Tuesday, March 2, 2010

baika-sai 2010 :: kimono

((warning: this is likely to be a long post. XD))
february 25th in japan is baikasai, or plum blossom festival. baikasai takes place at the kitano tenmangu shrine in kyoto japan on this day every year. the festival is held in memory of a heian era court official suagwara michizane, who admired plum blossoms greatly.
the kitano shrine is completely surrounded by plum blossoms. from february 10th to the end of march the shrine is ornately decorated and is open for public viewing.
baikasai can be attended by anyone. geisha from the kamishichiken geisha district in kyoto come to serve and entertain guests. tea ceremonies are performed by the geisha themselves for five hours, and green tea and a sweet is served to all the guests.
baikasai is one of the most beautiful celebrations of the entire year. the colors, the geisha, everything is beautiful.

especially the kimono.

i'm sure you're probably wondering how geisha or baikasai has anything to do with this blog at all, and well, it's safe to say that it doesn't. though the subject of kimono is something that i have wanted to discuss since i first began even thinking of creating this blog.
the highlight of baikasai every year is to see the geisha from the kamishichiken perform the tea ceremonies. geisha are traditional entertainers who specialize in performing many japanese arts including classical dance and music. they are noted for their aesthetic that has lasted for centuries. these women on a day-to-day basis wear the traditional japanese dress, kimono. (pronounced kee-mo-no)
my fascination with geisha and kitsuke, the art of wearing kimono, began when i was about nine. for hours i would spend hours relentlessly researching the two subjects, renting books, watching documentaries and more. i even shared my knowledge with kids at school by writing them papers and directing them to websites to visit. by age ten i could tell the difference between a tourist dressed up as a geisha from a real geisha, what type of kimono someone was wearing, i could name all the parts and dressings necessary to wear kimono, tell her name, and tell what stage a geisha was at just by looking at a photo of her.
i have hand-tailored a numerous amount of kimono. it's a hobby of mine. :)
kimono are not couture. They aren't high fashion, they don't become in or out of style, they're not seen on the runway or presented in seasonal collections.they are work of art, crafted and constructed by artists whose lives are predominately dedicated to the making of kimono, and the art of kitsuke, wearing kimono.

iki is a japanese word used to express simplicity, sophistication, spontaneity, and originality. it is ephemeral, romantic, straight forward, measured, audacious, smart, and unselfconscious.
the elegance of kimono is an elegance that will hopefully be timeless in japan for years to come. kimono shape the body to become curve-less, yet constrict the movement of exaggerated body language and refine the smallest of movements, from walking, to moving your arms. the pulled back collar which reveals the nape of the neck is the equivalent of a woman in america wearing a skirt that flaunts her legs.
the style of iki can be seen as early as ukiyo-e carvings from hundreds of years ago and be seen walking in the streets of a kyoto hanamachi.


geisha are most noted for their extravagant kimono which can cost up to about 150,000 usd in total for their entire ensemble.
wearing kimono is not like throwing on a t-shirt and jeans, to wear one and to put one on is indeed an art and skill itself.
kimono are worn in layers. in an average kimono ensemble, there are usually 2 layers. the under kimono (juban) and then the kimono itself. there are many different types of kimono, varying from funeral kimono (mofuku) to a geisha's style of kimono. (hikizuri) there are many, many different requried accessories to a kimono ensemble. more than you'd think!
here is where pictures of the process of putting on a komon (townwear/casual kimono) can be viewed.
most geisha kimono are completely hand made and passed from many generations or are bought exclusively. every stitch is made by hand, even the designs on the silk itself is done by hand by means of embroidery, dyeing, or hand-painting.
every fine detail is carefully observed and perfected when creating exuberant and beautiful, timeless kimono.

the beautiful photos of 2010 baika-sai courtesy of the talented photographer D Lumenta of flickr.

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