H is for Hanafuda

Hanafuda, 花札, flower cards, traditional playing cards

Did you know that the Nintendo we all know and love started out as a company that made playing cards? Their original product was a set of hanafuda cards! Hanafuda are small, traditional Japanese cards featuring designs of flowers and seasonal motifs. Like our more familiar decks of playing cards, there are lots of different games and variations you can play with hanafuda.  To this day, Nintendo still makes novelty hanafuda sets. So do several other companies in Japan. You can find decks featuring Super Mario Bros, Kirby, beloved movies like Spirited Away, and even a Pokemon set!

However, if you’d like your own free set, I’m here for you. I’ve created a muted, monochrome set based on the original designs but using the colour scheme from this blog I love so much. All you need to do is print out this PDF on heavy-weight card paper (I had blue and white so I used blue for the background side but plain white works just as well). Then glue each card sheet to one background sheet with stick glue, put a heavy weight on them to dry them flat (I used books), and then cut them out after 24 hours or so.

Click here to download the PDF

For game instructions, Wikipedia has your back. Enjoy your new hanafuda deck, and have fun!

Review – Pagoda Lantern kit from One Man One Garage

Since we’re all trapped inside for the foreseeable future, it feels like a great time to share this fun little DIY project I found from a wonderful Etsy shop, One Man, One Garage! I purchased this back during the great bedroom flood debacle and assembled it when I needed a meditative little break; it was absolutely perfect.

One Man, One Garage creates laser-cut wood craft kits. All you have to do is carefully pop the pieces out of each board and assemble them, following the numbers etched into each piece. Instructions are provided online, but I honestly didn’t need them. This kit, despite looking incredibly intricate when complete, was very intuitive and smartly-designed. While not all the designs in this shop are Japanese in nature, this pagoda lantern caught my eye immediately and I knew I wanted to share it with you! Look how beautiful it is once it’s all lit up! The shop says it’s safe to use a tealight candle, but I’ve used an LED one here just in case.

It arrived tightly sealed, which helped keep all the pieces snug. This way there’s no risk of breakage. There was also a sweet little hand-signed postcard included, which is a personal touch that I really love when dealing with small artisan shops like this.

 

The only flaw I found in the kit was a very minor one, and I suspect a one-off issue. One of the laser cuts didn’t seem to have gone fully through the wood, which resulted in a bit of difficulty removing a piece. A tiny fragment broke off one end, but it wasn’t enough to impede assembly and it’s not even visible now that it’s all put together. I’m sure if I had contacted the shop they would have worked with me to sort it out, but it was such a tiny problem that I didn’t feel like it was worth bringing up. I just wanted to mention it here in the interest of being thorough.

Overall, this was a very fun, quick, and relaxing little craft. I love how it looks with the light in it, and I’m definitely going to be buying the Zen Garden kit (how utterly adorable is the little maneki neko?!) once I’m back at work and have some cash to spare. 🙂

 I purchased this item myself and chose to review it. 

Nugoo Tenugui – A stylish and affordable alternative to han-eri

Most folks who collect and love kimono already know the merits of a good han-eri, or decorative under-collar. Not only do they protect the collar of your juban from dirt, sweat, and makeup, they’re a fantastic way to add a bit more detail and individuality to most outfits. While very formal outfits such as a full mofuku ensemble or a kurotomesode ensemble require plain white han-eri, more youthful or casual coordinations can have all manner of fun ones. Typically, they’re silk or polyester

One thing you may not be aware of, though, is that tenugui (traditional Japanese cotton towels) can make excellent han-eri that are bold, fun, breathable, and washable! Today I’m working Nugoo Japan to show you how well some of their all-over motif cotton tenugui work with traditional kimono ensembles.

They were kind enough to send me three different examples, I let them choose ones that would be a good representation of their products and they’re all really gorgeous and work so well!

They sent me three different motifs that work perfectly for this particular usage, since the patterns are bold and evenly distributed across the whole tenugui. First, the small blue asanoha. Asanoha, or hemp leaf, is one of my favourite geometric designs, and this one will definitely be getting a ton of use. The next one they sent was a beautiful traditional indigo suisen or narcissus. This one is big and bold and adds a ton of drama to a casual outfit. Sadly, the particular tonbo motif they sent me has been discontinued, but there are some lovely alternatives. I can’t wait to pair this one with my tonbo summer kimono.

First, we have a plain white collar; not only is it boring, it’s a little discoloured with age and use. Not stylish at all! Then we have the tenugui carefully folded over the juban collar, and you can see how much more fun and distinctive the coordinations become with this one small change!

The only warning or caveat I have is that these are hand-dyed using traditional dyes, and when you first get them they may not be entirely colourfast. The indigo suisen one stained my nails slightly as I was arranging it, so I imagine after a long hot day of wear the pigment could absolutely transfer onto your kimono or juban. If you plan to use one of Nugoo Japan’s beautiful indigo tenugui (or any naturally dyed fabric) as han-eri, I would absolutely suggest washing them a few times first!

Please check out Nugoo Japan on their website, facebook, and instagram. Along with traditional tenugui they also have lots of lovely items and home goods made from them, such as coin purses and bento products.

 I received this item from the retailer or manufacturer for honest review purposes.If you have a topically appropriate craft, product, or service you would like me to review, please contact me. 

Picrew.me Kimono Avatar Creators

If you’ve spent any time on any large social media platform lately, odds are you’ve seen avatars made using the Picrew.me site. It’s an enormous repository of avatar creators that started in Japan but has since spread worldwide. No matter what kind of avatar you want to create, you can find something for it.

However, it is quite large and a bit overwhelming to browse, especially since the interface and a lot of the creators are all in Japanese. Fear not though, I’ve gone through and found all of the best kimono-themed ones for you to play with, and a few little extras at the bottom!

How to use Picrew.me

If you’re new to Picrew and feeling overwhelmed by all the Japanese text and buttons, don’t fret! The interface is very straightforward, and here’s a little mini-tutorial that will hopefully help you out.

  • 1. Confirm/begin your avatar
  • 2. Scroll through here to see all the options to customise
  • 3. Choose item colour (if applicable – this one isn’t always available)
  • 4. Choose item style
  • 5. Save/complete your avatar
  • 6. Randomise – The first pink button randomises all features, the second pink button randomises the feature you’ve currently selected. The grey button at the bottom cancels all randomisation, the yellow button at the top confirms them.

For organisational purposes, I’ve separated these into female avatars, male avatars, and other things. I realise this gendering isn’t ideal, but the list got overwhelming without it. However, I do encourage you to use whichever avatar creator you like best!

Female Avatars

https://picrew.me/image_maker/15599

This is the most popular one, and for good reason. There's a huge number of customisation options for every single layer. You can change the girl's appearance colours and patterns, add ruffles and textures, insert accesories, you name it. I could easily spend hours playing with this one. Sadly, only "natural" hair colours here, plus one shade of pinkish strawberry-blonde, but there's so many other options that it doesn't bother me too much.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/84345/

This little cutie may not have many character customisations (two skin tones, two hair colours, a couple of eye styles) but the awesome number of kimono and hakama combinations you can do makes her a worthwhile addition to this list. From super traditional to modern and sexy, you can layer different tops, bottoms, and accessories to get a ton of unique styles.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/9889

This particular doll isn't kimono-specific, but there are enough options for me to include her. There's a ton of customisation for the face and hair, multiple kimono you can change the colours of, different hand poses, and other assorted cuteness!
https://picrew.me/image_maker/46794/

A really elegant manga-style avatar. In true manga style there's no colour to this one, only shades of grey, but plenty of face, hair, and kimono options that more than make up for the monochrome aspect. This one is listed as a "monster" maker and so has horns, fangs, etc, but as you can see you can also totally make a human girl.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/35860

Create your own oiran avatar! Sexy and elegant, this one's got a few kimono options, both in a more normal high-collar style and the low, draped collar of the oiran showed here. Creating a unique hairstyle might be the most appealing part of this one.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/16001/

A very simple but very charming little avatar that includes a variety of obi options and haori. The base offers a fair bit of customisation, which is nice. The kimono options aren't super varied, but adding in a haori gives you more opportunities for coordination.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/15557

This Taisho-inspired beauty might be one of my favourites. I love this style of artwork, and the kimono options are fantastic for a vintage fan. Pretty much everything you can come up with using this generator ends up looking like a lovely 1920s advertising poster!
https://picrew.me/image_maker/29910

Here's another one that offers some very Taisho-feeling kimono, but with a more modern art style. The really neat thing about this particular avatar creator is that it uses photos of actual textiles to make the kimono, obi, and haori. It's a really cool feature.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/18630/

This one's a little simpler than some of the previous ones, but super cute. There are options for haneri, kimono, and a few different types of coats.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/20990/

Have you ever wanted to experiment with the many layers of juunihitoe, but didn't want to deal with the expense or hassle? Have no fear, this avatar maker is out to help! There aren't a huge number of options here, but the real draw is playing with all the layered collar combinations you can make.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/48855/

Another elegant one with a kind of vintage vibe. You can't change the hair or eye colour on this one, but you can change the hair style and there are a few options for eye makeup. The main draw, however, is definitely the outfits. Lots of choices for kimono, and separate options for haneri, obi, obiage, obijime, and obidome, mean that you can make tons of different outfits.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/11253/

This one only has a few colour and style options for each section, but it was too cute not to include! There are kimono with and without hakama, as well as some slightly more fantastical and historical options.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/68061

There's no customisation available at all for the base, not even the hairstyle, but there are plenty of cute vintage-style kimono, obi, and haori to layer and play with here. There's also some alternative options for undergarments, like a blouse instead of a juban.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/20934

Bride generator! There isn't much in the way of colour and pattern here; everything is white, red, or black. However there are lots of facial expressions, so you can make your bride anything from sweet and innocent to legitimately monstrous (horns and blood splatter included)!

Male Avatars

https://picrew.me/image_maker/10347/

A very cute, stylised little samurai or ronin guy. Mostly historically-influenced options for both his hairstyles and his outfits, but a fair level of customisation nonetheless.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/24195/

A handsome man in kimono! Need I say more? Tons of options for face and hair, customiseable kimono and accessories, The example I've made is pretty fantastical but you can make more normal-looking ones as well.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/18771

This is another one that's not kimono-specific, but there are lots of options, and something about the whole "Bad Boy" aesthetic that makes me laugh. The description of this one basically translates to "Make Your Own F**king B**tard", and the facial expressions really do evoke that feeling. It's too amusing not to share.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/8803

This is another historical-based one, which feels like a common theme for the male avatar creators. It's actually got more of an ancient Chinese feeling with some of the outfits and accessories, but as you can see it's also possible to make a kimono-style ensemble.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/26613

Another handsome historical-inspired dude. This one has a lot of fun accessories and options, even if the avatar and kimono themselves aren't super varied.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/15097

This one's actually rather androgynous, so it could easily work for any gender, but the styling of the kimono is more masculine. There's actually a little story implied in this one, parting with a loved one. With or without that in mind, it's fun to play with and makes some really lovely avatars.

Other

https://picrew.me/image_maker/42620

What's this? Not an avatar! This is a really sweet little Japanese scene/garden generator. There's houses, castles, and temples as well as plenty of scenery options. You can even choose which animal you want in your scene!
https://picrew.me/image_maker/51936

This is a very simple one to create your own Hinamatsuri set. There are a few different faces, and different colours for the kimono, headpieces, and backgrounds. Not much to play with but still quite charming.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/79981

Make your own adorable little kitsune companion with this generator! Plenty of options for colours, accessories, ears, tails, and markings. I actually got sucked into playing with this one for nearly half an hour solid while working on this entry!
https://picrew.me/image_maker/122741

Do you know Daruma dolls? Here you can make a custom one in a variety of colours. There are a bunch of different faces, including ones with no eyes, one eye, and both eyes, so you can choose the right face for whether you have made your wish come true or not. Too cute!
https://picrew.me/image_maker/64765/

Izekaya meal generator! This one is a surprising amount of fun. You can choose the contents of each dish as well as your drink.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/95777/

Make your own tamago gohan (egg and rice) bowl with this cute little maker. You can choose your table, bowl, and chopsticks as well as the rice and toppings.

I hope you had tons of fun playing with these amazing kimono avatar creators! I would love to see what you make with them. 💖

Review – Nozomi Project jewellery

I have something really special to share with you all today. Nozomi Project is a company with a mission that produces absolutely beautiful and unique jewellery. Started after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, they work to bring sustainable income to women in Ishinomaki who lost their livelihoods. Evoking the principles of mottainai, they upcycle broken pottery and ceramics into stunning, one-of-a-kind pieces. Nozomi means hope, and I can’t think of a better name.

They were kind enough to send me one item for review (the Rumi necklace), and I bought another (the Sara earrings) for me to wear, review, and share with you all.

They are fantastically well-made. The hardware is silver, and sets off the delicate tones of the ceramics perfectly. Each piece is very well-polished, making sure there are smooth rounded edges everywhere. This ensures that they’re very comfortable to wear. The earrings are also made with particularly light and delicate pottery, so they’re not overly heavy. The necklace piece is a little more substantial, but still feels very airy. There is something very comforting in the way it sits against the skin.

My aunt is visiting and was kind enough to model these beautiful pieces for me!

Another beautiful touch is that the card each piece comes mounted has the name of the artisan who made it. This is such a thoughtful addition that really helps you to feel connected with the whole process!

Overall, I cannot recommend these enough. The pieces are gorgeous and eclectic and will grab attention and start conversations wherever you go, and the thoughts and messages behind the company only add to the appeal. Whether you’re looking for a gift for someone special or splurging on yourself, anything from Nozomi Project would be absolutely perfect.

You can follow them on social media.
Nozomi Project website | Nozomi Project on Facebook | Nozomi Project on Instagram

 I received this item from the retailer or manufacturer for honest review purposes.I purchased this item myself and chose to review it.If you have a topically appropriate craft, product, or service you would like me to review, please contact me.