Movies with kimono eye-candy

So, 2011 is off with a bang. I started the year with one of the worst bouts of stomach flu I’ve had in years. I couldn’t hold down food, at one point I was delirious with fever to the point where I was hallucinating. That finally dissipated and I was able to relax a bit and have some fun in kimono, which led to the outfit in the previous entry. Unfortunately, I let my guard down too soon. Last Monday we had some guests over and I suppose I got a bit too animated during dinner, because I managed to scratch my cornea with a heavy silver fork. Yes, that truly is as painful as you’d imagine. It’s also as hilarious as you’d imagine. You are welcome to laugh. At least I managed to make my eye patch pretty. It has pearls, rhinestones, and sakura on it!

In any case, it seems like the world is against me so far this year, and we’re only a week in. I’ve had several things I’ve wanted to write about, but I just don’t have the energy. My right eye is totally covered, and my left eye has to do all the work. My vision in my left eye is very weak, at best, so it tires very easily. However, I love you guys and rather than just not post anything until this nonsense is over, I thought I would share two movies I really enjoyed both for the content and the gorgeous, luscious kimono in them. These are not going to be in-depth reviews, just suggestions if you’re looking for something fun to watch and ogle costumes in.

Based on a comic book by Moyoco Anno, this is the story of a young girl who is sold to a pleasure house and works her way through the ranks to become the most popular and most desired oiran (courtesan) in Edo-era Yoshiwara. It is by no means historically accurate – first and foremost it’s a drama and romance. Visually, though, it is a stunning, breathtaking movie. It was translated incredibly well from comic framing to live-action, with the addition of vivid, borderline psychedelic colours. The kimono, of course, are to die for. There is a scene where the main character wears a zebra-striped obi that made me weak in the knees when I first saw it.

If you’re looking for a lush romp through sumptuous settings, by all means, check Sakuran out. However, please bear in mind that this is after all the story of a high-class prostitute so there are scenes of nudity and sexuality.

Sakuran on IMDB
Sakuran on Wikipedia

This movie is in a completely different vein. It’s a comedy set in modern-day Japan. Onizuka-san is a salaryman stuck in a dead-end job and his dream is to play drinking games with a maiko. When he gets transferred to Kyoto he goes through a rather ridiculous series of events in an effort to make his dream come true. While the slapstick aspects of Japanese comedy wear thin on my nerves at times, the movie does have some more serious and introspective moments that serve to break up the frivolity. And of course, since it takes place primarily in Gion, the geisha district of Kyoto, there are tons of beautiful, fierce kimono.

This movie, while still dealing with some mature themes, is probably a little more appropriate for a wider audience. Onizuka spends a fair bit of time in his undergarments, but that’s about the worst that happens.

Maiko-haaaan! on IMDB
Maiko-haaaan! on Wikipedia

Now, generally I do not actively encourage illegal acts, but neither of these movies have been distributed outside of Japan, and even if you were to purchase Japanese DVDs there is no guarantee they would work on your DVD player or computer, due to region codes. Currently, the best way to watch these movies is by downloading torrents off of a site like The Pirate Bay. However, if these are ever officially and legally released in your country of residence, I implore you to support the actors, directors, and of course the costume departments, by buying a legitimate copy.

Have a Very Hime New Year!

Right before Christmas, my sweet mother tried to help save my sanity at work by finding scans of a few volumes of Kimono-Hime and sending them to me to read. Clearly, this was a horrible mistake. When I got the adorable lobster tsuke-obi mentioned in the previous entry, I decided I’d do a really non-standard coordination inspired by the Kimono-Hime magazines. I decided to have some fun with layering, and rather than use a juban, I used my yabane komon and arranged it to be visible at the hem and sleeves as well as the collar. I hiked my hems up and used some of my favourite pumps and silver-and-black striped knee socks. While I certainly wouldn’t wear this outfit in any “normal” context, I’m actually really happy with how it came together. It feels more like a dress than kimono, and I sort of love that!

Kimono-hime inspired outfit with lobster obi Kimono-hime inspired outfit with lobster obi Kimono-hime inspired outfit with lobster obi

Kimono-hime inspired outfit with lobster obi

Kimono-hime inspired outfit with lobster obi

My mom also got me this gorgeous hand-blown glass lobster, and I couldn’t resist posing with it. Of course, Vinnie had to get in on the action too.
Kimono-hime inspired outfit with lobster obi

Kimono-hime inspired outfit with lobster obi

I went a little overboard with the photos for this one, and rather than make this too image-heavy, if you want to see the rest please check my Flickr :)i

Tsuke-obi – cheat or genius?

Sorry for the lack of updates! Sometime between Christmas and Boxing day I received the heartwarming and thoughtful gift of gastroenteritis. I’m starting to feel better, but still don’t have a lot of energy for kitsuke. Since I’ve acquired a few new ones lately, I thought it would be a good time to discuss tsuke-obi, or pre-tied obi.

There are a few camps when it comes to tsuke-obi. Some people are staunchly against them in any situation, some people have to rely on them because they’re not confident enough yet, and some, like myself, think that well-made ones have their place in any decent kimono wardrobe. They’re a godsend when you’re not feeling well and don’t have the energy to deal with an obi, or if you need to dress a bunch of people in a hurry. They’re useful for fancy furisode musubi that would otherwise require two people to tie. They’re also great for dressing people who don’t have a lot of experience wearing kimono, since they don’t need to be tied as tightly as a “real” obi would be.

Some of them definitely look cheap and are obviously pre-tied. The brightly coloured polyester types with a large butterfly bow that often come with yukata sets are a prime example of these. Except in the direst of situations, I’d never recommend going out and getting one of those, because nothing says “I can’t be bothered!” more than one. Especially if worn with anything dressier than a yukata! However, there are definitely nicer examples. Often times they’re made with solid old obi that have been damaged, or were owned and loved by someone who may have gotten too old to tie her obi efficiently. Some of them are also mass-manufactured, but in a way as to look more like “real” obi. They come in several different musubi, or bows, such as otaiko, niijudaiko, and some larger and more elaborate ones for furisode. Often times, once these are tied on properly and an obiage and obijime added, it’s virtually impossible to tell they are pre-tied. I’ve got a few of them, and two of them are probably some of my favourite obi in my collection.

Pente Lobster obi
Pente Lobster Tsuke-obi
Pente Lobster Tsuke-obi

This is such a stunning piece. I found it on eBay right before the holidays and my folks encouraged me to go ahead and get it and it would be a gift from them. I’m so thrilled. I’ve mentioned my fondness for lobster motif before, and this is not my first lobster obi, but it felt different enough from the one I had that I felt fully justified in buying it.

Pente is an interesting and relatively uncommon technique – it’s a thin layer of paint daubed onto the surface of usually solid black silk. It was popular after WWII when there were a lot of damaged pieces floating about and people generally didn’t have huge budgets for fancy embroidery techniques or high-end dye methods. It was also used to re-work mofuku (funerary wear) into something more useful for everyday, stretching the wardrobe budget further. Unfortunately, due to the nature of most paint, it’s incredibly fragile. It sits on the surface of the garment rather than sinking in, and decades of tugging and pulling on the obi while it’s being tied leaves most vintage pente obi in states of disrepair, paint flaking off or peeling in huge chunks. Because of this I generally avoid anything pente, but because this was a tsuke-obi there was virtually no stress on the paint and it’s in flawless condition.

One of the other interesting and relatively unique things about this particular obi is the way it’s tied. Like most pre-tied obi, it’s in a standard otaiko musubi, but unlike more mass-market ones, it’s tied on a quirky, jaunty angle. This really helps make it look like a “real” obi, and definitely gives it a lot more personality than a perfectly level one.

Black and white hakata obi
I make no secret of my ridiculous love affair with all things hakata, but somehow I’d never managed to acquire a standard black and white weave. When I found this one I fully expected it to go for more than I was willing to spend, but I figured I’d throw out a bid and see what happened. Imagine my shock when nobody else bid! This is another variation of an easy obi, it’s not really pre-tied, just separated into a narrow waist bit and a wider bit to tie the actual drum with. It requires a bit more time and effort than a fully tied one, but also allows for more leeway in tying.

Cream tsuke-obi with navy, ruby, and silver foliage
White Tsuke-Obi
This is the first tsuke-obi I purchased, and was really the one that made me a convert. It’s a heavy almost silk blend that almost feels like parchment or canvas. The majority of the vines and leaves are dyed, but the red and silver ones, and a small selection of the navy ones, are embroidered over top, which adds a depth you don’t usually see in mass-market pre-tied obi.

Red synthetic with black flocked irises
Red Tsuke-Obi
This one is a synthetic, washable faux-tsumugi in a bright fire-engine red. It also has the strangest inflatable obi-makura (obi-pillow) sewn into it. I bought it mainly because of the flocking, which I loved, but it’s become a mainstay for a quick hit of colour.

Merry Christmas, dear readers!

Just a quick post to wish anyone celebrating Christmas today a wonderful holiday. If you’re not celebrating Christmas, I hope you had a wonderful holiday whenever and whatever it was, and that you have a great weekend! That lovely goof in my tree is my beloved Vinnie. He’s the only decoration we need!

I was a lucky duck and got a wonderful lobster tsuke-obi and some beautiful watercolour prints of traditional Kumadori makeup that I will be sharing soon. I actually have several gorgeous Japanese pieces of artwork I’ve received recently that I’ve been meaning to post – perhaps I’ll do an entry about them now that I finally have a bit of time off.

Did you get any wonderful kimono or related items as gifts this year? If so, what did you get! Please share in the comments 🙂