I is for Ikebana

Ikebana, 生け花, 活け花, traditional flower arrangement


If you’ve been a reader here for a while, you’ve likely seen my efforts to teach myself the basics of ikebana. I do feel like I’ve reached a place where I can’t really grow any more without more focused teaching and direction, but the world isn’t exactly in a state where that’s an option currently. Maybe I’ll look into it once things go back to normal, whenever that might be.

Getting fresh flowers right now isn’t exactly a walk in the park. But my lovely father, who had to leave the house to get food and fill prescriptions, was sweet enough to snag these for me from the flower-seller at the local mall. I love the vibrant contrast in them; they almost feel like an inverted Japanese flag. I went for a straightforward three-height arrangement with only a bit of greenery to anchor it. It may not be anything terribly exciting, but fresh flowers bring me a little brightnessright now, and I

A is for Aka

Aka (赤), red or crimson

Few things are as emblematic of Japan as the colour red. Initially, my plan for today included a simple coordination of red pieces, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised that red is so much more than that. It is the colour of the Rising Sun, the colour of celebration, the colour of torii gates, the colour of a geisha’s iconic makeup and accessories. It’s a colour that has become intricately intertwined with the fabric of Japan.

In the Heian era, benibana or red safflower, became an incredibly popular pigment for clothing, decor, and cosmetics. The Japanese love affair with red has never dwindled. While nowadays they’re mostly synthetic pigments, it’s still found in many traditional crafts, clothing, and makeup. It can represent anything from joy to piety to love to lust, depending on hue and context. It’s so much more than just “a colour”.

Here are a few of my favourite red pieces in my collection, so you can see just how beloved and versatile red is when it comes to Japanese textiles. Do you have any favourite red pieces, or items? If so, I would love to see in the comments!

Fall’s Bounty Ikebana

I guess all that complaining about how summer was sticking around actually accomplished something, because it’s wonderfully crisp and cool out now. It seemed like a good time to share this last of the triad I created from that one big bundle of flowers my mum brought home a while back.

The lilies and the greenery forming the horizontal grounding of the arrangement harken back to the end of summer, while the carnations and chrysanthemums scream autumn to me. Unfortunately the piece does end up feeling a little cluttered, in retrospect, and I might have been better off just foregoing the orange lilies entirely. Oh well, you live and you learn, right?

I’d also like to take a moment to thank any regular readers for their patience. My schedule at work and life in general have been a little out of whack for the past few weeks and I’ve found it hard to devote time to blogging. But things are back to normal now, so I should be back to two entries a week or so.

Bridal Redux

Bridal kitsuke is probably the most complex and exhausting of all standard forms of kitsuke. I’ve done it on the mannequin a few times before, but always having to improvise a little. I’ve done  fully coloured ensemble and an all-white ensemble, but when I found this red and gold accessory set for a fantastic price, I knew I wanted to do the transitional style often done for a reception. I paired the bold accessories with my flamboyant and loud uchikake but kept the demure subtle white kimono and obi. I think this is actually my favourite type of bridal ensemble.

I think I’m finally getting the hang of wrapping hikizuri-style kimono to get that lovely x-shaped drape of the hem. It’s not perfect, but I can see definite improvement every time I attempt it. The collar’s pretty mangled, but let’s not speak of that… Because this is my first real, full set of accessories, including a proper-sized bira and an actual kakae-obi, I couldn’t resist taking a bunch of detail shots. I hope you enjoy them!

It’s very satisfying to see the whole thing put together like this. Maybe one day someone will let me dress them up in the whole ensemble.

Items used in this coordination

Showa Fabulous Christmas in July

It’s still hotter than the surface of the sun here in Montreal, but I was determined to see if I could turn my han-darari tsuke obi into a passable fukura suzume bow in preparation for the Otakuthon fashion show. I figured while I had the mannequin and obi out, I may as well go all-in and change her outfit. This isn’t going to be a full outfit in the show but it’s good practice and visualisation for something that’s in the works.

The obi has such a gorgeously shiny showa fabulous feel to it that it felt like the perfect time to bust out my precious post-war kiku houmongi. I went with gold, red, and green accessories, and while I worried initially that the outfit would feel Christmassy, it actually worked out really well. Besides, Christmas in July might help me feel a little bit cooler!

As for the obi experiment, it definitely worked in theory. I just need a few more himo to make things a little tidier, but I’ll definitely be able to pull it off properly for the show on a real model, and I’m thrilled.

Items used in this coordination