girls, she made a lot of friends and enjoyed hanging out in Harajuku. If you are interested in decora, you can find lots of pictures of decora girls on japanesestreets.com and TokyoFashio.com. Decora can range from simple and cute to pretty extreme, with almost an overload of accessories.

harajuku decora fashion
Source: TokyoFashion.com

Becoming a decora girl in Harajuku, as with other conspicuous forms of fashion and cosplay, comes with raised attention by people around you. In Harajuku, these people include professional photographers and bloggers, through which she got in contact with the people from TokyoFashion.com. Now she is one of the main contributors to the TokyoFashion-Youtube channel, but she is also very active on her own Instagram account @rikarin_6doki. Of special interest for us is her video about Hatsumode, which is the first visit of a shrine in the new year. For her video, Rikarin visited the Meiji shrine in Tokyo while wearing an absolutely stunning kimono, which she combined with her unique Harajuku-style. But see for yourselves:

 

New years greetings from the CYBERJAPAN girls

A little bit less traditional, yet definitely worth a look. But what can you expect if you are supposed to dance in a club, like the CYBERJAPAN girls. For the new years party in club Vision in Tokyo, 4 girls of the CYBERJAPAN Team K dressed up in light kimono style dresses, even completed by an obi. A very interesting and party-compatible style!

The CYBERJAPAN dancers have recently become famous, even internationally, for their dance performances in clubs and at events. You can find out more about them at cyberjapan.tv or by going to the club Ageha in Tokyo, where they regularly perform.

Kitsuke in France

The Kilo-Shop Kawaii owner showed up in Paris with a surprising look for French standards, after getting a lesson in how kitsuke is done. We think: Good job!


This weeks kimono finds on Twitter

Our first find on Twitter is from the Japanese amateur photographer RyunRyun. His ameblo-Blog is definitely worth checking out for many kimono and other fashion shoots.

A kimono that probably makes everyone jealous, displayed by Momo-san.

If you are interested in Japan, you might have heard about AKB48, or Akihabara48. But have you heard about the Osaka version, NMB48 (Namba48)? Both are basically the same thing, different city, different girls. We found this nice shooting of Reina Fujie, a current member of NMB48 and with over 100.000 followers on Twitter, she seems to be one of the really popular ones.

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Dressing as a Maiko for one hour in Asakusa

What do you think, how it feels to be the center of attention, walking through the streets of Tokyo?

If you are above 6 feet tall (above 1,80cm), have blond hair and blue eyes, you probably know a little bit, what it means.

But what if you were dressed in real geisha or maiko garments, with professionally done make-up?

Random opportunity: Experience being a maiko in public

Blogwriter and world traveller Hanie Hidayah had the opportunity to try this herself.

Instead of getting invited for lunch, her Japanese Airbnb host decided to lead her to Cocomo, a professional kimono rental and photo studio. There she was given the choice to get transformed into a geisha or a maiko for one day. She decided to become a maiko for one hour, because it fitted her youth better.

This was a short experience but an hour being totally unrecognisable behind that makeup and outfit was an out-of-body experience. I was expecting something interesting but I never expected that much attention was given. The studio owner said that she’s had many customers but most of them are Westerners, so they weren’t very convincing as a real Geisha or Maiko. Thanks to my Asian features, I probably made someone’s day by just a single photo.

If you don’t have any Asian features, you probably won’t fool anyone. But as Hanie is from Malaysia and many people probably haven’t met a real geisha or maiko, a lot of people believed to meet “the real thing”.

Hanie getting maiko make-up

Dressing up as a maiko or geisha has been a sensible topic in the kimono scene for a long time. Opinions range from “you shouldn’t do it, if you’re not a real maiko or geisha” and “no westerner should dress up like this” to “it’s great to keep this kind of culture and style alive!“.

I think Hanie did it in a decent and well mannered way. Especially when she declined to go into a McDonalds and buy a burger in her maiko dress.

The boys tried to convince me to walk into McDonald’s and buy a meal but I refused as I knew it would draw much more attention and the thought of possibly ending up on 9gag was not how I’d want my 15 minutes of fame to be like.

We thank Hanie for this great video and her insights.

If you want to read the full post, go over to their “whatevertherewas”-Blog. You will find many more reports from Hanie and her partner from all over the world.

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The Kyoto Photo Gallery by Jeremy Hoare and Chizuko Kimura

As we roam the internet for news, pictures and events surrounding the art of kitsuke and the geisha-culture, we sometimes stumble over real gems that we absolutely want to present to our audience. One of these gems is the Kyoto Photo Gallery by Jeremy Hoare and Chizuko Kimura.

The title basically gives it all away: Jeremy is a photographer with a profound love for Kyoto. When we asked him to introduce himself and his work to Kimonogeisha.com he gladly obliged (everything from Jeremy is written in cursive):

I am the English photographer Jeremy Hoare and with my Japanese partner Chizuko Kimura we live mostly in London and sometimes in Kyoto at the Kimura family home close to Shinnyodo Temple.

I first visited Kyoto on my own in 1987 and thought it was wonderful with all the amazing culture around. So it was fate that Chizuko came from there and we have visited many times since together.

Prior to 1991, when I became a fulltime freelance travel and portrait photographer, my career had been as television cameraman and lighting director working on mostly drama and light entertainment UK network and international programmes.

Chizuko came to London to learn Queen’s English in 1991 and we met at a Japan Festival event in Covent Garden. She is a kimono maker and Urasenke tea master and is often making or altering kimonos for clients in the UK. We have also performed tea ceremonies in many different places in the UK for a variety of clients.

I started taking photos from a very early age as my father would hand me his camera and get me to take them. Then he showed me how to process film and make prints in a darkroom; the magic of seeing a print come up slowly from a sheet of white paper is magic that can never be forgotten.

My whole professional life has progressed by creating images of one sort or another with almost all types of camera for audiences ranging from a single person for a personal photograph to billions with international TV programmes. But in many ways this is not so much a passion as an addiction and my photography workshops are entitled ‘Addicted to Light’ because of it. I also give TV Camera & Lighting workshops which Chizuko assists with and I have done these not only in the UK but also in Fiji, Brazil, Australia and the Philippines.

The idea for Kyoto Photo Gallery came to me after photographing the Jidai Matsuri one October a few years ago. I sat with a coffee in stylish Iyemon Café in Sanjo-dori close to Karasuma-dori and it popped into my head. It has taken time to get to where it is today and we continue to make adjustments. The website is being continually improved and we have had two KPG exhibitions so far, the first in London very close to the British Museum and the second in Kyoto close to the Heian Shrine torii gate, both places being iconic landmarks.

In 2015 we will attend Art Fairs in London and have another exhibition in Kyoto; we are planning for another London exhibition in 2016.

 

You can find his work from Kyoto directly at the Kyoto Photo Gallery Website. Other pictures and galleries can be found at Jeremy Hoare Photography. You can even order high quality prints of his pictures in the Kyoto Photo Gallery Print Shop. While not cheap, I can see myself hanging one or two of those on my own walls. You can also follow him on Facebook for fresh photos from Japan for your newsfeed.

‘KYOTO – city of dreams’ Kyoto Exhibition from Jeremy Hoare on Vimeo.

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The Okaya Silk Museum

Although synthetic fibers and wool have become more common as a material for kimono and yukata, the the higher quality kimono will always be made of silk.

Being a fan and collector of kimono, sooner or later you will want to find out where the silk is coming from and how it is made. If that though ever crosses your mind, you might want to visit the Okaya Silk Museum. The museum is located in the city of Okaya, right next to lake Suwa (which is a stunning sight in winter!), which is in the center of the Nagano prefecture. Known these days for hosting the winter olympics in 1998, Nagano was a major center for producing export-quality silk in the past.

The Okaya Silk Museum – over 140 years of silk history

Only being 28 years younger than the city of Okaya itself, which was founded in 1936, the museum was opened in 1964 to chart the silk manufacturing tradition in the region around Okaya and Suwa.

Silk factory

The region itself became the center of silk manufacturing due to the Suwa model silk reeling machine. It was based on imported Italian and French combing machine designs, which got improved by Japanese engineers in 1875. With these machines, the region exported its silk to all over the world, but mainly to the US, which had a high demand of silk for its silk weaving industry at the time. Okaya itself enjoyed a booming silk era during the Meiji (1868-1912), Taisho (1912-1926) and early Showa (1926-1989) periods.

Museum and functioning factory

The museum itself was reopened in August 2014, as it moved to a new location within the city, as the old location is going to be used for a new municipal hospital.

Okaya Silk Museum Front

At the new location, you can not only see what a museum normally shows, which means old stuff and “how it used to be”. Instead, you see a full functioning manufacture that is run by the Miyasaka Silk Reeling Co. inside of the museum.

You can see silk reeling by hand in person, using the “zaguri” technique. It’s the only place in Japan where this technique is still being used. The zaguri technique utilizes cog wheels and a belt to turn the reel, which improves the uniformity of the silk and making it thinner, compared to older techniques.

Silk worms

Besides watching the manufacturing process itself, you can of course see old machines and touch the silk, the silkworms and the silk dolls. As part of the silk industry, the history and life of the so called “mill girls” who worked in the many silk mills and came from all parts of the Nagano prefecture, is also shown. The shopping streets and businesses in the region transformed and catered to the wishes and needs to a huge number of women living in one place, although the consensus is that life was still harsh for them.

Silk reeling machines

Various types of machines dating from the Edo Period (1603-1867) all the way to the Showa Era (1926-1989) are on display at the museum. Among the items is Japan’s only remaining French reeling machine, which was once used at the Tomioka Silk Mill.

Silk mill as a UNESCO world heritage site

The Tomioka Silk Mill has been designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 2014. From the UNESCO world heritage site:

The Tomioka Silk Mill dates from the early Meiji period. With its related sites including two sericulture schools and an egg storage site, it illustrates the desire of Japan, a traditional silk producer, to rapidly access the best mass production techniques. The Japanese government imported French machinery and industrial expertise to create an integrated system in Gunma Prefecture. It included egg production, silkworm farming and the construction of a large mechanised raw silk reeling and spinning plant. In turn, the Tomioka model complex and its related sites became a decisive component in the renewal of sericulture and the Japanese silk industry, in the last quarter of the 19th century, and a key element in Japan’s entry into the modern industrialised world.

In addition, the Tomioka Silk Mill has a website that promoted the designation as world heritage site until the wish became reality. The website can still be found here.

Fortunately Tomioka is in Gunma prefecture and not that far away if you have a car. You can plan with a trip of around 2 hours by car. By public transport, you are going to need around 4 to 5 hours, depending on what trains you use. You can travel via Nagano city or all the way back to Tokyo and take trains from there to Tomioka.

How to get to the Okaya Silk Museum

Okaya Silk Museum Map

Open: 9:00 – 16:30
Closed: Mondays and December 29 to January 3

A 15 minute walk from Okaya Station

Okaya Silk Museum
1-4-8 Goda, Okaya 394-0021
+81 266-23-3489
Pic Source: [1]

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BBC Geisha Girl Documentary

In 2005 the BBC followed the young Yukina, a only 15 year old girl, on her way to become a geisha for the documentary “Geisha Girl”. Before becoming a maiko, she has to prove worthy of the time and money the okiya has to invest in her training. She will stay 5 years in the status of a maiko, before becoming a geisha or geiko (in Kansai dialect) herself.

From the original BBC description of the documentary:

Documentary following 15-year-old Yukina as she leaves home and moves to Kyoto to embark on the arduous training needed to become a geisha.

The profession has always been shrouded in controversy, with some believing geisha are little more than high-class prostitutes. At such a young age, does Yukina really understand what this ancient profession has in store for her?

If you wonder how everything ended for her:

She finished her 5 years of training in 2009 and only worked for roughly 2 more years after that. Which means she quit around 2011/2012. Looking at this life of hardship, it is easy to see why you would wish for a “normal” life. She remains one of the more well known geishas, thanks to the Geisha Girl documentary.

Yukina Geisha Girl 2009Yukina in 2008, still a maiko (Source: maiko.gallery)

Yukina as GeishaYukina around 2010, finally a real geisha.

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Aizome: The art of Japanese indigo dyeing

The first guest post on Kimonogeisha.com!

After our call to be part of Kimonogeisha, we have received various interesting posts from other kimono fans from all over the world. Melissa from readysetkimono.com has the honour to be our first guest poster ever with her post about the aizome dyeing technique. If you also want to share your content, pictures or reviews of events, fashion shows or anything else kimono related, send an email to bepartof@kimonogeisha.com!

Aizome indigo dyeing kimonoAntique aizome kimono that used katazome technique

History of aizome

Aizome (藍染) is known as indigo dyeing in English and it has a long 1400 year history as a dyeing method in Japan.  Aizome is a suitable dye for many kinds of fabric including silk, hemp, and cotton. Because it’s so versatile, it was commonly worn by all classes in Japanese society from the Shogun all the way down to the common laborer.  It became especially popular with the lower classes when the Shogun imposed sumptuary laws banning bright and outlandish colors for clothing during the Edo period.  Aizome’s blue color was still allowed and it became a popular way of adding color to your wardrobe.  It was so popular that when Japan opened up to the west during the Meiji era, British chemist R.W. Atkinson saw so many aizome dyed garments that he called the color Japan Blue.

Aizome obiAntique obi that used aizome dyed thread in the weaving

 

What kind of kimono can be created?

Aizome uses only two colors, blue and white.  The contrast between the dyed blue sections of the cloth and the undyed white sections of the cloth is what gives aizome garments their striking look.  Aizome can be used to create both sakizome (先染め) or woven kimono (when the threads are dyed before weaving) and atozome (後染め) or dyed kimono (when the fabric is dyed after it is woven).

For atozome kimono, there are two different techniques that are used.  The first is katazome (型染め) which means paste resist or stencil dyeing.  In this method, a stencil of the desired design is created and placed on the fabric.  A paste made from rice is applied and left to dry.  When the cloth is dyed, the places with paste resist the dye and remain white.  When the dyeing is complete, the paste is washed off leaving striking patterns of white in its place.  Katazome can be used to create large intricate patterns, or small, detailed, repeating patterns.

The second method that can be used is shibori (絞り) or the tie-dye method.  In this method, the cloth is tied and secured in a certain pattern.  When it is dipped into the dye, the tied parts of the cloth resist the dye.  Shibori produces a very soft, 3-D effect with no hard lines.

aizome handkerchief 1Handkerchief being brought out of the dye after the first dip.  Note the green colour.

 

handkerchief shiboriWashing off excess dye after the third and final dip in the dye.  This handkerchief was dyed using the shibori method.

Aizome produces a wide range of shades depending on how many times the cloth is dipped.  Anything from almost white to the deepest blue can be achieved.  When the fabric is first brought out of the dye, it actually looks green.  The dye has to oxidize in the air for it to take on its distinctive blue color.

Creating the dye

It can take a year to produce aizome dye.  The long process is necessary in order to make the dye water soluble.  The process starts in March when the seeds for the indigo are planted.  The mature plants are harvested twice, first in July, then again in August.  From there, it is made into sukumo, a dried, fermented, ingredient that will eventually produce the dye.  It is up to the skill of the ai-shi (the sukumo maker) to create a high quality product.  Making sukumo begins in September and takes about four months.  Every five to six days the sukumo is sprinkled with water and mixed so that it ferments evenly.

Sukumo ready to be made into dyesukumo ready to be made into dye

 

vats of aizome dye ready for useVats of aizome dye ready for use

By December, the process is completed and the sukumo is shipped out to the dyers. The dyer will mix the sukumo, ash lye, lime, sake, and water.  The mixture needs to be stirred several times a day for a few weeks, slowly adding more lime to slow down the fermentation process as needed.  When a cluster of metallic bubbles forms on the top of the dye (called the ai no hana or indigo flower) then the dye is ready for use.

aizome museumDiorama from an aizome museum showing the process of katazome dyeing using a stencil.

If you would like to learn more about aizome, please check out the three part series at

www.readysetkimono.com

Part 1: http://readysetkimono.com/2014/11/22/aizome-%E8%97%8D%E6%9F%93-indigo-dyeing-part-one-2/

Part 2: http://readysetkimono.com/2014/11/29/aizome-%E8%97%8D%E6%9F%93-indigo-dyeing-part-two/

Part 3: http://readysetkimono.com/2014/12/05/aizome-%E8%97%8D%E6%9F%93-indigo-dyeing-part-3/

You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter!

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New geisha apprentice for the first time in 28 years in Tokyo

Geisha in summer breeze

Akasaka is a typical hanamachi district (traditionally the place of geishas/maikos) of Tokyo and the place where for the first time in 28 years a new young geisha apprenctice got accepted. For 28 years, nobody wanted to learn to become a Geisha in Akasaka, a long dry spell that now has been broken.

The 20 year old girl who is going to become a geisha dropped out of dance college with the aim of becoming a geisha herself. As geishas don’t use their real name, she picked the name “Sakura” (cherry blossom 桜) as her geisha name.

Sakura was born in 1994 and learned Japanese dance since her childhood. She had been enrolled at the Nihon University College of Art before. Through an acquaintance she go introduced to Ms. Ikuko, who works and lives in a so called okiya, which is traditionally the home and headquarter of the geishas. Sakura has started her studies in September and is going to learn the ways and dances of a geisha in the status of hangyoku, which translates into “half jewel” (半玉).

The geisha community of Akasaka prospered since the Meiji era and has been thriving as the leading karyukai (entertainment services offered by geishas) enviroment in Tokyo along with Shinbashi.

In 1928, in the third year of the Showa era, the geisha count was 425 people and has from then on steadily decreased to a current count of 23 geishas. Under these circumstances, the expectations for the first hangyoku in 28 years are rather large.

Source: Huffington Post Japan