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.

Fukuro obi catalogue

For dressier kimono or more formal events, sometimes you need a dressier obi. Something with a lot of bling, something you can tie a big ornate musubi with. Fukuro obi are generally blank on one side and patterned on the entire other side, or they may have a large blank area that gets wrapped around the waist to save on bulk and budget. They typically have bold, celebratory motifs and a lot of gold or silver embroidery or woven threads.

Gold pattern and kamon fukuro

This is a great obi to pair with kurotomesode, it’s a little mature and subdued, and the gold is warm and soft – not brassy or tacky looking.

Champagne and pastel fukuro

Another shiny obi, it’s soft and easy to tie and looks nice with furisode. It’s got rippling rivers and pockets of soft pastel flowers. Not typically to my tastes, but practical to have in any varied wardrobe.

Orange fukuro with gold grasses

I’m not going to lie – I bought this primarily because it reminded me of a creamsicle. It worked out well though – the peachy orange is a perfect match for the ume on my kurotomesode, and some of the tachibana on my indigo taisho houmongi. It screams Showa era, but it’s cute and fun and I still kind of love it.

Black, red, and gold celebratory fukuro

Another one that screams Showa Wonderful. These obis are incredibly typical of the late seventies through early nineties, and are still being produced, though not in quite as much volume. This one has red kiku and gold and silver cranes, and kikko (tortoishell). It’s a very loud, very auspicious obi.

Gunmetal paving stones fukuro

I’m not quite sure how to describe this one. It’s blue, it’s green, it’s purple. It’s irridescent and reminds me of oil on hot asphalt in the heat of summer. Because of the strange chameleon-like quality, it’s amazingly versatile and goes with a lot of things. It came bundled with a kimono, I bid on the kimono and go the obi as a bonus, and oddly enough I’ve worn the obi several times, and not yet worn the kimono once!

Red and black faux-shibori fukuro

I love this one so much. It originally belonged to my friend Amelie, and I coveted it. When she told me she was selling some items, I jumped on it. Why, then, have I not found anything to wear it with yet?! It’s separated into roughly thirds, with two thirds being bright tomato red with a dyed faux-shibori pattern, and the remaining third in black with a stylized chain of wisteria. I will wear it one day, I just need to find the right kimono to do it justice.

Shifuku and Usagi Houmongi

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ve technically already seen this particular kimono, when I wore it out to the park (and then subsequently dinner, but I did not take photos of that) a few weeks back. I finally had some time to take proper catalogue photographs, and it’s a piece that really needs to be appreciated in detail.

The kimono is a subtle pastel gradient. I honestly did not even notice the gentle lavender at the shoulders until I hung it up to take the reference photos. The gold is also really soft and gentle. I don’t typically like large areas of gold leaf on a kimono, but on this one it’s not in-your-face.

However, the real magic is the embroidery on the front panels. I was informed that they are shifuku, or silk pouches used to protect items used during tea ceremony. The embroidery is done entirely in french knots, a technique known as saraga nui. I cannot imagine the time, patience, and skill required to do this.

The most special shifuku in my eyes is by far the one with the adorable white rabbit on it. It’s the sole reason I bought the kimono. He’s just so charming and quirky, on what is otherwise a very subdued and mature kimono.

Back in black, birthday-style.

In my entry about my birthday purchases, I mentioned that I’d gotten one other special piece that I was going to devote an entire entry to. Well, I finally had some free time today to devote to putting an ensemble together and dressing in that piece. Without further ado, allow me to present my kurotomesode/houmongi hybrid mystery kimono!

At first glance, it looks like a subdued kurotomesode, and that is where it was hanging at the kimono showroom. At first I was going to skip over the whole rack, having no real need for more formal items, but I can never pass up a good ogle. While I was rummaging, I noticed something a bit out of the ordinary about this particular piece – there were designs on the sleeves! Kurotomesode, the most formal kimono for married women, is typefied by several things. They are fully black, they have five white crests (three in the back, two in the front), they often have a white second layer known as a hiyoku, and they have designs on the hem only. This one fit all the criteria, but was thrown off by the decorated sleeves.

For the ensemble, I was inspired by the subdued, chic look of geiko in their formal outfits. I paired it up with a warm gold fukuro obi I received as a birthday gift, a white obiage with red shibori clouds, a green and gold obijime to highlight the green in the kimono. Underneath it all I wore a red juban with a lushly textured white and silver haneri. I also put my pearl necklace on, since it was a birthday gift and I felt it was subtle and classy enough not to look out of place.

Full view of the kimono

Close-up of the hem designs

Inside the hem, and the white hiyoku

Design on the sleeve