Taisho Blues

I know, I know, I said the last outfit I posted would be around for a while. Work continues apace on updating and redoing my visual catalogue, and when I took out this Taisho-era beauty I love so much, I realised I’d never coordinated her with this vintage orange hakata obi and that seemed like a crime. They feel like they were made for each other. But then again, I think hakata goes with everything. When I first got it, I paired it with an orange obi and while I loved the colour contrast, the obi was a metallic, Showa-era blingfest that felt incongruous with the soft vintage feel of the kimono. Springy green accessories were the perfect finishing touch, including a brand new obiage I’ve never used before.

If you’re a regular reader, you know that for whatever reason I’ve always had bad luck with tying obi in tsunodashi musubi but I was really in the groove after putting this outfit together and I figured I’d give it another shot. I’m really glad I did, because it worked out perfectly. The ohashori is quite puffy-looking, which is unfortunate, but sometimes it’s inevitable due to the shape of the mannequin.

Now this is definitely an outfit I’m happy to leave on the mannequin until I’m finished everything else I have in the works.

My Ikebana Journey

That’s right, I’m dipping my toes into something new! Kimono will always be this blog’s focus and my first love, but ikebana is another traditional Japanese art form that’s always fascinated me. Every time I’ve looked into taking lessons they’ve either been way out of my budget or at times that were impossible for me to work with, or done in a very traditional environment where I’d have to sit seiza for two hours, which my body cannot handle.

However, I was discussing it with a friend recently, and with his encouragement I realised that through the magic of books and the internet, I can at least learn the basics on my own. I did it with kimono and kitsuke, and there were way less resources fifteen years ago than there are now. Maybe one day I will have the time and money to take proper lessons, but until then there’s no reason I shouldn’t start soaking up all the knowledge and experience that I can.

So today begins the first step in my new journey. I am trying to keep to a very strict budget for this venture, since I’m not exactly rolling in spare cash at the moment. I’ve assembled some books from AbeBooks (admittedly, the Dale Chihuly book is not a guide book so much as I love his glass art and I hope it will inspire me) and a basic tool kit, including an antique kenzan that belonged to my grandmother. She was very influential in the development of my passion for Japanese traditional arts; all the artwork and little decorative objects you see in the backgrounds of photos on this blog were hers. My only regret is that I didn’t get more into this sort of thing while she was still alive. She would have loved it all. Thankfully the tools required for ikebana (at least at a very beginner level) are quite easy to procure, and fairly inexpensive. My beginner’s kit is comprised of my grandmother’s kenzan, a smaller one I found at a local florist’s, a tool to straighten the pins, and a neat little set of shears, floral, and wire cutters I got at Michaels for free (after creative use of coupons combined with a mistake on the price tag). The pouch arrived in the mail on the same day as the pin straightener. It was a free promotional item, but it seemed like fate, so now all my tools have a place to live.

 

I’ve also assembled a collection of varying vases and containers to use. Most of them are things I already owned, and a few were found at thrift stores for a dollar or less. So far, the biggest investment here has been the books, all five (plus a dvd) of which set me back less than $20. I think I’m doing quite well up to this point!

I am hoping to post at minimum one arrangement arrangement a month, possibly more if I’m inspired or the garden is exceptionally abundant. I will write about my thought process, what inspired my flower choices, and what I’ve learnt since the last one. Please join me on my ikebana journey!

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Tea Time – Easy Matcha Cake

One thing you may not know about me is that I love to cook. There is something comforting to me about the alchemy of it all, and feeding the people I love makes me very happy. I like to find new recipes and then improvise and put my personal spin on old classics. I was in the mood for a matcha-based cake and thought I would experiment a bit. My first attempt was a bit of a disaster because I wasn’t paying attention and burnt it, but the second try turned out well, so I have decided to share it with you.

This recipe is adapted from my favourite simple chocolate cake recipe, Margaret Fox’s Amazon Chocolate Cake. I love this recipe because it comes together incredibly quickly and uses only pantry staples, so you’re pretty much assured you’ll have the necessary ingredients. It’s also vegan and pareve, which makes it great to take to parties or gatherings where there may be dietary restrictions to consider. This matcha variation of the cake is not overly sweet, has a lightly earthy taste from the matcha, and would be lovely with a cup of tea. It may not be the prettiest cake, but it’s quick and satisfying. If you would like the recipe, please keep reading!
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Back to the Classics

It feels like sometimes I get so caught up in my kitsuke experimentation, be it kimono-as-costumes, turning a kimono into a ballgown, steampunk hime-styles, or one of the other multitudes of things I’ve done lately, that I forget about the timeless simplicity that drew me to kimono in the first place. So for this outfit, I decided to go in a very clean and traditional direction that’s all about the little details. I paired up my sagara embroidery tsukesage with an obi I got in the infamous obi bundle and hadn’t used yet. Accessories were plain and classic, a casual obijime that reflects the colour of the kimono and an obiage that adds a little bit of sweetness while still being quiet and discreet. This obi’s motif placement is very strange, and I had to cheat a fair bit while tying it, but isn’t that what mannequins are for? ;)

I doubt I’ll be reaching for this obi again any time soon, which is a shame because the soft embroidered details on it are so pretty. It’s just too much of a nuisance.  But I very am glad I decided to drag these two pieces out of storage and do something with them. I’m working on a bunch of new stuff behind the scenes, so this may be the last outfit post for a few weeks. I’m glad it’s one I’m proud to leave on the mannequin.

Field Trip! “From the Lands of Asia” at Pointe-à-Callière Museum, Montreal

Yesterday, I finally made my way to the From the Lands of Asia exhibit at Pointe-à-Callière Museum here in Montreal. The exhibit has been going on since mid-November and I kept procrastinating. Earlier this week I found out it ends this weekend, so I knew I had to get my butt in gear and go!

I would have liked to wear kimono, but we had a terrible blizzard earlier this week and I knew I wouldn’t be able to trudge through the aftermath and spend several hours in a museum in comfort, so I decided to go subtle and wear a haori and kanzashi hairpin over a cute dress. The fact that I ended up wearing a ton of green on St. Patrick’s Day was an unintentional but nice bonus. But enough about me!

The exhibit was absolutely gorgeous. It featured over four hundred items from the private collection of one couple, Sam and Myrna Myers. It started out with ancient Chinese jades, followed by Buddhist artwork and artifacts through multiple Asian cultures, and ended with what was of course the highlight for me, a feature all on kimono! It was fascinating to see so clearly how kimono and Japanese art in general was so strongly influenced by ancient Chinese art and textiles before it. Watching the progression of how something you love so much comes to be can be intensely rewarding.

The kimono featured were primarily stage pieces and late Edo or early Meiji clothing, and they were all absolutely lush and gorgeous. It’s clear that the Myers were a couple of discerning tastes. I took over 150 photos, but I’ve chosen some of the best and most relevant ones to share here, but if you’re curious to see the rest there is a public album available on Facebook here.