Book Review: Geiko & Maiko of Kyoto


Geiko & Maiko of Kyoto
by Robert van Koesveld
Language: English
ISBN: 978-0-9944501-0-4
Buy Here

For this volume, van Koesveld was awarded the Photography Book of the Year (2015) by the Australian Institute of Professional Photographers, and it’s easy to see why. While the text is certainly interesting and well-written, the photographs are the heart and soul of this book. They are beautiful, and there are many of them. The book is full of gorgeous, crisp full-colour plates of geiko, maiko, live performances, as well as garments and accessories, and the skilled people who make them. It’s a fantastic glimpse into a world most of us will never get to see.

The book features interviews with maiko and geiko who live and work in Kyoto, as well as interviews and information about the artisans and craftspeople who support the community. It offers an unprecedented look into the Flower and Willow World, the mysterious and ethereal environment where these women live and work that most of us will never be able to experience. It is filled with information that anyone interested in modern geisha traditions and culture would love to have in their collection.

(The tinting and distortion in these sample pages is a result of my scanning process; the photos in the book are absolutely beautiful and these pictures do them no justice)

I would recommend this book for:


-People interested in the tradition and culture of geiko and maiko
-People looking for information about the artisans and tradespersons who support this culture
-Anyone who appreciates beautiful photography

I would not recommend this book for:


-People who have incorrect assumptions about geiko and no interest in learning
-People looking for instructions on how to dress maiko or geiko-style I received this item as a backer perk for a project or product that was crowd-funded (Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, etc)

Book Review – Kimono no Tanoshimi ga Hirogaru Obimusubi Arenji Jo

cover着物の楽しみが広がる 帯結びアレンジ帖
(Kimono no Tanoshimi ga Hirogaru Obimusubi Arenji Jō)
by Kururi
Language: Japanese
ISBN: 978-4262160238
Amazon.com Listing

Well, that title’s a mouthful, isn’t it? It essentially translates to Expand your Enjoyment of Kimono; Notes on Obi Musubi Arrangement (thanks to Tamara for the coherent translation).

This book is an incredible resource for anyone looking to improve their personal kimono dressing and styling. It’s entirely in Japanese but the pictures and diagrams are so thorough that it’s a negligible issue. It’s not for formal kitsuke, nothing useful for kurotomesode, furisode, etc, but it’s chock-full of styling suggestions and obi tying alternatives for casual kimono wear. This book is a vital addition for anyone looking to expand their kimono skills and library.

It’s got all sorts of basic resources; a seasonality chart, padding diagrams, coordination examples, and a wide variety of musubi for nagoya and hanhaba obi. The obi variations are very well-organised. The book first shows a “standard” tie that most kimono afficionados are already familiar with (otaiko for nagoya obi, chocho for hanhaba obi), and then shows variations using the same starting-off points. There’s even a few examples of women’s styling using a narrow men’s kaku obi.

 

I’ve scanned a few pages to give you a feel for the book (and how necessary and relevant the text may be), but I urge anyone who collects kimono to pick up a copy. It’s quite new, published in January of 2016, so it’s still quite easy to find online and it’s incredibly affordable for all the information it contains. It’s also small and lightweight, very practical to throw in a bag if you’re travelling.

I would recommend this book for:


-Anyone from beginner to expert
-People looking for interesting variations on traditional kitsuke
-People who wear casual kimono frequently

I would not recommend this book for:


-People looking for more detailed, artistic images of kimono
-People looking for traditional formal (kurotomesode, furisode) kitsuke help

 

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.

Book Review – Kimono Now

Kimono Now
by Manami Ozaki
Language: English
ISBN: 978-3791349497
Amazon.com Listing
GoodReads Page

Kimono Now is an absolutely wonderful English-language resource about modern kimono culture. I’ve had it for quite a while but wanted to give my thoughts time to settle before writing this review. I absolutely loved it and wanted to make sure I wasn’t jumping the gun with my opinions.

It’s a big, lush book that looks as good on a coffee table as it does in your bookshelf. It’s broken down into logical and easy to read segments, from the craftsmanship and artistry involved in kimono to interviews and featurettes on modern designers, famous kimono style icons, people remaking kimono into new fashion, and artists working in other mediums who have been inspired by kimono. While most of the people discussed and interviewed are Japanese, the book also takes into account the kimono’s influence on the rest of the world and has features involving non-Japanese artisans and collectors, which is very refreshing. It’s chock full of gorgeous colour plates and plenty of detailed information that never feels dry. It covers a little bit of everything without feeling like a textbook, which is no mean feat. It’s definitely not a how-to guide, but if you’re already familiar with how to wear kimono traditionally and just want ideas and inspiration, it’s a must-have. If I have any one criticism, it’s that someone along the line (possibly the editor or publisher) decided to go with the western standard of pluralising kimono into kimonos, which has always been a bit of a peeve of mine. It’s a very minor nitpick though.

 

 

I would recommend this book for:


-People interested in modern kimono culture
-People looking to learn more about kimono designers, models, etc
-Anyone searching for inspiration and ideas to develop their personal style

I would not recommend this book for:


-Beginners looking for how-to-dress guides
-People interested only in traditional kitsuke

 

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.

Book Review – Kimono, Color Books Edition

Kimono (Color Books Edition)
by Motoko Ito and Aiko Inoue
Language: English
ISBN-10: 4586540370
Amazon.com Listing

This is the first kimono-related book I ever purchased, way back when. I found it on eBay and thought it would be a worthwhile investment. It’s the book that taught me what items I’d need, and how to tie otaiko musubi. It was probably the best kimono book investment I ever made, despite the fact that it’s only about 4 by 6 inches and 124 pages long. A while back I realized I couldn’t find my copy, so Naomi picked up a copy off Amazon and sent it to me, since the seller wouldn’t ship to the wild norths of Canadia. I’m so glad to have it back!

The book is a wonderful little resource. It’s separated into categories that explain types of kimono, types of obi, different weaving and dyeing methods, and dressing instructions. The information is concise and clear, without being patronizing. The obi-tying instructions are accompanied by great photographs that really help with the whole process.

Overall, the book is really a little gem. If you’re very familiar with kimono it certainly won’t give you any amazing heretofore unseen insights, but it’s a great little book to slip into a pocket or sleeve when you’re traveling or just need a quick reference. If you’re not familiar yet, it’s a wonderful introduction to the basics of kimono.

I would recommend this book for:


-People interested in learning the basics of kimono.
-People who want to learn about Japanese textiles and decoration methods.
-People looking for quick references for some simple obi musubi (bows).

I would not recommend this book for:


-People looking for coordination ideas.
-People looking for in-depth or advanced resource material.

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.

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.