Review – Erstwilder “Nihon Journey” Collection

Erstwilder is a small Australian company that makes some of the most fun and funky accessories out there. So when I was presented with the opportunity to review some pieces from their new Japan-themed Nihon Journey collection, you can bet I was over the moon.

I selected three pieces; the Mysterious Maiko brooch, the Nishikigoi brooch, and the Noble Neko sweater chain/brooch. They arrived in beautiful boxes that serve as both protection and display, each one with a cute little card describing the design. The pieces are made out of layers of vivid, shimmering acrylic bonded together, and feel incredibly solid and secure without being bulky. They’d make excellent gifts for both kimono collectors and non-collectors alike. While these are all a fantastic way to inject a little Japanese flair into a non-kimono outfit, I thought they’d well and truly shine used as kitsuke accessories as well.

The polymath of the Japanese tea-houses across the land.
From serving to singing, dancing to dining. These girls do it all.

Mysterious Maiko is utterly lovely. She definitely has a hint of the vintage pin-up vibe Erstwilder does so well, but she’s still far more accurate than a lot of maiko and geiko imagery. It’s very clear that Carmen Hui, the designer of this collection, really loves and respects Japanese culture. The pieces are all quirky and unique, but still so undeniably Japanese in style and influence. The pattern detail on her kimono is gorgeous – I’d love one like this for myself. Her hairstyle is simplified, but definitely has the overall shape and volume it should. Her face, despite being reduced to a few graphic black and red swatches, still conveys a sense of coy playfulness. Since the pin back on this one is vertical, I just slid it around the obijime and I think she looks very at home here!

Koi ponds and water gardens are my habitat of choice.
Although I’ve often been known to appear in tattoo form.

Nishikigoi might be the stand-out for me. The colours used are so impossibly lush and deep and iridescent, and the photos I took barely do it justice. The water is rich and shimmery, the koi itself glows from within, and the blue and orange contrast each other perfectly. This brooch will need an obidome converter, unless you’re okay with the fishie being sideways. Honestly though, it works from all angles so if you don’t have access to a converter you could still make it work. I’m also absolutely going to be wearing this with western-style clothing too!

Never ignore my motion as I just might be attempting to divert you
from something dangerous on your intended path.

Noble Neko is absolutely adorable! I actually requested this one because I was curious to see how a traditional sweater chain would work as a haori-himo, and look how perfect it is! The two maneki neko are mirrored, which I think brings a lovely balance to the whole piece. Using it to hold your haori shut is the easiest thing, you can just slide the vertical pin backs through the loops on the haori, so there’s no chance of permanent damage. I honestly find it easier to do and undo than a traditional haori-himo or a chain-style himo. The neko are also small and subtle enough that they would work with a slightly more traditional outfit, while still injecting a bit of cuteness.

All in all, I am very impressed with this collection. The pieces are so well-made, and it’s clear this theme was designed with love and respect and just the right amount of whimsy. Far too often lately have we seen “Japanese” themed things released quickly and with no forethought, clearly designed to take advantage of a culture and aesthetic that’s not well-understood. That is absolutely not the case with Erstwilder. I am seriously debating adding a few more pieces from this collection as well as some from their other collections to my own stash!

If you’d like one of these for yourself (and I highly recommend them), the Nihon Journey collection is on sale as of today.

I received this item from the manufacturer for review purposes.If you have a topically appropriate craft, product, or service you would like me to review, please contact me.

Tea Time – Caesar’s Sencha Kyoto Cherry Rose

Caesar’s Tea is a local company that has displays of all sorts of amazing loose-leaf teas in higher-end supermarkets here in Quebec. I’d been curious about them for a while but never found myself picking anything up, for some reason. At least, that was true until I found their Caesar’s Tea Sencha Kyoto Cherry Rose at a store near me and decided to take the plunge. I love green teas and sakura flavour, so I figured even if it wasn’t fantastic it would still be enjoyable at the very least.

Thankfully, I had no reason to be concerned. The tea is delicious. It’s a delicate green tea with actual flower petals and a very light floral scent from the cherry blossoms and roses. It’s subtle, and not remotely artificial or overly sugary – definitely a hint of sakura but it’s delicate enough that it never risks overpowering or overwhelming the tea flavour in the least. It’s delicious alone, or with a bit of honey if you like your teas sweet. It’s even pretty to look at, with the soft pink flower petals. And since it’s been such a hot summer, you’ll be thrilled to know that it’s also great iced, or mixed with coconut milk

The only thing I would caution you about is that like any true green tea, it does tend to get a little bitter if you use boiling water or steep it too long. Just be sure you stop your kettle before it reaches a rolling boil, and don’t steep it for more than a couple of minutes and it will be great. I would even say it’s almost over-steeped in the photos below, but it didn’t bring out any noticeable bitter taste.

I am very much looking forward to trying some more of their teas. They have pre-measured cans of loose tea available in most large supermarkets, and are even adding loose tea dispensers in some locations, so you can measure out as little or as much as you want. I’ve got my fingers crossed my local supermarket will expand their selection sometime soon!

I purchased this item myself and chose to review it.If you have a topically appropriate craft, product, or service you would like me to review, please contact me.

Review: Kimono backpacks by Štěpán Hanzlík

Especially now that I can’t wear kimono on the regular, I’m always on the lookout for ways to inject a bit of wa, or essence of Japanese culture, into my regular wardrobe. I’ll do things like wear haori over western clothing or buy items and accessories in Japanese textiles. So when my friend Štěpán put up some backpacks he’d made with kimono fabric for sale, I jumped at the chance to own one.

These bags are incredibly well-made. I’ve had similar backpack-style drawstring bags in the past (most notably a Sailormoon one that I carried until it quite literally fell apart on me one day), and I’ve never had one as nicely finished as this. Typically, they’re made from one layer of fabric and a string. However, due to the delicate nature of kimono silk, Štěpán has smartly chosen to both line his bags with a heavy twill fabric and reinforce the bottom with coordinating vinyl. This means that the bags are very durable, putting almost no strain on the actual kimono fabric. The drawstrings are anchored through metal grommets that are inserted into the vinyl section, adding further stability and reinforcement.

There is a divider inside the liner, splitting the bag into two very practical pockets. There are also two tiny pockets made from more kimono silk, and they’re perfect for carrying small, frequently-used items like a phone and keys, so you don’t need to go digging around in the bottom of the bag. We’ve all missed a call or two because we couldn’t find a phone in the depths of an over-stuffed bag, right? ;) I have been using this one for a week now, and while it’s definitely more of an “event” bag than an everyday bag, it absolutely holds up to modern life. I am hoping to buy more of these when I have the budget.

Currently available bags can be found on Štěpán’s facebook page.

I purchased this item myself and chose to review it. If you have a topically appropriate craft, product, or service you would like me to review, please contact me.

Lily Furisode

It’s been literally several years since I bought a kimono. I still have ones I haven’t worn, ones that don’t fit, ones that I am too old for. I’d promised myself no more buying kimono.

And then Jess went and put this one up on the market. I have coveted this kimono for as long as she’s had it. I love the rich, dark green colour and the beautiful, delicate lilies. She needed money, I needed this kimono. Clearly, it was meant to be.

It arrived today, and it’s everything I’d been hoping for and more. I can’t wait to dress Tsukiko in it!

The body is a gorgeous rich deep green, intersected with a sort of ribbon-like fluid design and lilies. The hem is navy blue, which I did not realise in the photos!

Lily Furisode Detail

Lily Furisode Hem Detail Lily Furisode Sleeve Detail

A couple of new ro

With summer rapidly (and hotly) approaching, I figured it was high time I invest in a few more ro pieces. I managed to snag these two for a great price, and since they were from the same seller and summer sheer weave is very light, the shipping was very affordable too. When all was said and done, I paid just over $20 for the two of them, shipping included.

Grey-blue ro tsukesage with flowers
Blue-grey ro tsukesage
Blue-grey ro tsukesage
I love how soft and painterly this looks – like an impressionist watercolour. It’s definitely got a cool, breezy feel to it and I really can’t wait to wear it. I think it will look lovely with my white sha hakata and pink accessories.

Cream komon with suzu
Ro komon with suzu
Ro komon with suzu

From a distance, this doesn’t look like much – just beige with yellow dots, but up close you can see that the “dots” are actually adorable little round bells, printed in a sort of faux-bingata style. It’s absolutely adorable! Unfortunately, it’s also incredibly narrow, so I need to get off my wider-than-average butt and widen the side seams.