Sunday, April 25, 2010

Kimono

Last weekend, my friend Kaori and her mom were nice enough to doll me up in Kaori's kimono. This is more of an act of generosity than it sounds like, firstly because the kimono is worth somewhere around $10,000, and secondly because it took about an hour to dress me in it. For those of you that remember the pictures of Kyle and I in yukata, I should point out that this is different. A yukata is a (much less expensive) cotton summer outfit which isn't that difficult to wear (although I still couldn't dress myself in it), whereas a kimono is a much more formal silk affair. As you'll see, it's quite a process to wear one, but I think it was worth it. :)

The first step was to put on these funny camel socks called tabi

Next, I put on some cotton undergarments called juban. Then, the "canning" began. She tied on layers upon layers of towels in order to give me a flat shape, like a can.

Next came a intricately designed silk under-kimono called a hiyoku (I think, but I'm not actually sure), which was beautiful enough stand alone, I thought.

That's just part of the underwear.

At this point, We actually put the kimono on. I thought we were almost finished, but really there was like another 30 minutes of tying and tugging after this. Kaori is actually holding me steady while her mom tugs on me.

This style of kimono with long sleeves is called a furisode, which I technically shouldn't wear since I'm married.


The long silk belt is called an obi, and is the most expensive part of the kimono, since it takes experienced craftsmanship to make them.

Kaori's obi cost about $5,000, so it makes up half the cost of her kimono.

I really thought we were almost done at this point too, but it was still a while before she stopped tugging.

Kaori's mom tying the obi bow. I think this is probably the hardest part of dressing someone in a kimono.

And... finished. Finally.


Yata! (ta-da!)

And for everyone's comic amusement, here's a video of me trying to walk in this thing.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Hanami

Sakura in Maebashi

Every year in Japan, the country is cloaked in the pretty pink of the sakura, or cherry blossoms. It's hard to imagine how ubiquitous these beautiful trees really are. Almost every street, path, and garden is lined with sakura. There's a sakura on the 100 yen ($1) coin, Sakura is a common girl's name (I know at least 3 students named Sakura), and the beginning of their school and fiscal year has coincided with the blooming of the sakura for over 1,200 years.


The sakura carries with it rich symbolism, and is commonly viewed as a metaphor for the ephemeral nature of human life. The blossoms quickly explode into brilliance and just as quickly fade away, and so are often associated with mortality and impermanence.


The Japanese public tracks the sakura zenzen, or the cherry blossom front, every year as it moves from Okinawa in the south to Hokkaido in the north. When the moment is right, hanami, or cherry blossom viewing, begins. This tradition was borrowed from China sometime around 724 AD, although the tradition then was to view ume (apricot) tree blossoms. People enjoy walks along sakura-lined rivers, afternoon picnics with bento and sake, and lamp-lit blossoms in the evenings. It's lovely.

hanami in Mitsudera Park in Takasaki



One of the most Japanese-looking scenes you'll ever see. Coincidentally this is the oldest major building in Maebashi, being the only one that survived the firebombing.

For the rest of our sakura photos, see our full album here.