My biggest fans!

Wow, that title was lame and predictable, was it not? But still, it’s pretty perfect.

Kimono can get very very hot. One of the easiest and prettiest ways to deal with this is simply tucking a pretty and useful fan into your purse, sleeve, or obi. I only have a few, but they’re versatile 🙂

Two-sided dance fan


There is a long and sweet story behind this fan. The city I live in, Montreal, is one of the biggest ports in Canada, and the main entrance into the St. Lawrence seaway. Because of this, we get all kinds of strange boat traffic from all over the world. When I was very young, my parents and I were in the old port area and we came across a gentleman who happened to be a member of the Japanese Navy. His English and French skills were virtually non-existent, and he had gotten himself lost and could not find his way back to the port, or his ship. My father was working in aeronautics at the time and had a few dealings with people from Mitsubishi, and somehow had cobbled together enough to figure out what the poor gentleman was trying to say, so we happily led him back towards the port. His fellow officers were very grateful, and invited us onto the ship for sake (or in my severely underage case, juice).
This fan, along with a banner with the ship’s name, were given to my family as tokens of appreciation for the whole thing.

Stations of The Tokaido – Nihonbashi fan

Yet another item in my strange obsessive collection of Stations of the Tokaido motif items – my only fan, though!

Goldfish fan

Cute summery fan with kingyo (goldfish) motif.

White fan with silver flecks

This was included as a free gift with a couple of obi I bought.

Pink fan with flowers

Given to me as a gift quite a few years ago

Pink bunny fan

Adorable chubby bunnies. I had to have it, clearly.

Tokaido Fukuro Obi, through the kindness of another

Every once in a while, someone does something amazingly kind that you absolutely don’t deserve, and it reminds you that there are still some truly kind and exceptional people out there. Suara, one of the members of the Immortal Geisha forums, is one of those people.

As I’ve mentioned before, I love anything with the Tokaido 53 Stations motif, and there was a gorgeous obi on eBay that I had my heart set on. Several friends and family members all offered up some cash to help me get it, and I put in a ridiculously high maximum bid. Things went perfectly until the very last second, when I was sniped. I was devastated. I posted a rather angry and expletive-laced rant on the forums, and did my best to move on.

A few days later, another beautiful obi with the same motif but different stations got posted, and I was determined to get it. Unfortunately, I’d suffered the violent death of my backup hard-drive and had to re-prioritize my finances. I bid what I could, got outbid, and yet again posted on the forums, expressing my frustrations.

Fast-forward a few weeks, after a rather long and stressful few days, when I come home to this in my inbox:

Dear Moony,

The last obi for over $170,– made you so sad and I know how much you like this series of Obis. That is why I bid and fought for this obi as a small present to you. A present to say thank you for your kind help, not only to me but also as a mod for many many people here at IG. I tryed to let this obi send to you directly, but I did not have your name and address, nor you Ebay name, and I think, the seller did not realy know what I wanted. So instead of taking any risk, that a wrong person gets it, it is on its way to me, and if you would be so kind to send me your name and address, I will send it right to you ok?

I think that you are a wonderful person, so please except this small gift to show my apreciation.

Kind regards from Germany,

Suara

I was at a total loss for words – in fact, I started crying. While the entire forum is a close-knit community, I’d never dealt directly and personally with Suara, never had any interactions that I’d have imagined would have made such an impression. I was, and still am, beyond touched.

I made a promise to wear the obi and photograph it as soon as possible – unfortunately when it arrived this morning it was too hot for boxers and a tank top, let alone a kimono suitable for this amazing piece. However, I did think that the situation deserved at least catalogue photos, because it’s too beautiful not to share.

The obi base is a soft neutral with a slight shimmer – not quite gold, and not quite cream. The three stations on it are Ishiyakushi, Ohtsu, and Odawara. They’re woven in with great detail in a mix of warm browns and beiges and cool blue and green. The obi is lush and gorgeous, and will make an amazing complement to my strange chidori houmongi/kurotomesode hybrid, as well as several other kimono.

Station 9, Odawara

Station 44, Ishiyakushi

Station 53, Ohtsu

*A quick note on my station numbering – some people may have noticed that it doesn’t always correspond with the numbering used on all websites. The problem is that some places start the road with Nihonbashi being 0 while some consider it station 1. I stick with the numbering system the first reference I used, which starts at 0.

Book Review – When Art Became Fashion: Kosode in Edo-Period Japan

When Art Became Fashion: Kosode in Edo-Period Japan
by Dale Carolyn Gluckman & Sharon Sadako Takeda
Language: English
ISBN-10: 083480266X
Amazon.com listing
(nb: This volume may be found on eBay for significantly lower price)

I found this book while browsing the “ending soon” section on eBay. I’d never heard of it before, and wasn’t sure if it would be worth the $25 it was being sold for, so I looked it up quickly on Amazon. There was a glowing review by KimonoMomo, whose opinion I greatly respect when it comes to Japanese textiles, and the least expensive used copy available was priced at roughly $65. Based on those factors, I figured it would definitely be worth the investment. Unfortunately, I did not think to ask the seller – shopenjapan – about shipping costs from LA to Montreal, and had a bit of a case of sticker-shock when they sent me the invoice. They did everything in their power to get me the lowest price, were very patient while I tried to find an alternate shipping solution, and when the final shipping to me cost less than anticipated they refunded me the difference. In the end it was still less expensive than buying a used copy on Amazon, and the service was great. I’ll definitely buy from them again if they list similar books!

So, was it worth it? Absolutely! It is actually an illustrated museum catalogue for an exhibit of the same name, much like Kazari: Decoration and Display in Japan 15th-19th Centuries, which I reviewed earlier. It is divided into essays about many topics, from the evolution of the kosode to calligraphy as a motif to the cultural and social impact and relevance of red “beni” dye. Each essay is complemented by many lush full colour photographs and multiple page spreads, as well as smaller inserted black and white and detail shots. When I first got it, I spent several nights simply ogling the photos.

The essays themselves are written in a fairly dry academic style, but they are not difficult to read or alienating to people unfamiliar with the terminology. Any Japanese terms are italicized and explained in clear plain English the first time they make an appearance. There is a very useful glossary of terms in the background that is a huge asset to anyone interested in kimono either as wearable clothing or as historical costume, as well as many fascinating and well-organized charts and graphs documenting the flow of Japanese historical eras, common kosode pattern layouts, and garment dimensions. It is not something I’d suggest for light bedtime reading, but it makes an excellent addition to any kimono-specific or Japanese cultural reference library. Several of the kimono in the book are also in the Kyoto Shoin, Yuzen edition book, but I found this to be a good thing – it was very interesting to see that some of these garments are so historically famous and relevant that they appear in multiple texts.

The layout of the book is also very lovely, the text is clear and the images are crisp and beautiful, with vivid colours and plenty of detail shots. Captions are always large enough to be legible but small enough not to be obtrusive. There are also some very charming touches, such as the text on the first page of each section being in the shape of a kimono. This may not seem like such a big thing, but it really adds to the cohesive feel of the whole book, and as someone who studied document layout in college it really tickled me.

I would recommend this book for:


-People interested in the history of Japanese textiles.
-People studying historical fashion or evolution of fashion and trends.
-People interested in Edo-era Japan.
-People looking for beautiful photos of kimono.

I would not recommend this book for:


-People looking for how-to-wear guides.
-People looking for coordination ideas.

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.

From the Archives – Hydrangea ro komon

Unfortunately, life’s been both hectic and humid here lately and I haven’t had many opportunities to wear kimono. Hopefully the pictures of new items and book reviews and whatnot have been interesting to you guys. I am really enjoying the book reviews and I’m really hoping to do more in the future. However, this is afterall a kimono blog and it’s about time I posted some more pictures of outfits!

These pictures are actually quite old, from when I first got the outfit, nearly two years ago. However, they are of my first (and only!) ro summer weave outfit, so I figured they might be worthwhile to share at this time of year! I was saving them because I had planned to wear this outfit again to an art exhibit I attended recently (I will be posting an entry about that soon, don’t worry!) but unfortunately the weather wasn’t cooperating, nor was the knee I injured a few days beforehand. I ended up wearing a haori with jeans and a nice top. Boo.

The kimono itself is a deep navy, with bright white and pink hydrangeas printed all over. The obi is cream and hakata weave. When I bought it, I thought it was white, but the cream is a nice contrast against the navy. The accessories are a soft pale pink, to tie in with the hydrangea. I have also since bought a pair of pink lace tabi to wear with this outfit, but have no photos yet.

Please forgive the excessive amount of bosoms going on in this outfit – at the time I was using a bright lime-green rubber datejime to flatten my bust, and there was no way of hiding it under the kimono, since it’s semi-transparent. I had to do without, and this is what the girls look like when not sufficiently strapped down.

Hey, hey, wait a minute, Mister Postman!

Sometimes, I suspect the mail carriers in this area really dislike me. I’m constantly getting big packages. Today, I really surpassed myself with three separate deliveries! One, a book called When Art Became Fashion: Kosode in Edo-Period Japan, arrived in the regular post and I will be writing a review of it when I have time to read it properly. First impressions are very positive though.

The other packages were larger, and more unwieldy, and the mail carrier was kind enough to leave them with my neighbours since I was at the cardiologist. Getting home was like having an unexpected birthday, or Christmas come early! So much pretty stuff! Since there are so many things included here, I have used smaller-than-usual photographs. Please click on them to view big versions, they will open in a new window.

Black zori with red chirimen accents

One of the few things I actually truly needed was another pair of casual, comfortable zori. Nearly all the footwear I owned prior to this was very dressy, all in shiny metallic vinyl or silk brocade. These fit nicely and I absolutely love the colour combo and the little chirimen silk insert in the stacked heel. They were a total bargain at $10!

Grey purse with kiku and black trim

This purse, and the one below it, were being sold by one of the sellers I regularly buy kimono from. They’re modern, and made of heavy denim-like cotton, but the designs are definitely kimono-inspired. This one in particular I can definitely see using every day. I love the contrast of the soft, girly fabric and the hard leatherette and metal details.

Red purse with ume and cream trim

This purse was bought at the same time as the previous one. It’s much bigger than I anticipated (I suspect the measurements listed were off), but definitely no complaints there! It’s fun and bright and while I don’t anticipate using it every day, it will definitely be a way to add a splash of colour and personality to a quiet outfit, either kimono or western clothing.

Now comes the find of the month, a bundle of five vintage obi for a total of twelve dollars (plus S&H). They were listed as “scrap fabric,” but as you’ll see four of them are completely wearable as-is, and the fifth one I am going to attempt to salvage and turn into a two-part easy obi.

Vintage cream nagoya obi with fans, thread spindles, and flowers

This is the main reason I bid on the bundle in the first place. I am just head over heels in love with this obi. The colours and style of yuzen make me suspect it’s late Taisho or early Showa, and even if it’s not it still evokes the feel nicely. I plan to wear it with my indigo Taisho houmongi sometime soon.

Mustard obi with flowers

I openly admit I am not very fond of the base colour of this obi, it’s a sort of a strange gold/mustard, but the woven flowers are very pretty and versatile, so I’m sure I will find a good use for it.

Cream obi with orange and silver waves

I’ve wanted something with a smooth wave motif for a while now, and this more than satisfies my urge. It’s vibrant and graphic and I like it very much.

White obi with red and gold flowers

The auction photos really didn’t do this one justice. It looked like a cute but relatively boring obi with some gold weaving and round dots. In person, both the gold and the red have such a rich silky shimmer to them that they look like rubies set in gold filigree.

Blue obi with herons

This was dubbed the Narwhal Bird Obi by my friend Kansai_Gal and I can totally see why XD. Unfortunately, it’s also the obi that is severely damaged – the silk is shredded to ribbons right above the folded area where the main heron is. Hopefully, I will be able to carefully cut it and sew it into a two-part obi. I will record my attempts and write an entry about that sometime in the near future. If worse comes to worst, I will simply turn it into haneri and possibly an obiage. The fabric will get used, one way or another.