Gardens of Light 2019

I don’t know if it’s the changing seasons or the general state of the world or what, but my motivation for new content hasn’t been fantastic lately. Also, I’m still unreasonably enamoured of the last outfit I put on the mannequin and don’t want to change it yet.

However, I don’t want to leave you guys hanging for too long! And I’ve been sitting on these photos trying to decide if they were relevant enough to share for a year. A year! I’m such a trash panda sometimes. That said, I figured I may as well get off my butt and share.

Every year, the Montreal Botanical Gardens holds a lantern festival called Gardens of Light. The reason I was hesitant to share this initially is that the bulk of the lanterns are in the Chinese Pavilion, and I try to avoid encouraging that “all far-east Asian cultures are analogous” mentality. But there are also displays in the Japanese Garden, as well as exhibits of Japanese items inside the smaller Japanese pavilion. Also they’re just beautiful lanterns and we all need some beauty right now.

Last year, I was lucky enough to finally meet Elsa of Elsa Eats after knowing her online for nearly fifteen years now. She and her sister were in town for a short period of time, so we hit up a food truck gathering, then the lantern festival, and then drinks and snacks over at Le Blossom Bar. We all had a lovely time, and one day when I find myself on her side of the pond we can do this again.

And without further ado, the photos! First up, of course, the lanterns.

The Lanterns

Japanese Pavilion

Blossom Bar

Art Gallery – Haruka & Michiru Wafuku Re-Draw

Forget Usagi and Mamoru, everyone knows that Haruka and Michiru were the real power couple of Sailor Moon. I’ve always loved it when wafuku shows up in anime, so of course I’ve got a soft spot for this iconic imagery of these two in kimono but the colour and design choices always felt a bit arbitrary to me. I’ve had some free time recently (thanks, covid!) and thought it might be fun to redraw that screenshot but put the two of them in kimono that more closely reflected their outfits and personalities.

Haruka’s dressed in a typically maculine style, with colours lifted from her Sailor fuku. There’s a pattern of clouds and thunder dragons on her haori as a nod to her powers. Michiru’s in her typical palette of blues and teals, with a seigaiha wave design on her houmongi. Her obi has a subtle motif of sheet music to reflect her love of the violin. A simple background pulls everything together without being distracting, and I’m quite pleased with how this turned out.

Furisode Glam

Ahhhh! I can’t get over the pairing of this kimono and obi! It’s just.. *chefs kiss*. The obi was part of my final Ichiroya purchase and I fully admit I didn’t have any particular pairings in mind when I bought it, I just thought it was pretty. But it occurred me last night that it might look good with this kimono and man, was I ever glad to be right. The pinks tie in perfectly and the dusty navy accents on the obi call back to the hem of the furisode in the best possible way.

I decided to go full modern furisode glam today; a big bold haneri, gold and green kasane-eri, shibori obiage, and bright tasselled obijime. The obijime looks more orange than it actually is in the photo. In reality it’s a more warm salmon-pink shade that works really well with the obiage and the shadowed parts of the lilies on the kimono.

Like last week’s outfit, this coord is very “proper”, but definitely has a much more vibrant and youthful feel. Just goes to show that correct kitsuke doesn’t have to be stoic or subdued!

I followed this tutorial for a big poofy obi musubi and I am thrilled with how it turned out. That homemade sanjuhimo I made a while back works really well. I normally don’t include a close-up of the back of the outfit but I was proud of my work and felt the need to show off.

Items used in this coordination

Review – Watashitachi wa Douka Shiteiru (Cursed in Love)

I’ve got something a little more fun and laid-back for you today. Over the past few weeks I’ve been dragged into an addictive j-drama called Watashitachi wa Douka Shiteiru, the story of Nao, a young wagashi artisan. As is typical with j-drama, especially ones based off manga, the story is quite convoluted,

Fifteen years ago, Hanaoka Nao and her mother lived in the staff quarters of Kogetsu-An, the famous wagashi shop. Young Nao grew close with Tsubaki, the heir to the shop. Everything seemed perfect until Nao’s mother was framed for the murder of Tsubaki’s father.

Nao currently has the chance to solve the mystery that threw her life into shambles by concealing her identity, rejoining Kogetsu-An and marrying Tsubaki. But can she keep her secret and guard her heart?

The manga and live-action adaptation both go by the full title of 私たちはどうかしている or Watashitachi wa Douka Shiteiru. It’s often shortened to Watadou, due to the title being a bit of a mouthful. Things get complicated when it comes to English translations; the most common translation is We Are Not Ourselves and most fansites will refer to it as such, but the official title on the English NTV page lists it as Cursed in Love, and the English manga is published under the name Something’s Wrong With Us. So if you see any of these titles and get confused, don’t worry, it’s all the same thing! This show has too many names, I swear.

I was initially drawn to this series because so many of the characters are always (or nearly always) in kimono. But once I started watching, I was hooked. Do you enjoy any of the following?

  • Delicious wagashi.
  • A dying patriarch.
  • A scheming oujo-sama matron.
  • Beautiful kimono.
  • Unhealthy but passionate romance.
  • Murder.
  • An enigmatic and fashionable gentleman.
  • Angry ikebana.
  • Hilarious secondary characters.

If so, you’ll find something to love about Watadou. This show really does have it all!

It’s definitely on the more camp/soap-opera side of j-drama, with plenty of intrigue and overblown drama (the aforementioned scheming oujo-sama matron literally throws a flower vase at Nao, fans herself with money while bribing someone, and even does the ~ohohoho laugh at one point). You can tell it was adapted from a manga, due to the level of theatrics and even the way many of the scenes are framed. Does that mean it’s bad? Absolutely not. For some reason I was expecting a more “serious” drama at first so it took me a few minutes to get into the swing of it all, but once I did I was hooked.

Of course, my fascination with it is helped by the fact that the show is steeped in traditional Japanese elements. Not just the wagashi, although that is the most prominent, but also tea ceremony, and most important to me – all the gorgeous kimono. Nao’s wardrobe is split between her Kogetsu-An uniform, western-style clothes, and kimono, and the Kogetsu-An kitchen staff are shown almost exclusively in their uniforms, but nearly everyone else is always in kimono. Whether it be Tsubaki and his family, or the traditional clients who patronise Kogetsu-An for their delicious sweets, the show never lets you forget that this is a world slightly removed from modern, bustling, urban Japan. The show is massive eye candy for anyone into kimono.

The show’s official page on the NTV site is all in Japanese, but it is a treasure trove of imagery worth exploring. There are separate pages for all the beautiful wagashi, as well as individual kimono fashion pages for Nao (the protagonist), Tsubaki (the love interest), Kyoko (the matron), Grand Master (the patriarch), Shiori (the jilted fiancée), Takigawa (the enigmatic gentleman), and even Yuko (the restaurant owner). You can use your browser’s translation features to read information and stylist thoughts for each outfit.

I also tried to grab a selection of screenshots that showed off the lovely aesthetic of the show without spoiling anything! There’s one feature wagashi from each episode, and a ton of kimono. You can really see how gorgeous the wardrobe is.

Typically, I don’t like to suggest piracy but currently this show has no official English subtitling or distribution, so the only way to watch it is through fan-subs. I’m following the ones over at Blitz Fansub and so far they’ve been quite fast and reliable (if you don’t mind the occasional typo). However, if the show ever does receive an official translation I do urge you to check it out. I just hope they don’t try to adapt and re-localise it, because it’s so dependent on the magic of traditional Japanese industries. I feel like it would lose too much if they changed the setting.

Palate Cleanser

Lately, all the outfits I’ve put together have been high-concept in one way or another, be it stage hiki styling, non-traditional accents, or bugging other people for ideas. I was really in the mood for a simple, classic, and familiar palate cleanser of an outfit. I’ve also been watching the j-drama Watashitachi wa Dōka Shiteiru rather obsessively (review coming soon!) and was feeling inspired by the classic, traditional, and subtly elegant komon kitsuke often displayed in that show.

A while back I’d noticed that the dusty pink of this hakata weave nagoya obi perfectly  matched the flowers on this komon; I had been meaning to work with them for a while but kept putting it off in favour of “more interesting” pairings. But with my urge to do something clean and elegant, this was the perfect time.

A handful of matchy-matchy accessories, and this was exactly the mood I was going for. There’s enough contrast between the obi and kimono to be interesting, but nothing really screams out for attention. It just feels very balanced and effortlessly chic to me.

Items used in this coordination