Netsuke and obi-kazari

When it comes to kimono, there is not much leeway for jewelry. Necklaces are typically hidden by the collar, brooches would potentially damage the fabrics. Subtle bracelets, a watch, and a ring or two are typically considered acceptable, but if you want big, flashy, statement pieces, the place to go is for obi decorations.

The most common sort of these would be obidome, brooches worn on the obijime. I only have one “real” obidome, and have already written about it. Obidome are possibly one of the most expensive items in a kimono wardrobe, often made with pearls, diamonds, and other rare gems. World-renowned Japanese Jewelry designers such as Mikimoto have been known to make them, and the prices typically reflect this. It's also rather rare that they trickle down into the secondary Western market, which helps to drive the prices through the roof, even for pieces that don't have gems or precious metals in them.

However, there's no reason they (like many other kimono accessories) cannot be improvised! Here are a few easily attainable items I've been known to use in lieu of true obidome.

Vintage Agate Brooch

This was a brooch belonging to my grandmother. It's a large oval chunk of agate with a filigree frame. I've got to be careful about this one, since I do pin it to the obijime, but as long as I'm delicate, there's no permanent damage.

Vintage Leaf Scarf Clip

This is a vintage scarf clip, typically used to hold a silk scarf around your neck without damaging it. The clip mechanism is great for snapping onto a wide, flat obijime. I've been meaning to buy more of these, as they are cute, versatile, and very easy to use.

Handmade brass belt buckle

This is a brass belt buckle my grandmother had made when she was younger. The designs on it remind me of typical Japanese motifs, maybe plum and chrysanthemum. It fits well over the knot of a rounded obijime, and looks like it was meant to go there.

Glass leaves

I honestly have no idea what these are intended for. They were on leather cords when I bought them, so I suppose they could be used as necklaces? In any case, they fit well over smaller obijime and add a lovely bit of sparkle to a casual outfit. Unfortunately, they're glass and they do dangle down so there's always the risk of clipping them against a table or counter, so I don't wear these out much.

The other alternative I'm rather fond of are netsuke. Traditionally, netsuke were worn only by men, and used to hold inro (medecine/tobacco pouches) in place on the obi. It is becoming more common for women to wear them though, particularly “cute” ones, with casual outfits. I have a fascination with all things marine, cephalopods in particular. I've never seen an octopus or squid on a kimono, however they do show up on netsuke with some regularity, so this is a way for me to inject a little bit of my obsession into my outfits.

Large Octopus Netsuke

Big goofy octopus made of boxwood. Mass-produced replica of an older design, but still awesome.

Goldfish Netsuke

A cute little bubble-eye goldfish. Also mass-produced boxwood.

Catfish and Ball Netsuke

This is slightly older than the previous two, made of a darker, heavier wood. It also has an ivory inset on the other side with an artist's mark stamped into it. I'm not sure what the ball is supposed to represent, but I think it's cute.

Tiny Octopus Netsuke

This was a surprise gift from Christy, and it made me squeal with glee. It's another octopus, but it's absolutely tiny and delicate and ridiculously adorable. I love how it looks sort of like a grumpy old man. I've not worn it yet, but I can't wait to!

Aikoku Fujinkai Obidome

A while back I posted an outfit wearing this piece and promised I'd devote an entry to it. Since then I've been trying to glean more information on it, with limited success.

The design on it is a stylized interpretation of the crest of the Aikoku Fujinkai (愛國婦人會), or Patriotic Women's Association. This was a group of women who were somehow connected to the military, and served as a support and volunteer group during times of conflict. As far as I know, the design comes from the combination of three elements: The star represents the Army, the anchor represents the Navy, and the sakura blossom represents the Woman. This site gives many more visual references for items with the crest on it, and this one shows many of the items that members may have used in entertaining.

Christina was kind enough to attempt a translation of the inscription on the back.

“Patriotic Women's Association, Hiroshima Prefecture branch
3rd(?) Anniversary” (Aikoku Fujinkai Hiroshimaken shibu daisan(?) kinen)

Unfortunately, I've as of yet been unable to determine when the Hiroshima branch was started, so I can't determine when its third anniversary was. The association was borderline nationalistic, from what I've come to understand, and finding detailed (and English!) information about it is proving difficult.

If anyone happens to stumble across this entry while doing research or anything, and has further information for me, I would love to hear it. I'd love to know more about the woman who may have owned this piece. It may not be in the best shape, but to me that only increases the value. It's a piece of history and one of the items in my collection I am most proud of.