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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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10 Reasons, why you should do hiking in Japan

weather in japan

***Guest article by Wanderweib.de ***

Japan has some unique points that you can only find there! How about hiking in one of the world’s most mountainous country (#1)? Ever wanted to know how Japanese nature is like (#5)? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to meet Japanese hikers (#4)? Or would you like to know what is your biggest threat in Japan (#8)?

Wanderweib presents you 10 reasons, why you should do hiking in Japan!

#1 Japan is a hiker’s heaven

mountains of japan

About 72% of Japan is mountainous, with a mountain range running through each of the main islands. However the highest mountain Fujisan (3.776 m) isn’t as difficult as other mountains!

#2 Huge Bus Networks

japan bus network

Japan has a huge bus network which brings you directly to your trail head. So you don’t need to rent a car for starting your adventure!

 

#3 Weather Forecast

weather in japan

Sure, the weather is still unpredictable, but compared with our weather forecast the Japanese shows the current temperature on most famous mountains and even the hiking conditions. The most famous sites are Tenki to Kurasu and Mountain Forecast.

#4 Everyone’s friendly

 

Japanese aren’t the most open-minded, however the nature environment seems to open them up. During your hiking you will meet hikers who will start to talk to you and they will be extremely friendly.

#5 Ladders and Chains

japanese mountain trails for hiking in japan

Japanese mountain trails are greatly aided as compared with our western trails. At difficult spots you can find a ladder or chain that will guarantee your safe travel.

#6 Japanese Signs

japanese signs on hiking paths

Japanese trails are well marked some include even English translations! To ensure your safe travel I recommend to learn some basic Japanese Kanjis that you don’t get lost within the Kanji signs!

#7 Trail head box systems

japanese trail boxes

At trail heads you can find Tozan Posuto Box where you can leave your name and your itinerary. In a case of an emergency they may help authorities locate you faster.

#8 Your biggest threat!

Japan has the lowest crime rate in the world and you can feel very safe. Unsurprisingly, your biggest threat comes in the form of a giant hornet.

#9 Huge hiking communities

japanese hiking community

Japan has a huge hiking community which is called Yamareco. The latest trail conditions and photos are only a few clicks away with a little help from Google Translate!

#10 Clean Water

japanese clean water

You don’t need to worry about water, because crystal clean water from high mountain streams is generally safe to drink! However, in lower mountains I recommend to boil your water or use a filter system.

—-

Tessa from Wanderweib

WanderWeib – Hiking in Japan

Hi, my name is Tessa and I live in Tokyo/Japan since 2012. During my studies in computer science, I had the opportunity to live in Japan, where I explored the Japanese rich culture. After my graduation I extended my stay until today.

Last year I discovered hiking for me and began to explore the Japanese mountains. During my preparations for my hikes, I noticed that all the hiking books were only written in Japanese. So I started my own hiking blog in German, which describe the beautiful nature in Japan. Additionally, you can find several culture tips on my blog about hiking in Japan.

Pay me a visit under: http://wanderweib.de

 

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Weekly Kimono Finds 03/2016 - 成人の日 Seijin No Hi special

seijin no hi

We hope you enjoyed our first weekly kimono finds post and are now eager to see what we found this week. It was an exciting week for the whole kimono world, as February 11th was “Seijin no hi“, or the Japanese coming of age day.

On this day, everyone who turned 20 in the past year gets to celebrate their new adulthood together in the next city hall. And usually this is done in traditional Japanese clothing: You guessed right, when you had kimono in your head!

More specifically, it’s probably the day with most furisode kimono out in public. And of course this is our main focus for this week, although we don’t want to hide other nice displays from you. So before we dive into Seiji no hi, we start with one of our all-time favorites:

The amazing Miki

 

There’s probably few people so dedicated to kimono like Miki. We started following her almost daily uploads of kimono pictures on Twitter, but she has since also started an Instagram account and she has her own ameblo, where she blogs also almost daily about her newest pictures, kimono purchases, kimono events and much more. Her blog is like a never-ending resource for everyone who loves kimono, especially antiques! As she works in a different field, she calls it “living a weekend-kimono-life”. Looking from the outside, it seems like she isn’t doing anything else all day long. A truly passionate kimono lover!

 

Seijin no hi (成人の日)

There has been some debate recently, if girls should be allowed to wear “untraditional” clothing for seijin no hi. And with untraditional, we don’t exactly mean western clothes. Instead, girls have started using “Oiran-Style” kimonos at seijin no hi celebrations. If you aren’t familiar with oiran: In contrast to geisha, oiran were prostitutes, highly regarded and popular, but prostitutes nonetheless. So it is understandable, why this might make some old fashioned people angry, especially because seijin no hi is one of the last still functional bastions of Japanese tradition.


But not everyone loves to draw attention to them, just because you can see their shoulders (one of the untraditional things the older generation is complaining about). Others just love to wear their traditional furisode the way it is meant to be.

ゆりっぺ と りーちゃん <img draggable=” class=”emoji” draggable=”false”> 笑 . . 小学校からの 親友 と 成人式 で 会えて めっちゃうれしかった <img draggable=” class=”emoji” draggable=”false”><img draggable=” class=”emoji” draggable=”false”> 私たち、ちょっとでも 大人 になれたかな?<img draggable=” class=”emoji” draggable=”false”><img draggable=” class=”emoji” draggable=”false”> . 成人式は 、小学校しか 地元じゃなかったけど 懐かしい人にいっぱい会えて たのしかったし 行ってほんまによかった〜〜〜っ <img draggable=” class=”emoji” draggable=”false”><img draggable=” class=”emoji” draggable=”false”> なみきちゃん 、ありがとうね (((o(*▽*)o))) . . #成人式 #成人の日 #振袖 #幼なじみ #親友 #YuriRikako #大学生 と #美容学生 #0111 #ソフィア堺 #東深井小学校 #深井 #堺市 #中区

A photo posted by rikako arimoto <img draggable=” class=”emoji” draggable=”false”><img draggable=” class=”emoji” draggable=”false”> 리카코 (@i_am___ri) on

2016年1月11日#成人の日#振袖#成人式#kobe#love#happy#japan

A photo posted by Midori (@11midori25) on

明石公園とは思えないね、これ<img draggable=” class=”emoji” draggable=”false”> さきん(@sakin0710)が撮ってくれたんだっけ?笑 かな(@ak___aipc)が撮ってくれたんだっけ?笑 忘れちゃったけど、この写真お気に入り<img draggable=” class=”emoji” draggable=”false”><img draggable=” class=”emoji” draggable=”false”> 2人とも一緒に撮影会してくれてありがとう! 前撮り並みの写真がたくさん撮れて、撮る側としても、撮られる側としても、大満足<img draggable=” class=”emoji” draggable=”false”><img draggable=” class=”emoji” draggable=”false”> #成人式 #成人の日 #振袖 #鶴 #明石公園 #一生に一度だから #まだまだ投稿する気 #みんなの振袖写真撮りたい欲がすごい #そんなわけには行かず #衝動を抑えるしかない

A photo posted by Mana Furuzono (@manapiiiiiiiiii) on

成人式、おめでとう. #kimono #tokyo #japan #着物 #成人式 #成人の日 #原宿

A photo posted by Todd Fong (@toddfong) on

#成人の日#相生市

A photo posted by Ayame (@lllllosfs_q) on

2016/1/11(月) _ 成人の日 <img draggable=” class=”emoji” draggable=”false”>祝新成人<img draggable=” class=”emoji” draggable=”false”> 20歳もこの3人変わらない。 素敵な大人になりましょう<img draggable=” class=”emoji” draggable=”false”><img draggable=” class=”emoji” draggable=”false”> _ 亡き祖母が母に買ったものを娘の私が受け継ぎ 今年その振袖を着て晴れて成人を迎えられたこと 天国で祖母もお祝いしてくれてることを願う 本当に大好きだったから見せてあげたかったな ありがとう、いつまでも大好きだよ、おばあちゃん _ #成人の日 #新成人 #成人式 #横浜アリーナ #横アリ #横浜 #はまっこ #樽町 #20歳 #振袖 #素敵#japan #yokohama #girl #kimono #beautiful #cutie #ceremony #yokohamaarena #celebration #bff #friends #love #<img draggable=” class=”emoji” draggable=”false”> #<img draggable=” class=”emoji” draggable=”false”> #<img draggable=” class=”emoji” draggable=”false”> #<img draggable=” class=”emoji” draggable=”false”> #0113 #2016

A photo posted by Sayuri Inoue (@sayuri_311) on

人生で一度きりの成人式。 久々にみんなに会えた。みんな綺麗だった<img draggable=” class=”emoji” draggable=”false”>やっぱ女の子って最高⤴︎⤴︎椙山の動物園みたいなうるささ大好き。<img draggable=” class=”emoji” draggable=”false”>(笑)ほんとに椙山でよかった。椙山アイシテル<img draggable=” class=”emoji” draggable=”false”><img draggable=” class=”emoji” draggable=”false”><img draggable=” class=”emoji” draggable=”false”>執行部のみなさんありがとう、お疲れ様でした(^_^) 2016.01.11 椙山女学園中学・高等学校成人式 #0111#成人の日#椙山#sgym#girls#成人式#20#大人#振袖#ふりそでーしょん#だいすき #わたしはどこでしょう笑

A photo posted by こまちね (@pon8_23) on


Some cities, like Kyoto, also have special events surrounding seijin no hi. For example an archery event:

 

This week’s Twitter kimono top-4

Bonus: Speaking of untraditional

As a small bonus, we wold like to highlight a great photographer and an amazing model.
I can see, how the old guys in power might have a problem with a girl wearing this kimono-style robe during seijin no hi…

And last but not least, a video, ranging from traditional to…not so traditional. We can only imagine the fights between some of the kids and their disappointed parents.

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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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Running in kimono for good customer service

wimax-commercial with kimono

Japan is known for great customer service all around the world. But what if your clothing might hinder you in the pursuit of customer happiness?

The company UQ-WIMAX found their own answer to this question. At least according to their cheeky commercial which saw some airtime this year on Japanese TV.

Running in kimono and tabi

Basically what happens is that a customer forgets or loses his portable Wi-Fi device at a restaurant or hotel. This triggers the devotedly customer-oriented waitress in her work kimono to run after the customer. But as you can imagine, running in a kimono, even if it is without cumbersome traditional japanese footwear called geta, probably isn’t very practical. I don’t know what time of the year it was, but running around in tabi (the white sock-shoes) might even be quite cold and uncomfortable.

So to become faster, she gets rid of her kimono along the way. Don’t worry though, she’s not getting rid of all her clothes though, she is still wearing her kimono underwear, called hadajuban and nagajuban. As she hands over the Wi-Fi device, the customers seems quite pleased with her performance and…well…the view that is offered to him.

To understand all this, you have to know that a waitress wearing a work kimono, like a uniform, isn’t something unusual at more sophisticated restaurants and hotels. These might even be really fancy and beautiful unique kimono, depending on the place.

The other thing is that free Wi-Fi in Japan is quite hard to find. That’s why many people carry pocket Wi-Fi devices around with them. With this, you can not only connect your mobile with the internet, but also your laptop, tablet and so on. All with just one data plan.

wimax-commercial 2

Only thing I don’t understand:

Why is he taking a taxi so awfully far away from the location, where he lost or forgot his gadgets?

I am sure the kimono girl is thinking the same thing…

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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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“Yui’s kitsuke world” kimono blog on Kimonogeisha.com

This is a new column of daily kimono life at KimonoGeisha.com.

I am Yui from Tokyo, Japan and I work as kimono dresser and kimono teacher.

I want many people to know about kimono, especially easy daily kimono life. That’s why I start this column.

A lot of people think kitsuke has a lot of rules and those rules make wearing kimono more complicated. That is true there are a lot of rules for kimono, but you do not have to follow the rules. It’s your choice to you follow all of the rules, pick few rules or you decide your rules for kimono. Of course if you start kimono and you do not follow the rules, sometimes people may force you to follow the rules. But you do not need to care. Do not forget about kimono is just a type of clothing, even though it is very beautiful and looks special. In this column, I will write about a lot of kind of kimono as daily clothes and kimono life styles. I hope people can find their own kimono style from my column.

Yui sensei blogs now

And if you want to learn how to wear Kimono by your self, I open Kimono wearing lessons at Tokyo. If you want to join the lesson, contact me: yui@kimonogeisha.com

Please free to ask about kimono, via email or in the comments.

 

If you now feel that you want to share your experiences in your own blog on Kimonogeisha.com as well, just send us an email to bepartof@kimonogeisha.com with information about yourself and your idea for a kimono blog.

Make sure to also follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or just directly subscribe (see bottom left of this site) to this blog to not miss any news, showcases or events!

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What’s the difference between a Geisha, a Maiko and a Geiko?

Geisha or Maiko, Real or Fake? Learn the differences between them here!

You may have heard others talk about how they spotted geisha while travelling in Kyoto – but did they really see a geisha, or was it a maiko they saw instead? Or was it even a tourist who paid to dress up in a geisha outfit just for the experience? The differences may be subtle, but let’s see how you can distinguish between them. Let’s clairfy the differences between a geisha and a maiko and between a geisha and a geiko.

First of all:

Geisha vs. Geiko

Literally translating to ‘arts person’, geisha (芸者) are highly trained in Japanese traditional arts, including music, singing and dancing. By contrast, geiko (芸子) is primarily used to refer to geisha from Kyoto. Although geisha formerly referred to only those from Tokyo and its surrounding areas, it has now become the general term for all geisha.

Geiko vs. Maiko

Maiko (舞妓) translates to ‘dancing girl’ or ‘child’, and refers to apprentice geiko. They undergo about 5 years of training in various arts, before graduating to become geiko. Outside of Kyoto, the hangyoku (半玉) in Tokyo would be the closest equivalents to maiko. Hangyoku literally means ‘half jewel’ and are trainee geisha, although little is known about their training process. So summed up, the difference between geiko and maiko can be described as the difference between accomplished “master” of their art and an apprentice.

Now that we’ve clarified the terminology, what are the differences between geisha and maiko?

1. Hair style

Geishas usually wear a simple wig over their natural hair, usually in the typical style seen below. However, maikos style their own hair into elaborate arrangements that vary depending on the stage of training they are in.

Typical Geisha HairstyleA typical geisha hairstyle

Typical Maiko HairstyleOne of the several hairstyles that maiko sport during their apprentice stage

2. Hair accessories

Maikos wear several elaborate hair ornaments, or kanzashi, such as fan or ball-shaped ornaments and combs. There is also the hanakanzashi – an ornament with silk flowers dangling from the maiko’s head to her chin.  While this is one of the most recognisable hair ornaments, it is only worn during the first year Minarai stage of a maiko’s training.

In contrast, geisha wear simpler ornaments or decorative combs in their hair.

Typical Geisha Hair AccessoriesA set of kanzashi for the month of May, featuring purple irises and wisteria

Geisha MamehanaThe far simpler hair ornaments worn by a geisha

3. Make up

As maikos do not wear wigs, they will have a noticeable band of unpainted skin at their hairline. Their eyebrows will be coloured with red or pink, while their eyes will be outlined in red and black. First year maikos will have only their lower lip painted red, while maikos in the second year of training and beyond will have both lips painted. By comparison, as geishas normally wear wigs, there will not be any band of bare skin at their hairline. Their eyebrows will only have a touch of red, while their eyes are only outlined in black. Both their lips will be painted bright red.

5481948288_f471fd80c7_b

4. Kimono

Maiko often wear brightly coloured, long-sleeved kimono with a wide obi or sash that is arranged into a bow at their back and extends to their feet. The collar of their kimono will hang low at the back of their neck and is thick and embroidered, containing only red, gold and white (or cream) colours. The geisha are older, hence wear more mature kimono, usually in solid colours and shorter sleeves. Their obi are narrower and tied in a square knot, while their collars are completely white and sit higher at the back of their neck.

Maiko and GeishaThe simple, shorter sleeved kimono with narrow obi worn by the geiko contrasts with the more elaborate outfit of the maiko

5. Footwear

Maiko normally wear very high okobo(おこぼ), or wooden sandals. Geisha wear shorter zori (草履) or geta(下駄), although maiko may also wear those on special occasions.

 Three Maiko and one GeishaThe footwear worn by the geisha on the right is far lower than that of the maikos

 

In addition, we found an explanation of the differences between maiko and geiko directly from a geiko:

Real Geisha vs. Tourist Maiko / Tourist Geisha

With those differences between geisha and maiko in mind, how do we tell whether a white painted-faced, kimono-clad person sporting a traditional hairstyle is actually a maiko or geisha, instead of a tourist dressed up as one in disguise? Here are some tell-tale signs:

1. Hair ornaments and makeup

As the long, dangly hanakanzashi is only worn by maiko in their first year of training, which corresponds to when they have only their lower lip painted red, a person wearing hanakanzashi with both lips painted is not the real thing.

Hana-Kanzashi on a tourist maikoA dress-up maiko with 3 tell-tale signs: ‘hana-kanzashi’ paired with both lips painted; the presence of colours other than red, gold and white on the collar; and the relative lack of red on the collar.

2. Time of day

Maiko and geisha start their workday in the evening, hence a person in full regalia in the middle of the day is most likely a tourist.

3. Location

As maiko and geisha hold celebrity status, they will usually avoid crowded places and tend to use the backstreets to get from place to place.

4. Photo-taking

Customers pay for the time required for maiko and geisha to get from place to place, hence they will not stop to take photos with tourists.

5. Walking

While the okobo worn by maiko can be very high and difficult to walk in, maiko are trained to be able to move around in them and will not require the assistance of others for balance.

6. Seasonal motifs

Geisha and maiko wear kimono with patterns that correspond to the seasons. Likewise, the motifs on their hair ornaments are aligned to the time of year too. If you see someone wearing an autumn kimono in spring, then she is most definitely a fake!

With all these in mind, you should now be able to easily distinguish between geisha and maiko, and between the real and the fake!

Although fake shouldn’t be seen with a negative connotation in this context. As we saw in Octavia’s Maiko Kimono Showcase, you can look good dressed up as maiko, even without working for an okiya in Kyoto!

 

The author of this article is Joanne, who is a former Osaka City JET whose love affair with Japan started when a friend in university asked to take a beginner’s Japanese language course together. Originally from Singapore, Joanne has been in Northern Ireland for two years but would love to live in Japan again. Joanne is the creator and current curator of rotation curation Twitter account @We_JapanShe has her own personal blog “Bits and Bobs”, where she writes about her personal interests, as well as traveling, Japan, ballet and living in Northern Ireland as a Singaporean.

If you now feel that you want to write for Kimonogeisha.com as well, just send us an email to bepartof@kimonogeisha.com with what you would like to write about or just directly send your posts/articles with some background information.

Make sure to also follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or just directly subscribe (see bottom left of this site) to this blog to not miss any news, showcases or events!

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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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Happy Japan 2014

Don’t be afraid, Happy Japan has nothing to do with the moderately successful campaign “Cool Japan” that tries to promote Japan to overseas tourists.

It’s rather about a sound that has left its mark in 2014 like no other: The Song “Happy” from US singer Pharell Williams, which has spread to all over the world after his 24-hour video for his single.

Although not many trends make it to Japan, this one did like no other and it spawned many own versions in Japan, from parts of Tokyo, over Kyoto and even some “not-so-well-known” cities in Japan. Even Fukushima had one, to show that not everyone is just gloomy over there every day and that life continues, even with a smile!

To celebrate 2014 and look back a bit, we have gathered some of the Japanese videos here for you.

 

And probably the one with the most “original spirit” and as close to the original as possible:

Last but not least, let’s not forget that Pharrell actually went to Japan to create a live(!) video version of his song together with SMAP, the Japanese boy(?)group that has been around for ages, who have their own (kind of) talkshow and are probably 24/7 somewhere around the Japanese TV world. Anyway, this version definitely deserves a look. If this doesn’t make you happy (at least, if you like SMAP), then nothing will: