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Enjoyable photo shooting

I am now preparing to create new kimono fashion photos. I will create them with a famous make-up artist, who is active on fashion shows in New York, Milan, and Paris. I met him at the previous photo shooting for ads at the end of last year. I am looking forward to creating our work with him soon.

Last November, I attended the photo shooting as a kimono stylist for the ads of KDDI America Mobile. Ms Ai Kago, previously belonging to a famous Japanese singer group “Morning Musume (Girls)”, was featured on the ads. This photo, which has already been used for ads, shows Ai Kago. I was sitting next to her.
I felt my heart beat fast, when I met Ai Kago, a very popular talent in Japan as Kago-chan. Many tall and slim models, more than 180 cm tall, have helped us for creating our pieces in New York City. We want to create unique and novel pieces, while they also dream to become world-top models. I have though that it seemed like dream to make test photo-shooting with such wonderful models, but when I met Ai, I was deeply impressed by her presence as a popular singer. After this photo-shooting, I desire to have a chance to dress Hollywood stars in kimono style.
This photo was one that was taken on the day of the photo shooting for the use of renewal of my web pages. The doctor and technician of my husband’s lab, and the lawyer and advertising company worker who are friends of Emiko, my business partner, helped us as models for our photo shooting. Kimono educed inner beauty from people, active in the front lines. Although they are not Japanese, they wore kimono quite naturally, which impressed me. Emiko said to me, “Kimono is really wearing thing.”

A photographer, Masahiro Noguchi, took our photos. He also took photos for the interview from the Japanese kimono magazine last year. His works look heartwarming, so I asked him for the renewal of our web pages. Photo shooting is really enjoyable. Whenever we enjoy photo shooting, we could create good works.
This photo shows that Emiko and I were making sarashi clothes for controlling models’ body shapes. I made the models’ bodies flat to wrap them.

It was really enjoyable photo shooting with all of them. Thank you very much!


Nagoya-obi: created by a career woman

A student of my kimono class asked me why Nagoya-obi is called “Nagoya”.

I had not yet questioned such a thing. Is it because Nagoya is famous for obi-weaving machines, or Nagoya is a famous area of obi production? I didn’t know the correct answer, so I studied it. Then, I was surprised to know the history and origin of Nagoya obi. One career woman created Nagoya obi about 100 years ago with rational thinking mind and functional fashion sense.

In the Taisho period (1912–1926), predominant obi style was Maru (round) obi or Chuya (day-and-night) obi. Maru-obi, having decorations and designs on both sides, is heavy and big enough to produce two Nagoya-obis. At that time, although feminist movement arose, most women lived in traditional kimono style.
Ms. Haruko Koshihara, who created Nagoya-obi, was extremely busy setting up Nagoya girls' school (current Koshihara Educational Foundation). Since she had no remaining time to tie obi, she raveled Maru obi or Chuya obi, which requires long time to tie, and created new-formed light obi, which requires short time to tie.
Haruko realized that women need to shorten time for dress-up to be active in society as similar as men. Thinking that even Nagoya-obi requires longer time to tie, she further created Tsuke (ready-made) obi for saving time for dress-up.
I had thought that Tsuke-obi was created more recently, because now most women had little chance to know how to tie obi, while surprisingly; it was created about 90 years ago for the purpose of shortening dress-up time for women’s social advancement.
At that time, Harko’s rational spirit was not accepted immediately. However, in 1920, the department store, Nagoya Mitsukoshi, focused attention on her obi, imitated it, and put it on the market. This obi was named as Nagoya-obi after Nagoya girls' school, which she founded. And this Nagoya-obi became popular rapidly all over Japan.
Now it is difficult to imagine that Nagoya-obi was created for shortening dress-up time by one career woman, because kimono style is far from the ordinary style. But thanks to Nagoya-obi, now we can easily coordinate various kimono fashions. We could never imagine casual Tumugi pongee kimono with Maru-obi.

This is one of Nagoya-obi I have, which is tailored in Nagoya-obi style. One of my students learned how to fold it, saying that it looks like a head of squid. Really Nagoya-obi should resemble a head of squid.


At the museum by Great Lakes

Rochester is the upstate city in New York, on the south of Lake Ontario, where we get fro, NYC for about 1 hr by plain. This city prospered as key junctions of trade between Great Lakes and Pennsylvania. Companies like Eastman Kodak and Bausch & Lomb were founded in this city. Now the special exhibition “Fashioning KIMONO: Art Deco and Modernism in Japan” is held at the Memorial Art Gallery of Rochester University, from January 31st to April 4th. The opening party for the exhibition was held on January 30th, where I presented kimono styling at the auditorium of the museum.

The opening party was very crowded. Queues of people formed in front of the exhibition room.
I presented kimono styling twice. Each time the auditorium was mostly full. First the curator introduced me and I introduced myself in English, but I could not speak very well because I didn’t have enough confidence in English. While my English teacher advised me that I have to speak slowly and pause at 2 sec after each period, it was difficult.

On the exhibition, many kimonos from the Taisho to Showa period, including Meisen kimonos, were displayed. Most of them were affected by Western designs. I used the Taisho kimono, but not Meisen kimono, for my presentation. I put it on the lady’s model and demonstrated obi exchange. When I compared obi tying to “big origami (paper folding)”, audiences laughed all together. At the other room, origami art was demonstrated.

Second, I demonstratd styling of men’s kimono, haori hakama with five family crests. After a man’s model came up to the stage in nagagi style, I told audience that I made a little strange style and I made him yakko style, tucking up a skirt of his nagagi. I told audience the origin of this style. I explained that each process of kimono dressing had history and meaning. They were very interested in all the stories. Finally, I completed hakama dressing and showed traditional Japanese formal men’s style.

After my presentation, I told the model of haori hakama style, a student of the law school, “You may go to the party in kimono style.” He was happy to run to the party. He was surrounded and photographed by many attendees.

I was a little disappointed because I could not speak very well, but representatives of the museum and the curator, Sydney, who supported me for my presentation, called my presentation a complete success. I was very happy.
As the reply of my Email, she wrote me to keep in touch in the future. I feel that this message is a wonderful present.


The reception of the Serizawa exhibition in Japan Society

I attended the preview reception of the Serizawa Keisuke exhibition in Japan Society, New York. Many his works were exhibited and worth seeing. Serizawa Keisuke was a Japanese textile designer, designated as a living national treasure for his katazome stencil dyeing technique. He was largely affected by Yanagi Soetsu, called as a father of industrial designers, and became a leading member of the mingei movement founded by Yanagi Soetsu.

It was my pleasure to see kimonos dyed using stencils by Serizawa, which were affected by ryukyu bingatas. I found one kimono with bingata designs. Kumadori, the technique of color gradation for bingata dying, made his works vivid.
Of course eye-catching colors looked impressive, but superior sensitivity as a industrial designer should make his works stereoscopic, if they were worn by somebody.

I also saw calendars and book covers he designed. I felt nostalgic. Old days, I had seen book with such book covers at my grandfather’s room.

I met many wonderful Serizawa’s works. At the same time, I was introduced to the artist who tries to bring new perspective to the traditional culture field. It was a nice meeting with him. In addition, I met a person who has taken care of us after my immigration to New York City. I spent a great time!

Information of the exhibition
Serizawa: Master of Japanese Textile Design
From Friday, October 9 to Sunday, January 17
Japan Society, New York

The photos show scenes of the reception party.

The first dance lesson in a long while

I have started taking lessons of Japanese traditional dance in New York City. It was the first lesson in a long while.

When I visited the studio of my teacher, she showed me her stage costume, because she would perform the dance in a few days. The obi had a ready-made ribbon, which formed kichiya-musubi style.

Kichiya-musubi knot is originated by Kamimura Kichiya, a famous kabuki actor who specialized in female roles in the Empo period (1673-1681). He created it from karuta-musubi knot, which looked a sequence of three cards and was used both by men and women. He made broad obi, which we are using now, popular with ladies through kichiya-musubi style.

In this way, the roots of obi tying are interesting. Prof. Sasajima told us that its origin is in the style of yokozuna (The top rank of sumo wrestlers). Now we can see two types of rope tying in yokozuna: unryu type and shiranui type. Unryu-type yokozuna has a draw knot and shiranui-type yokozuna has a bow knot.

When I see stage costumes, I am always surprised how variable obi tying is. I should be aware of the origin and history of obi tying, including rope tying in yokozuna.

This time I have no photos of my dance training, so I will show you photos of sumo wresting in Ryogoku Kokugikan. I had gone there last year, a few days before I moved to New York City. I watched sumo wrestling at the box seat, wearing a kimono.

I confirmed Yokozuna Asashoryu with unryu style and Yokozuna Hakuho with shiranui style at the ring entering ceremony.

Surprisingly, Ozeki (the second rank sumo wrestlers) Chiyo-taikai won strong Yokozuna Asashoryu. After the fight, cushions, which audiences used, flew about! Because all the fights were serious, unexpected results always happen.

I learned the dance act: Itako-dejima. Really I met a wonderful teacher and enjoyed the dance performance. I am looking forward to taking the next lesson.


A boyfriend ties an obi for a lady.

An American lady living in Ohio State asked me to take kimono lessons during her stay in New York City. She had stayed in Japan for two years and had an experience to wear a kimono. She had tried to put on a kimono by herself looking at the book of kimono dressing, but she could not put on it as shown in the book.

On her mail, she asked me to make her lesson for telling how to put on a kimono by herself and how to tie a fukuro obi in the plump sparrow, fukurasuzume, style. It is difficult especially for beginners to tie by themselves a fukuro obi in the plump sparrow style. So, I suggested her that it is capable to tell somebody how to tie it for her. Surprisingly, she wanted me to tell her boyfriend how to tie it in the plump sparrow style.

At the day of her lesson, she truly came to my class room from Ohio State with her boyfriend.
In the first one hour half, I coached her to put on a kimono. As she might have tried to put on a kimono by herself several times, she was quick to acquire it. But she was struggling with Nagoya obi tying in the proper otaiko style.
Then, after a short break, I coached her boyfriend how to tie a fukuro obi in the plump sparrow style for almost two hours. She put on a furisode like as a trial horse.

I think it’s very cool to see that a man ties an obi! Her boyfriend looked an otokoshi, who dresses maikos in gorgeous kimonos and tie a long darari obi as only a male professional in Hanamachi, Kyoto. Usually I use not only my arms but also my whole body to hold an obi-makura for keeping a shape of obi’s hill and to bind the band of obi-makura. On the other hand, her boyfriend used only his arms to make a beautiful shape of obi’s hill easily. How powerful man is!
I felt a little frustrating, but I realized that man’s muscular strength is suitable for obi tying, when I saw his obi tying. In the Edo period (1603-1868), Segawa Roko, an onnagata of kabuki (a male actor who specialize in female roles) created an original form of otaiko-style obi tying. After his bunko-style obi tying unfastened on stage, he quickly fastened the short end of obi and made obi a new shape: Roko musubi. I think it was highly visible that the onnnagata kabuki star tied a long heavy obi on stage. Similarly, I believe it seems impressive that man tie a long and heavy obi.

This photo shows his obi tying in the plump sparrow style for her. Because he mostly acquired this obi tying, I further wanted to tell him the hiyoku (aioi) style and demonstrated it to them. But he said, “It seems more difficult to have balance in the hiyoku (aioi) style. It’s OK only for acquiring the plump sparrow style today.”
When I folded up kimonos after our lesson, he continued to review his operation.

Recently I received an Email from Ohio. She wrote that she reviewed how to put on a kimono and could put on it by herself, and further her boyfriend dressed her in furisode in the plump sparrow style. I am pleased to hear that she and her boyfriend want to acquire other styles of obi tying in the near future.
I think it is wonderful that a man learn how to tie an obi for his girlfriend.