Things Will Get Better

First of all, thank you for your patience. I haven’t posted in over a week now – the April A to Z challenge was apparently more exhausting than I’d realised! I’ve also been fighting off nasty allergies and a bout of pericarditis, and wasn’t really up to much. But things are tough for everyone right now, so I thought the least I could do was bring everyone a bit of brightness and hope.

Since the rainbow has become the symbol of hope and optimism in this time of overwhelming fear and confusion, I thought it might be fun to turn a few of my old monochrome coordinations into a kimono rainbow! I don’t have much in the way of pure orange kimono (orange is quite possibly my least favourite colour) but peach is pretty close, right? XD

I promise I’ll be back with new content soon. I’ve got outfits to put together, books to review, and crafts to make. But in the meantime, I hope this silly little rainbow brings a bit of colour and happiness to your life!

If you’d like to see close-up detail shots of each outfit, here you go!

Z is for Zen, Zoge

Zen, , Buddhism
Zoge, 象牙, Ivory

Celebrating the last day of this challenge with a two-for-one. Zen, the Japanese school of Mahayana Buddhism emphasising the value of meditation and intuition, and Zoge, the Japanese word for Ivory.

Rather than dump more info on you, I thought I would just let this statue speak for itself. There’s a grounded beauty in its simplicity I could never hope to explain properly. This ivory Buddha belonged to my grandmother. Both my father and I grew up playing with it. The texture on his head is incredibly soothing, and I have strong tactile memories of running my fingers over it whenever I was allowed to take it off the shelf where it was displayed.

Please note, I absolutely don’t condone the sale, trade, or collection of ivory. This piece is from a time when people had different mentalities and knowledge about this sort of thing. It’s treasured by our family and we appreciate it for what it is, and have no intention of ever letting it go back on the market.

Y is for Yabane

Yabane, 矢羽, Arrow fletching

Yabane (also yagasuri for the small, tightly-repeating variation) and hakata; two of my favourite things together! I love all depictions of yabane, but particularly these big, semi-random depictions that were so beloved in the Taisho and early Showa eras really get to me. I’ve loved this kimono ever since I first bought it back in Boulder, Colorado. It’s an odd fabric, it feels like a mix of silk and cotton. It’s very light and breezy, despite being lined, and is smoother than cotton but has a lovely grip that makes it a pleasure to put on. However, I still can’t believe I ever wore this comfortably though. It’s so tiny!

I’m glad I had an opportunity to use this dusty rose-pink hakata nagoya obi. It’s really subdued but the texture of it makes it feel so lush. I couldn’t resist using my spider haneri which is a near-perfect match to the obi. Also, you guys, I’m so proud of myself. I did an ensemble with yellow accents and didn’t use that lemon-yellow shibori obiage and hakata obijime I use all the time. Will wonders never cease? I did use a yellow obiage, but a much more subdued one. The obijime was a better choice in theory than in practice I think, but it’s not terrible. I just know I can do better next time. XD

Items used in this coordination

X is for X Marks the Spot

X Marks the Spot
Expression regarding the target on maps

Whoof, this was a challenge. Not only are there no Japanese words starting with X, there aren’t really many in English either! I certainly don’t have any items with a xylophone or a xerox machine… My friend suggested “x-rated” and I did debate doing a post on erotic woodblock prints for a hot minute, but I’d rather keep this blog family-friendly!

So what was I to do? I racked my brain until I remembered this kimono I have with a vaguely x-shaped meisen design. It’s lovely, and I don’t use it nearly often enough in coordinations, so I figured what better time to feature it than today’s post?

I kept the rest of the outfit fairly simple and desaturated. The obi is pale enough that it contrasts nicely against the kimono but is definitely not the focal point. All the attention stays on the kimono. I pulled out accessories in soft tones from the obi to keep things subdued. Today’s outfit might be a bit of a stretch, but I think I pulled it off in the end. I’m happy with how it looks, even if it does only barely relate to the challenge.

Items used in this coordination

W is for Wa

Wa, 和, Harmony, unity.
Used to designate traditionally Japanese concepts.

When I sat down to figure out a topic for today’s entry, I realised I had a surfeit of words beginning with W. Not just W, but “wa”. Then it hit me, these words all have the same root and explaining why that is, and what that root really means, would be a perfect subject. Rather than pick one word, I’m essentially doing all of them!

I’m sure you’ve noticed the common thread of wa- used in Japanese items. Here are some of the more common ones that crop up, especially amongst kimono collectors and fans of traditional arts and crafts. But why is that, exactly?

The character , Wa, alone is most frequently translated into English as harmony, like I mentioned above. However, it’s really so much more than that. It’s come to represent an intangible quality of a Japanese-ness, a cultural identity that defies any real definition. It’s often used as a way to distinguish the Japanese version or aesthetic of something that has a western or cross-cultural equivalent as well. For example, where yofuku means “western clothes”, wafuku means “Japanese clothes” and is used for kimono and all related bits and bobs. Yogashi are often elaborate, French-style desserts like tiny pastries and cream cakes, whereas wagashi are the iconic, minimalist, seasonal sweets made from traditional ingredients like bean paste and sakura leaves. Less frequently but becoming more common, yoshitsu can be used to describe rooms (particularly hotel bedrooms) that have a raised western-style bed and legged chairs and tables, where washitsu regularly describes the idealised Japanese room with tatami flooring, sliding screens, and seating on the floor.

There are so many more examples of words using this root, but here’s a small selection that are the most likely to crop up on this blog. This list is far from complete, but if you see a word that begins with wa and is written with theyou can be fairly certain that it’s got at least something to do with traditional Japanese arts and aesthetics.