Traveling down the Tokaido Road

This is an entry that’s been a long time in coming. It may get a bit verbose, and I apologize. If you’re not interested in personal ramblings and art-related discussion, feel free to skip it.

My interest in kimono stemmed from an interest in traditional Japanese aesthetic in general, which I believe I inherited from my grandmother. I have always been fond of traditional woodblock prints; landscapes in particular.

The Tokaido Road is a highway connecting the New Capital, Edo (tokyo), with the Old Capital, Kyoto. There are 53 famous way-stations along this road, plus the start and end points. Edo-era artist Hiroshige Ando became so enamored of the views of these stations that he produced several series of prints, known as the “Stations of the Tokaido“. There are four editions of these, each from slightly different vantage points and during different times of year. The most famous, however, is the Hoeido Edition, and is the one I will most often be referencing here.

About a year ago, I found an obi on Ichiroya of a snow-covered cabin in the mountains. As soon as I saw it, I felt an immense pull and a desperate desire to have it. As I’ve mentioned before, my best friend lives in Colorado, and I often go visit him (sometimes buying kimono while I’m there), and I initially chalked the nostalgia the obi made me feel to my love of the mountains there. Naomi‘s darling husband Arian took pity on me and my obsessive infatuation, and bought me the obi as a gift.

The more I thought about it though, the more visually and emotionally familiar it felt. It took me a while, and a great bit of help from Erica, it finally hit me. It was a creative interpretation of Station 15, Kambara, with the people removed.

This discovery, unfortunately, created a torrent I’ve since been unable to stop. I dove headfirst into more detailed research of the Stations of the Tokaido, mostly on the internet, but in my own bookshelves as well. I’d actually purchased books about Hiroshige years before, and one that’s always come in handy is Hiroshige In Tokyo, by Julian Bicknell. Armed with a new wealth of information and a new obsesson, I dove in. I made the unfortunate discovery that these prints are a fairly popular motif for kimono and related items – obi in particular. With that knowledge in hand, I have begun to amass a “collection within a collection,” if you will.

Since that first obi, I have acquired several more, and a decorative dance fan. My ambition is to eventually have items with all the stations on them, but that is a long-term goal for when I have much more expendable income!

I am not sure, but I believe this is an interpretation of Station 14, Yoshiwara. As always, if you have further information or can read the text on it, by all means let me know.

This one is also very special to me – I have mentioned before my love of hakata, so when I found an obi that was both hakata weave and several stations, I knew I had to have it. I saved up, and the day I was ready to purchase it, someone I know online bought it for herself. I’m not going to lie, I was devastated. Through her own kindness, and the helpfulness of Yuka at Ichiroya, the obi found its way to me. I love it to bits. It contains stations Kuwana, Mariko, and Hakone.

The last obi is another one of Hakone. I already had the hakata one at this point, but I loved the soft pastel colours on this one and it was a bargain, so I couldn’t pass it up.

The last item I currently own is not an obi, but rather a nice, solid dance fan. It has the starting point (or station 0 if you will), Nihonbashi Bridge.

I am, in fact, so obsessed with this that I am currently coveting a particular nail polish – NARS Tokaido Express. Those of you who know me well are aware that I also have a passion for doing my nails and ferreting away a huge collection of nail polishes (I have over 200 at this point). When I found this polish, I knew I had to have it! The fact that it’s a gorgeous rich espresso brown with purple and gold shimmer doesn’t help! Unfortunately, it’s an expensive designer brand and actually more expensive than several of my cheaper kimono! I will have it eventually though! Probably much sooner than the kimono-related goal.

Hanamaru Kofurisode; in which I am a moron

It’s 32 degrees out (90 F). So what do I do, as soon as I come home and find my brand new lined synthetic kofurisode in the mail? Lovingly admire it and fold it away for cooler weather, like a sane person would? Of course not! I decided to coordinate an outfit and put it on ASAP.

I decided to pair it up with my pink and white hakata obi. This thing is like cardboard! It was a huge pain in the posterior to tie, but once I got it, it totally stayed put, which was awesome. I used my hellow shibori obiage and hakata obijime, to go with the yellow kasane-eri that was already built into the kimono. Some purple tabi tied in well with the flowers. My Aikoku Fujinkai obidome was the perfect finishing touch, it almost looks like it was made for the kimono.

And of course, my big orange lug insisted on making an appearance.

I really love how the whole outfit turned out, and I will definitely wear it out, possibly on my birthday in November when the lining and the motifs all make more sense with the weather!

Shifuku and Usagi Houmongi

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ve technically already seen this particular kimono, when I wore it out to the park (and then subsequently dinner, but I did not take photos of that) a few weeks back. I finally had some time to take proper catalogue photographs, and it’s a piece that really needs to be appreciated in detail.

The kimono is a subtle pastel gradient. I honestly did not even notice the gentle lavender at the shoulders until I hung it up to take the reference photos. The gold is also really soft and gentle. I don’t typically like large areas of gold leaf on a kimono, but on this one it’s not in-your-face.

However, the real magic is the embroidery on the front panels. I was informed that they are shifuku, or silk pouches used to protect items used during tea ceremony. The embroidery is done entirely in french knots, a technique known as saraga nui. I cannot imagine the time, patience, and skill required to do this.

The most special shifuku in my eyes is by far the one with the adorable white rabbit on it. It’s the sole reason I bought the kimono. He’s just so charming and quirky, on what is otherwise a very subdued and mature kimono.

Book Review – Okimono Kimono

Okimono Kimono CoverOkimono Kimono
by Mokona CLAMP
ISBN-10: 1-59582-456-1
Language: English
Dark Horse Comics listing
Amazon.com listing

I had been lusting after this book for quite some time. I was initially planning on buying the original Japanese version and looking at the pictures, but then a friend alerted me to the news that they were working on an English translation so I held back, keeping an eye on the release date. For whatever reason, the date got pushed back. And pushed back. And pushed back again. From mid-March straight through to early June. But the wait is over, and a copy is in my grubby little hands! Well worth it, too!

The book is divided into sections, including photoshoots with art kimono painted by Mokona, outfit inspirations and suggestions, an adorable interview with Ami of PuffyAmiYumi where they discuss kimono, photographs of her collections, an interview with Katsumi Yumioka and some lovely outdoor photoshoots.

Mokona’s style is a great blend of vintage and modern, and she always encourages injecting your own personality into outfits, and to relax and have fun. This sort of book is a refreshing change from the austere regulatory style of things like The Book of Kimono or magazines like Utsukushii Kimono.

There are, however, no how-to guides, no tutorials, and no listings of what is necessary to wear kimono. There are selections of accessories and photos of kimono, but this is not a book for people learning how to dress in any manner. It is for people who already know the foundations and are looking to inject new life into their personal look.

I would recommend this book for:


-People looking for cute and unique outfit inspiration.
-Fans of CLAMP.
-People looking to experiment and have fun with their kimono.
-People who appreciate vintage kimono and are unafraid of colour and pattern.

I would not recommend this book for:


-People learning how to dress in kimono.
-People looking for traditional or formal kimono style.
-People who prefer understated looks.

 

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.

Musings on Iromuji

Iromuji are probably the most versatile kimono you can own. They are solid-coloured kimono, either uncrested or single-crested. They can be worn relatively casually with a simple nagoya obi, or dressed up with a formal fukuro obi. They’re appropriate for everything from religious observances to tea ceremonies to weddings (if they’re crested), and their solid colour serves as a great backdrop for showing of really spectacular obi.

They’re a great investment, both for someone with a large collection looking to expand and for someone just starting out.

I have three, but I would definitely like to invest in more in the future.

Mint-green iromuji with watery rinzu


The auction photos when I purchased this gave it a much more ice blue cast, but I can’t say I’m disappointed in the lovely minty green shade of this particular kimono. The textured rinzu weave is so lush that it almost looks like different colours. I’ve paired this up with several obi that are difficult to work with, and it always manages to work out great.

Rose-pink Iromuji


This is an amazingly flattering soft pink. I’ve only worn it out once, but I felt really girly in it, without it being overbearing. It also makes a great foil for several of my obi I had lying around that didn’t match anything I had before.

Leaf-green Iromuji


I love the weave on this one, it’s covered in tiny little houses, bridges, and trees. The silk also has this amazing, nearly-iridescent quality to it. In some lights it leans yellow-green, in other lights it’s got a subtle blue cast. I tried to capture both in the photographs, but did not quite succeed. Unfortunately, this piece is small for me. Not so small that I can’t wear it, but it can get a bit messy after wearing it for a while. Luckily, it fits my friend Amelie really well, and looks great on her!