Friday, April 29, 2011

Photo Friday: Houmongi

Many of my kimono don't really have much of a story attached to them. They were just really pretty and I decided to buy them (or ask for them as a birthday or holiday present). This particular kimono is one of those cases. I got this one as a birthday gift several years ago after seeing it on Ichiroya and falling in love with the motif of Heian nobles. It was in absolutely perfect condition, and though nothing was ever said about where it came from I always kind of figured it never got used -- perhaps it was stock from a store that closed, as were many of the accessories offered for sale around the same time. The design appears to be woven in rather than dyed, painted, or embroidered, and it has design done in gold on the inside of the left panel (last picture). This is one of my favorite kimono, and so far is my only houmongi.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Kimono resources: Kitsuke information

So now you have a kimono, or are thinking of getting one. But what kind should you get? What are the different kinds, anyway? How do you know what matches it? And how the heck do you put a kimono ON anyway? Here are a few resources that I have found. Feel free to add your own favorites in the comments!

Unfortunately, there aren’t all that many kitsuke books available in English. I only know of two, actually: “The Book of Kimono” by Norio Yamanaka, and the more recently released “The New Kimono” by Nanao Magazine. Both books are excellent additions to your kimono and kitsuke library, but I prefer “The New Kimono” because it has the same step-by-step pictures instructions found in Japanese kimono magazines, along with instructions for each step written in English. Which makes perfect sense, since the book is a collection of translated articles from a Japanese kimono magazine. Both books are available on

Magazines and mooks:
If you’re willing to venture on to the Amazon Japan, you can buy Japanese kimono magazines and mooks, ranging from those that cover general topics to specialty items like bridal magazines and yukata magazines. Some of these are only instructional in nature, some are only to demonstrate current styles and advertise products, and some are a mixture of the two. I’ll be reviewing some of the Japanese books from my own collection as we go.

- The Immortal Geisha forums are usually my go-to place for all kitsuke questions, from basic instructions to matching to motif identification. They’re also a great resource for anything related to geiko and maiko.

- YouTube is a surprisingly good source of kimono-dressing videos. Some, like the one from Ichiroya (which I think is technically about yukata dressing) are meant to be instructional, while others are not. Keep in mind that just because a video is about dressing in yukata doesn’t mean it’s useless if you want to dress in kimono -- the most basic rules of kitsuke are the same no matter what. Start by searching for “kimono dressing.”

- Kimono Market Sakura has videos on wearing yukata. But please be aware that the model is wearing a juban under the yukata (and they don’t show instructions for putting that on). There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with have a juban under your yukata. In fact, it’s something of a modern style and is one of the things you would do to bump the yukata’s formality up a notch so you could wear it to, say, a summer beer garden. But it’s not standard yukata-wearing practice.

- Yukatalism is a Japanese website with some animated GIFs of several obi musubi that can be worn with yukata.

- Wikipedia is actually a decent starting place for information on the different kinds of kimono.

- The kimono encyclopedia on Japanese Lifestyle has a good, short breakdown of information on the different kinds of kimono.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday Photo: Furisode

Just a couple of pictures and a story to get this blog rolling. This is a lovely green furisode I bought in Kyoto during my trip there in April 2009. And yes, it has a story!

I have been to Japan a grand total of three times so far. The first trip in the summer of 2007 also saw the beginning of my kimono collection, when I bought my first several pieces (seriously, they covered my bed at home when I laid them out after returning home). I often went to Nagoya on the weekends, and discovered a street near the Uso Kannon shrine filled to bursting with all kinds of second-hand shops, including at least two kimono shops. Before leaving Aichi prefecture for my grand tour through the rest of the country, I made one final trip to Nagoya to visit the kimono shops and see if an item I had previously wanted to buy -- a lovely iro-uchikake (colored wedding kimono) -- but had been short on cash for was still there. The uchikake was still there, but I decided it was too heavy to carry around or ship home and it didn't really interest me all that much anyway*. I wandered into the rest of the shop to see if there was anything else I wanted, and there it was. A gorgeous, deep-green furisode with red, white, and yellow camellias on it. It was perfect, too, not a snag or stain anywhere. But it was $200 or so, the shop didn't take credit cards, and I didn't have the cash for it, so I had to let it go.

Fast-forward to April 2009. My collection had grown substantially in the nearly two years since that visit to Nagoya. I had several other furisode, my iro-uchikake, my awesome houmongi (which you will see later!), more yukata than you can shake a sensu at...but I had never really forgotten about the green camellia furisode, and was still on the hunt for one in that lovely shade of green. I wandered in to the Chicago Harajuku shop on Teramachi-dori and went upstairs to the second level, where they keep the kimono, and began looking around. I found this one with the other furisode near the stairs. It was pretty shocking, really, since it's tough to find kimono that look so much alike. Granted that there are some small differences, but they're similar enough that I felt like it was fate for me to find that green furisode in Kyoto, and bought it immediately.

So now I have my lovely green camellia furisode, and I hope the green camellia furisode from Nagoya went to a loving home.

* This turned out to be a good thing because several months later, I found the iro-uchikake I currently own, and have never once regretted it. In fact, in the four years between buying that uchikake and now, I have only seen one other iro- uchikake I would even remotely consider buying.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Kimono shopping resources

A list of a few of the places I have used to buy kimono, obi, and other accessories. Most of these will be online links, and a few will be physical shops in Japan.

Ichiroya Probably my favorite online kimono shop of all time. Most of my best pieces come from here. The company is based in Osaka and offers a lovely selection of all kinds of kimono, from yukata to wedding kimono and even the occasional geisha hikizuri or susohiki. They specialize in second-hand kimono, and have lots of vintage/antique items, but every so often they offer new (or at least unused) items as well. They also have the best system I have seen for pointing out the flaws in the items they sell.

- Yamatoku Another online shop I sometimes use. They also specialize in second-hand items and have many kimono from the1960s-1980s. At the moment they feature a never-ending furisode and uchikake festival, where they post furisode and uchikake with huge price cuts. They also feature $9.99 and $19.99+ sales, which is a good way to grab some less expensive items. However, at the moment they have the annoying habit of tagging every newly-listed item they offer as a "geisha" item, which is simply not true -- I don't think I have ever seen them sell an authentic geisha item. I'm pretty sure it's just to make sure they get more hits on their website, since they didn't raise the prices of their "geisha" items. Just keep that in mind when you're shopping and don't be taken in by the geisha tag.

- Shinei If you run a Google search for the old Ryu Japan website, you will get this page directing you to three different locations: Ryu Japan's eBay site, Shinei's eBay site, and Shinei's actual shop. I bought a few items from the old Ryu Japan, back when Shinei was a separate (but related?) shop, and the items were quite nice. I haven't bought anything from Shinei yet, but they seem to have quite a variety of lovely items. The prices are a little on the high side, but the people I know of who have bought from them have been very happy.

- Kimono Market Sakura They actually specialize in yukata, but they also sell silk and modern polyester kimono, as well as kimono accessories. They even have a (small) selection of plus-sized yukata. You will want to take their measurement information with a grain of salt thought -- in the past they used to claim that their standard yukata fit a huge range of size, but that simply isn't true if you intend to wear the yukata properly. Sure, if you just want a robe to wear around the house, any kimono that first over your arms and shoulders will do, but if you want to wear it out in public it really needs to fit properly. So make sure you double-check the actual kimono measurements, and then double-check your own measurements before you buy.

- They have a small selection of kimono and kimono accessories. In the summer they might also offer yukata. One year they offered a small selection of plus-sized yukata and obi that went as high as Japanese 10L, but I haven't seen those offered since and as of this posting they haven't begun offering this year's yukata selection.

- Rakuten A Japanese shopping site consisting of thousands of shops, all in one place. There are special versions of Rakuten for different countries -- pick the country of your choice at the link I posted. This is a good place to get a huge selection of yukata, kimono, and related accessories, but make sure you take the time to figure out the ordering system before you order.

- Yahoo Japan Auctions A good place to find kimono and accessories if you don't mind an auction site. However, be aware that most (maybe even all) of the sellers are unwilling and/or unable to ship overseas, so you will need to go through a shopping service like Celga or Noppin to order from them.

- eBay Everyone knows eBay, right? The biggest problem with eBay is that you get a lot of junk mixed in with the good stuff, but if you know what to look for you can find some really wonderful things there. If you're new to kimono shopping, I would suggest spending some time on non-auction sites first to get a feel for what kind of kimono goes for what kind of price. You'll be less likely to pay too much for items that way.

- Ikuokaya Not a kimono shop, but rather my favorite kanzashi shop in Kyoto. They sell kanzashi for everyone as well as selling authentic maiko kanzashi and other authentic maiko items. They don't list an email on the webpage, but they do have a telephone and fax number you could use to contact them. The shop owner and his son (but not the other staff) speak English, and the owner's son also speaks German. Very friendly and helpful people. If you're in the area, be sure to stop by and have a look around.

Shops in Japan:
Japan being the place kimono come from, it's usually not that hard to find shops selling kimono. You may have to hunt a little depending on where you are, but there is most likely going to be at least one shop somewhere near you. A good place to look if you're not having any luck is your local mall/shopping center or department store. There is usually at least one kimono shop in the mall or one floor with kimono and kimono accessories in the shopping center.

- Kyoto: the Isetan and Daimaru department stores both have kimono floors. There are other department stores as well, but I haven't been in them. Teramachi-dori has several small kimono shops. You can usually identify them easily because they display kimono, yukata, and/or accessories outside the shop entrance. The second floor of the Chicago Harajuku (or is it Harajuku Chicago?) is filled with second-hand kimono and accessories of all kinds. Mimuro typically has a large selection of kimono for good prices. There are tons and tons of smaller stores all over the place in Kyoto, selling everything from brand-new kimono to vintage pieces. I usually stumble upon them while wandering around and never really learn the names. There are one or two in the general vicinity of Yasaka-jinja, and at least one other one on the non-Gion side of Shijo-dori. That side of Shijo-dori is also home to Jyuusan-ya, a famous kanzashi maker. Their specialty is boxwood combs, but you can pick up lacquer and false tortoise shell combs, tsumami kanzashi, and kanzashi in various other materials as well. The Gion side of Shijo-dori runs from the Kamo rive to the front of Yasaka-jinja and features three more kanzashi makers -- Ikuokaya, Kazurasei, and Kintakedo -- all of whom sell kanzashi for maiko and geisha.

- Tokyo: I haven't spent as much time kimono-hunting in Tokyo as I have in Kyoto, mostly because I haven't spent as much time in Tokyo. I'm definitely a Kyoto girl. But you shouldn't have trouble finding kimono in Tokyo. Asakusa has several kimono shops, including at least one branch of a second-hand chain Tansuya. And of course there are plenty of malls and department stores to check in as well.

- Nagoya: If you're looking for second-hand kimono shops, check the street filled with second-hand shops near the Uso Kannon shrine. There were at least two the last time I was there.

- Hiroshima: There are a couple of kimono shops in the pedestrian-only shopping street, and I spotted at least one more on the way there.

If you know of any interesting shops, feel free to mention them in the comments!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The First Post

Welcome to my blog. I go by Ayame_hime here, and this is a place for me to share pictures of my kimono and kanzahi collection, and to talk about the pieces. I'm not an expect on Japanese textiles the way some people are, but I know a little and I have some interesting pieces (well, in my opinion anyway!). If you have questions feel free to ask in the comments for each post.

I began collecting kimono in 2007, during my first trip to Japan. The purchase of my first kimono was the fulfillment of a life-long dream, and opened the floodgates of an awesome hobby. Since then I have collected quite a few kimono, ranging from casual yukata to wedding kimono. My collection includes second-hand, new, and custom-made pieces in cotton, silk, and polyester. I'll also be photographing and talking about the various kimono accessories I have, from the mostly-utilitarian items like easy collars and ties to the more exciting items like obi and kanzashi. And I have some REALLY interesting kanzashi...

There are only two rules on this blog: play nice, and if you want to use anything I post here (pictures, text, etc) please ask me first. Though I reserve the right to say no (and expected to be respected if I do), I'm very likely to say yes.