Book Review: Geiko & Maiko of Kyoto


Geiko & Maiko of Kyoto
by Robert van Koesveld
Language: English
ISBN: 978-0-9944501-0-4
Buy Here

For this volume, van Koesveld was awarded the Photography Book of the Year (2015) by the Australian Institute of Professional Photographers, and it’s easy to see why. While the text is certainly interesting and well-written, the photographs are the heart and soul of this book. They are beautiful, and there are many of them. The book is full of gorgeous, crisp full-colour plates of geiko, maiko, live performances, as well as garments and accessories, and the skilled people who make them. It’s a fantastic glimpse into a world most of us will never get to see.

The book features interviews with maiko and geiko who live and work in Kyoto, as well as interviews and information about the artisans and craftspeople who support the community. It offers an unprecedented look into the Flower and Willow World, the mysterious and ethereal environment where these women live and work that most of us will never be able to experience. It is filled with information that anyone interested in modern geisha traditions and culture would love to have in their collection.

(The tinting and distortion in these sample pages is a result of my scanning process; the photos in the book are absolutely beautiful and these pictures do them no justice)

I would recommend this book for:


-People interested in the tradition and culture of geiko and maiko
-People looking for information about the artisans and tradespersons who support this culture
-Anyone who appreciates beautiful photography

I would not recommend this book for:


-People who have incorrect assumptions about geiko and no interest in learning
-People looking for instructions on how to dress maiko or geiko-style I received this item as a backer perk for a project or product that was crowd-funded (Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, etc)

Book Review – Kimono no Tanoshimi ga Hirogaru Obimusubi Arenji Jo

cover着物の楽しみが広がる 帯結びアレンジ帖
(Kimono no Tanoshimi ga Hirogaru Obimusubi Arenji Jō)
by Kururi
Language: Japanese
ISBN: 978-4262160238
Amazon.com Listing

Well, that title’s a mouthful, isn’t it? It essentially translates to Expand your Enjoyment of Kimono; Notes on Obi Musubi Arrangement (thanks to Tamara for the coherent translation).

This book is an incredible resource for anyone looking to improve their personal kimono dressing and styling. It’s entirely in Japanese but the pictures and diagrams are so thorough that it’s a negligible issue. It’s not for formal kitsuke, nothing useful for kurotomesode, furisode, etc, but it’s chock-full of styling suggestions and obi tying alternatives for casual kimono wear. This book is a vital addition for anyone looking to expand their kimono skills and library.

It’s got all sorts of basic resources; a seasonality chart, padding diagrams, coordination examples, and a wide variety of musubi for nagoya and hanhaba obi. The obi variations are very well-organised. The book first shows a “standard” tie that most kimono afficionados are already familiar with (otaiko for nagoya obi, chocho for hanhaba obi), and then shows variations using the same starting-off points. There’s even a few examples of women’s styling using a narrow men’s kaku obi.

 

I’ve scanned a few pages to give you a feel for the book (and how necessary and relevant the text may be), but I urge anyone who collects kimono to pick up a copy. It’s quite new, published in January of 2016, so it’s still quite easy to find online and it’s incredibly affordable for all the information it contains. It’s also small and lightweight, very practical to throw in a bag if you’re travelling.

I would recommend this book for:


-Anyone from beginner to expert
-People looking for interesting variations on traditional kitsuke
-People who wear casual kimono frequently

I would not recommend this book for:


-People looking for more detailed, artistic images of kimono
-People looking for traditional formal (kurotomesode, furisode) kitsuke help

 

This post contains affiliate link(s). If you choose to purchase, I receive a small rebate or commission which goes to the continued maintenance of this site.

Kimono Colouring Books

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As you’ve likely heard, colouring books for adults are all the rage right now. They’re a great way to slow down and focus on something tangible in today’s increasingly hurried and digital world. My mother bought herself a couple some time ago and I found myself increasingly curious so I sat down and tried some out. They’re incredibly relaxing, and there is something very rewarding about watching the image you’ve chosen come to life as it fills with vibrant colour.

Of course, I was curious to see if there were any kimono or Japanese image colouring books easily available, and did I ever hit the jackpot! There is a very wide selection of colouring books featuring Japanese patterns, ukiyo-e artwork, and the like. Many of them are published in English and available at most large-scale book-sellers. I’ve been working on all of these books on and off for several months now, which has been ample time to compare them. Hopefully if you’re considering getting into this fun pass-time, these mini-reviews will help you choose a book or two for yourself.

For each book, I tried to test a variety of tools. Inexpensive children’s markers as well as alcohol-based illustration markers, and inexpensive coloured pencils as well as high-end watercolour pencils. In each case, if some particular pencil or marker worked noticeably better or worse, I’ll include a note of that.

 

Michaels’ Creative Inspirations Japanese Designs Colouring Book(s)

This book is marketed as “two books in one“, and while I originally thought that was a bit of a stretch, it’s actually fairly accurate. There are two categories of images in it. One side has ornate patterns and woodblock-style portraits of beautiful women with heavy black borders and filled-in areas. This side of the book results in bold and dramatic end results. If you flip the book over, the other side has more delicate line-work and focuses more on traditional patterns. Both sides are surprisingly accurate when it comes to traditional details and motifs, but there is plenty of room for creative liberty.

The printing in this book is one-sided; the back of each page is blank, which makes it suitable for any lightweight media from coloured pencils to alcohol-based artist markers. It’s also a great bargain, especially if you take advantage of one of Michaels’ frequent coupons or sales.

I purchased this item myself and chose to review it.

Pepin Press Kimono Colouring Book

This book is something special. There are only sixteen pages in it, but each page is acid-free heavyweight watercolour paper, suitable for all types of media. The lines are also printed in very pale grey, which means that once you fill them in the outlines are nearly invisible. When complete, these aren’t just “colouring book pages.” They’re works of art, appropriate for framing and displaying. I tried them out with a combination of watercolour pencils and alcohol markers, and the results are gorgeous.

The images are all faithful reproductions of famous woodcut prints, lush portraits beautiful women dressed in the soft and relaxed kimono style of the Edo era. However, due to the detailed nature and pale outlines, I would not recommend these for people who are only looking for something fun and laid back to colour. These require more patience and finesse, but the final outcome is definitely worth it.

I purchased this item myself and chose to review it.

 

Creative Haven Japanese Kimono Designs Colouring Book

This is a great casual book. It’s quite easy to find and very affordable. The pages are perforated for easy removal and printed only on one side. The paper’s a bit thin and alcohol-based markers do tend to bleed a minuscule amount, but in most cases the outlines cover any overspill. The designs are lovely, ranging from simple portraits of a lone woman in a fairly plain kimono to much more elaborate group shots with very ornate patterns. There’s a fairly wide variety of historical outfits. In a couple, it feels like the artists have taken a bit of creative liberty but there’s nothing painfully inaccurate.

I purchased this item myself and chose to review it.

和のぬりえ帖 (Coloring Book of Traditional Japanese Pattern)

Locating copies of this one may be a bit difficult. It’s available on Amazon Japan (above link) if you’re able to navigate that. My friend Heather purchased this copy for me from the Kinokuniya bookstore in San Francisco.

What little text the book has is in Japanese, but this isn’t really a hurdle since it’s a colouring book. This one is of particular interest to kimono collectors, since each pattern is replicated from an actual katazome stencil. The patterns are wide and varied, from ubiquitous sakura and ume to more esoteric things like bats!

The paper is quite thin and it’s printed on both sides, making it most suitable for coloured pencils. With a light hand, some water-based markers might not bleed through, but alcohol-based markers and watercolour paints are a definite no-go. However, if you’re really determined, you could remove the pages, scan them, and print as many copies as you like! The pages are also printed edge-to-edge which can make it a bit fiddly to colour right near the spine of the book, but it doesn’t detract from the beautiful patterns.

I received this item as a gift.

Japon Eternel (Eternal Japan)

This is more of an art therapy colouring book than the previous ones. It’s full of funky, repetitive-style patterns and mandalas and bold, graphic interpretations of traditional Japanese imagery.  It’s got everything from maiko to torii gates to tentacles! It may not always be accurate, but in the case of this one accuracy isn’t really the point. It’s fun pop art. It’s also much smaller than all the previous books, which makes it great to toss into a handbag or backpack. The pages are perforated and printed on both sides, which makes it most suited to coloured pencils. I even used good old-fashioned Crayola crayons to do a couple, since the areas are so large and bold.

I received this item as a gift.

 


This post contains affiliate link(s). If you choose to purchase, I receive a small rebate or commission which goes to the continued maintenance of this site.If you have a topically appropriate craft, product, or service you would like me to review, please contact me.

Book Review – Kimono Now

Kimono Now
by Manami Ozaki
Language: English
ISBN: 978-3791349497
Amazon.com Listing
GoodReads Page

Kimono Now is an absolutely wonderful English-language resource about modern kimono culture. I’ve had it for quite a while but wanted to give my thoughts time to settle before writing this review. I absolutely loved it and wanted to make sure I wasn’t jumping the gun with my opinions.

It’s a big, lush book that looks as good on a coffee table as it does in your bookshelf. It’s broken down into logical and easy to read segments, from the craftsmanship and artistry involved in kimono to interviews and featurettes on modern designers, famous kimono style icons, people remaking kimono into new fashion, and artists working in other mediums who have been inspired by kimono. While most of the people discussed and interviewed are Japanese, the book also takes into account the kimono’s influence on the rest of the world and has features involving non-Japanese artisans and collectors, which is very refreshing. It’s chock full of gorgeous colour plates and plenty of detailed information that never feels dry. It covers a little bit of everything without feeling like a textbook, which is no mean feat. It’s definitely not a how-to guide, but if you’re already familiar with how to wear kimono traditionally and just want ideas and inspiration, it’s a must-have. If I have any one criticism, it’s that someone along the line (possibly the editor or publisher) decided to go with the western standard of pluralising kimono into kimonos, which has always been a bit of a peeve of mine. It’s a very minor nitpick though.

 

 

I would recommend this book for:


-People interested in modern kimono culture
-People looking to learn more about kimono designers, models, etc
-Anyone searching for inspiration and ideas to develop their personal style

I would not recommend this book for:


-Beginners looking for how-to-dress guides
-People interested only in traditional kitsuke

 

This post contains affiliate link(s). If you choose to purchase, I receive a small rebate or commission which goes to the continued maintenance of this site.

Book Review – Dream Spectres: Extreme Ukiyo-e: Sex, Blood & The Supernatural

Dream Spectres: Extreme Ukiyo-e: Sex, Blood & The Supernatural
by Jack Hunter
Language: English
ISBN: 978-1840683011
Amazon.com Listing
Publisher’s Listing
Goodreads Page

This is a strange and fascinating little book. It’s an extensive collection of the “dark” side of traditional Japanese woodblock printing, running the gamut from pornography to police blotters to illustrations of traditional ghost stories.

The way it’s written is relatively sensationalist, but when you take the subject matter into account, there’s really no better way to present it. It wouldn’t be half as fun or interesting if it were written in a more dry, academic manner. Unfortunately, this also means the write-ups of the individual prints are not terribly in-depth, and I did occasionally find myself wanting more information than the book was able to give me. However, it’s a great introduction and included sections on certain types of prints I’d never heard of before, such as the shinbun nishiki-e, or brocade news prints, that were put up to illustrate particularly horrific or difficult police cases, allowing the general (and often illiterate) public to participate in current events.

Due to the nature of this book, all the example scans are distinctly NOT safe for work environments, or for people under the age of eighteen. If you are curious and would like to see examples from the content of this book, please follow the cut below. If you are underage, in a public area, or are easily upset by explicit or gory content, please DO NOT CLICK. I will not be held responsible for any consequences to be had from viewing the images below.

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