I try not to bring things from my personal life that are non-kimono related here too much. This blog was started as a blog about kimono and Japanese culture, and I intend to keep it that way. But I feel that this is an important topic to discuss, and I see no need to start yet another blog in order to talk about it. I promise that after this blog entry, we will be back to our regularly scheduled kimono blogging. (I am hosting a kimono brunch for the NWO Kimono Society tomorrow!) Anyway, here it goes.
Two days ago, a random stranger on Facebook told me to eat a cheeseburger after looking at my profile picture. He said I was obviously one of those model types that shuns food and eats facial tissues in order to “stay skinny”. He then proceeded to blame people like me for furthering the war on “real women” by pushing thinness as an ideal.
For the record, this is my profile picture on Facebook:
I do not think that I look like a “model type” here. I also do not think I look that skinny. You can’t see my ribs (which are slightly visible when I wear a bathing suit; the horror!) and neither are my collarbones sticking out. My arms look fairly toned. I think I look like a normal, healthy girl enjoying a nice vacation.
This guy’s comment did not offend me. I actually found it hilarious. I especially cannot take an insult as such when it is riddled with grammatical and spelling errors. To let oneself be insulted by such pure, unadulterated stupidity would be, well, stupid. But I feel this comment does point to some issues that need to be addressed. These issues are becoming commonplace on the Internet and even in real life. Not just for my sake, but society’s, let’s look at those points, shall we?
1.) A woman’s body is not property. A woman’s value does not lie in how attractive she appears to the straight male. (I see this a lot in those stupid Facebook groups that say “curves are hotter than bones” and”men like curves” yadda yadda yadda. Get some self-worth beyond male opinion, ladies.) You, whether you are a man or woman, do not have a right or an obligation to dictate how other people “should” look in order to please you. I know I am “too skinny” for many people’s tastes, but I don’t exist to make sure I fit everyone’s tastes. I fit my husband’s tastes and that is why we are married. To think that any woman needs to alter her body (by gaining or losing weight, changing hair color, removing tattoos, etc) in order to fulfill your aesthetic preferences in a woman speaks of narcissism at its finest. The only person you control is you, so use self control and don’t make yourself look like a body-policing idiot. Also,if you are judging someone based entirely on a head-and-shoulders profile picture, then you are suffering from a special kind of stupid.
2.) There seems to be this idea that skinny shaming is acceptable because skinny women can look at any billboard in the nation and feel vindicated by knowing their body type is the one preferred by Hollywood and the fashion industry. Would it surprise you to know that many naturally thin women do not identify with fashion models, and that most every day naturally thin women are against pushing thinness as an ideal and are sickened by the industry’s treatment of models? Yes, I wear a size 0. This *SHOCKER* does not mean that I speak for the fashion industry. This does not mean I represent models. Nor does it mean I feel represented by the fashion industry. I am not. Let’s compare my measurements to that of Victoria’s Secret Angel Doutzen Kroes:
Doutzen’s measurements (in inches) are: 35-24-35. She is 5’10″ and weighs 125 pounds. Long, blond hair. BMI of 17.9
My measurements (in inches) are: 30-23.5-33.5. I am 5’1″ and weigh 92 lbs. Short, red hair. BMI of 17.
According to this, the only thing I kind of share with Doutzen is my waist measurement. Yes, she is thin. But she is thin in a different way than I am. Her body is built differently. If she and I were to stand next to each other, she would tower over me and have a noticeably larger bust. I do not look at her and see myself. And you know what? I DON’T HATE HER FOR IT. I do not hate her for being a beautiful woman. My own insecurities are not her fault. Doutzen gets paid good money to be good looking and to provide a fantasy. That’s right, a fantasy. I get tired of people blaming models for their own bad self-esteem because models are not supposed to be representations of real life. Have you seen what they wear on the runway? Feeling bad about yourself after looking at this picture of Doutzen is making a choice.
I also do not hate curvy women. Not at all. I don’t think they need to look like me. I do not think curvy or overweight women should be shamed for their bodies any more than a thin woman should. I do not think that any body type is better than the other; the best body type is the one that’s healthiest FOR YOU, and that is not the same for everyone. Women come in all shapes and sizes. All women are real women. Even unhealthy ones.
3.) To address the topic of cheeseburgers. “You need to eat a cheeseburger!”
Can we talk about how stupid and unhelpful this phrase is? For one thing, how do you know I don’t eat cheeseburgers? I do. Not all the time, but I do enjoy them on occasion. But come on. If a woman in naturally on the skinny side and has a hard time gaining weight, guess what? That cheeseburger is not suddenly going to change her into Christina Hendricks. If a woman is clinically underweight but otherwise healthy, what makes you think that engaging in an unhealthy diet of fatty foods is going to somehow make her appear “healthy”? As it is I have perfect cholesterol levels and a relatively good complexion. I can just see a steady diet of Big Macs ruining all that. Sure, I might gain a couple pounds, but I would lose my general health. It’s also silly to assume that a woman IS unhealthy just because she is thin. Many women can be perfectly healthy at a small size. And are you the doctor of the woman is question? No? THEN HER WEIGHT IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.
“But I’m just saying because I care! Anorexia is bad and women should want to be healthy!” REALLY? You really think that such a stupid and snarky comment is helpful? Well I got news for you. No case of anorexia has ever been solved by a person telling an anorexic to “eat a cheeseburger”. Not one. Ever. Shocking, I know. You would think this phrase would solve every anorexic’s fear of food. Ugh, I really cannot get over the people who say they make these comments “because they care”. Caring would be knowing what anorexia is and not broadcasting your ignorance all over the Internet. Caring would be knowing that making snarky comments about the anorexic’s body makes her situation worse, not better. Caring would be keeping your asshat comments to yourself.
I guess what it boils down to is this: if you got nothing nice to say, then don’t say anything at all. Use your God-given brain-to-mouth filter function. Don’t stick your nose where you don’t have any business. Respect women of every size and shape. Don’t think the world revolves around you and your tastes.
Just try to be a decent person.
Do you have experience with body snark? What do you think of the comment “eat a cheeseburger”? Harmless joke or offensive?
Now back to our regularly scheduled kimono-related programming.
I have consistent back pain. The cause comes from curvature of the spine in my low back, which causes the joint in my hip to line up incorrectly. This causes the bones to grind on each other. I’ve had this pain since I was a teenager, but it has really gotten worse in the past six months. It is not a bad pain. It’s not a pain that prevents me from walking, running, sitting, or standing for long periods of time. It’s not a pain that affects my every-day life. It’s just an annoying pain; it’s just a feeling of pressure. The best way I can describe it is that it feels like a joint that needs to be popped, but I can’t pop it. I have seen a chiropractor for it, but the adjustments tend to leave my back tender and sore for days. The pain I end up having after a chiropractic visit is usually a lot worse than the pain that I deal with otherwise, so I’ve kind of given up on going. It’s really not that bad.
It’s something I have learned to live with.
But I do worry that it will affect my ability to wear kimono, at least for long periods of time. Last month I went to an anime convention and was in kimono and geta for nine hours. The combination of a constricting obi and unsupportive wooden shoes worn over the course of an entire day caused a week of discomfort. And there was a cherry blossom festival this past weekend; I didn’t go because my back was acting up and I knew kimono wouldn’t be comfortable. To me, that’s frustrating.
I don’t want to be afraid to wear kimono for fear of causing more than the expected discomfort (because let’s be honest, wearing kimono is not the same as wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt). I also don’t want to be limited to wearing only haori over jeans, yukata, or only wearing kimono for two hours. For something that otherwise isn’t that bad.
I have learned to live with it. I will have to learn to not let it dictate what I enjoy.
I used to covet yabane (arrow feathers) kimono and I had a heck of a time getting my hands on it. Now I have two (a large print and a small print) and I’m seeing yabane kimono for sale everywhere. Go figure!
Have you ever seen a kimono or obi that you absolutely wanted but couldn’t have? What are your most coveted themes? Have you been able to get your hands on those themes that you covet most?
Hello everyone! I know it may seem that I have been neglecting my blog again. Truth is, I was never very good at this kind of thing, and I’m in something of a transitional period where I haven’t had much time for kimono. I had been picking up quite a few hours at my job after Christmas time, and being on my feet all day was not only causing some exhaustion that left little energy for kimono, it was also hard on my back. I have curvature of the spine in my low back, and when it acts up, wearing an obi and being forced to have straight posture can be difficult. Standing on concrete floors all day and constantly bending down (I worked with dogs) can really do a number on you!
Finally I realized that things couldn’t remain as they were and i quit my job before leaving for a fantastic Caribbean vacation at the end of last month. Obviously on such a trip, tank tops, shorts, and bikinis were the clothing of choice over a kimono! It was a wonderful time and it was hard to come back to chilly northern Ohio.
Me with parrot friend on Isla Roatan, Honduras.
Now I am trying to get back in school so I can get my certification to become an art teacher. I am confident in this decision and I am relieved to have finally found a direction after a few years in a dead-end-job and a set of job skills that would only work in the customer service industry. Not something I want to do forever!
Anyway, at least during the past few months I’ve had two occasions to wear kimono, which I was happy to do! First the NWO Kimono Society went to the Toledo Museum of Art for their special Manet exhibit. It was fitting because Manet, like many Impressionists, was influenced by Japanese art styles. I wore my new phoenix irotomesode.
The group! All our photos were taken by the talented Diane Woodring.
This was my favorite picture from the day! The blue and white of the Japanese kimono contrast very well with the red and gold of the museum’s Medieval cloister room.
My obidome, which was perfect for this bird-themed outfit, is just a simple brooch I ordered from Avon! I always get compliments on it.
Then in January , after we’d had some good snow, my friend Kerry of Ohio Kimono and I went out for a snow shoot. The look was Edo-era meets modern west. First we shot at Woodlawn Cemetery then at an abandoned, graffiti-covered factory.
Now I am looking forward to Animarathon, a local anime convention where I will have the opportunity to give panels on both kimono and geisha. Of course I will be wearing kimono!! I am still trying to plan my outfit, though!!
Today I had the opportunity to put some of my new pieces to work! The Toledo School of the Arts was having a Japanese-themed benefit lunch at a local tea cottage, and I thought it was the perfect opportunity to dress up! I’ve had two yabane kimono in my collection for a few months now, but I never had an obi that went with them until this one came along. The obi arrived this past week and I am so pleased with it! The obi features treasures associated with the Seven Lucky Gods. (The magic Mallet, the Hat of Invisibility, the Scrolls of Knowledge, and the Endless Purse.)
Seriously, how cool is this piece?! I’m in love!
Anyway, I paired it with my indigo-and-off white yabane kimono. The weather, unfortunately, is cool and very damp, so I didn’t think tabi and zori were a good idea. I have these cool little booties, so I tried a new look. Booties, fishnets, and kimono! Since I was deviating from traditional kitsuke, I tried to do my best to make sure everything else was as neat and correct as possible. What do you think?
The obi is a tad off-center in the front, but other than that I’m happy with it. My neatest ohashori ever! Also, this is the neatest obi I’ve ever tied on myself. Took a few tries but a years’ worth of doing mixed martial arts has made me more flexible, I guess!
This look (maybe sans the boots and tights) was what I was talking about when I said I wanted to pursue a “townswoman chic” into my kimono wardrobe.
And lunch was great! Considering the tea cottage had never really served Japanese-style food before, my oyakodon was delish! There was candy sushi for dessert, too!
And next week, I’ll get to wear my new phoenix irotomesode for a museum trip! So exited!
I’m involved in a few different online kimono and geisha communities. I give panels on geisha at conventions, and I have been invited to speak about kimono at colleges. One thing that always comes up in discussions about geisha is the book and movie “Memoirs of a Geisha”. I usually have a discussion prepared for this very topic in case it comes up; usually the question is “how accurate is it?” Even though the book came out in the mid 1990′s and the movie was released in 2005, MoaG is still a popular topic among geisha/kimono enthusiasts. It remains a gateway into traditional Japanese culture for many people. This is why I am choosing to blog about it, even though neither are a recent phenomenon.
In this post, I am mostly going to focus on the movie because the movie is so inaccurate and disrespectful of the geisha culture that it’s almost laughable, but I’ll address the book briefly first.
Arthur Golden’s best-selling novel, “Memoirs of a Geisha”, was my introduction to the geisha culture that I am so in love with. I read when I was about 11; probably a bit of a mature book for an 11-year-old (I had a teacher remark that she was surprised that my parents were letting me read it), but I was head-over-heels nonetheless. I still enjoy the book to this day. From my research, it doesn’t seem to be incredibly inaccurate as far s the life of pre-WWII geisha goes. He gets the seasonality and age-appropriateness of the kimono wrong sometimes, but I admire his descriptions of them. My biggest complaint is that Mr. Golden doesn’t seem to have a very high opinion of women. His female characters all seem to be catty, vain, and obssessive, though his writing style is quite charming. Memoirs of a Geisha is a fiction book, a book to be enjoyed as the Cinderella story that it is. I do not recommend the book for research, unless it is read in tandem with Mineko Iwasaki’s “Geisha, A Life”. (Ms. Iwasaki is the geisha whose story MoaG is very loosely based on. Ms. Iwasaki eventually sued Arthur Golden for breach of contract.)
Now, the movie. Oh, the movie. Directed by Rob Marshall (of Chicago fame), “Memoirs of a Geisha” is a feast for the untrained Western eye. With dazzling scenery, off-the-wall hairstyles, and a gorgeous cast of pan-Asian women in layers of silk brocade, MoaG won rave reviews among the Hollywood elite.
Rob Marshall doesn’t like the look of geisha.
Rob Marshall and his costume designer, Colleen Atwood, felt that the authentic geisha look would not sell to a western audience.
Rob Marshall felt that Japanese actresses would not sell to a western audience.
Rob Marshall felt that a very important Japanese tradition; a cultural icon that is unique to Japan only, could only sell if she was portrayed by a well-known Chinese actress, dressed in very westernized kimono, wearing a bizarre hairstyle that looks nothing like what geisha actually wear.
Rob Marshall and his costume department said that they wanted a “geisha-meets-Paris-runway” look. I understand artistic licence. I am an artist myself. But what Mr. Marshall did to the kimono in this movie goes beyond artistic licence. Some of it falls into the realm of plain ignorance. For instance, the collars crossed incorrectly in some scenes:
LEFT OVER RIGHT! This is the very first thing you learn about kitsuke! Collars crossed right-over-left are only done for corpses!! If the scenes were to be flipped after filming, they should have taken this into consideration when filming the scenes! Also, geisha don’t just hang out in their juban during the day. They will still be fully dressed in regular kimono, especially when practicing dance!
Another annoyance was the way the kimono fit the actresses. It didn’t help that you could definitely tell that Zhang Ziyi in particular was extremely uncomfortable in one. Look at the way she is wearing this kimono. Soooo sloppy; even an untrained eye should be able to tell that this costume is not falling right. Her obi is worn way too low, the shoulder tucks of her hikizuri are way too far off, and the kimono crests are very weirdly placed. Furthermore, she is wearing a hikizuri as a furisode, with an obi tied into a drum. This style of obi musubi is wrong for maiko hikizuri, and technically isn’t correct for furisode, either.
Even more annoying is that neither the kimono nor the obi seem to meet the quality of an authentic maiko costume. The kimono looks cheap, the fabric rough. The obi looks flimsy and boring. And this was a problem throughout the whole movie. I thought the people making this movie felt that authentic geisha/maiko dress was “too subtle”? Please tell me how this drab costume pops of the screen? Please tell me how this kimono is so much more eye-popping than this authentic maiko hikizuri?
This picture also ticks me off. A geisha will treat her kimono with much more care than this. She will not be wearing her sopping-wet hair dangling all over her precious silk pieces. She certainly would not be wearing pieces like this to bath house, like Hatsumomo had done in this scene in the movie.
There is actually a scene where Michelle Yeoh is wearing a gorgeous purple kimono. Of all the non-Japanese actresses, Yeoh had the best presence in a kimono, and it’s definitely the best kitsuke on a non-Japanese actress in the entire film.
This article is long but it is worth a read. It is a Japanese dancer and kimono enthusiast’s opinion on the geisha presentation in MoaG:
What is your opinion of Memoirs of a Geisha movie? Excusable artistic licence, or inexcusable disrespect to the geisha culture? What did you think of the book?
I received a new kimono this week! It’s an early Christmas gift from my husband; though I picked it out. It’s an antique irotomesode featuring phoenix in flight.
It’s gorgeous. A good deal more stained and discolored than I was expecting, but it’s also a good deal older than I thought. It is definitely an antique; I’d put it in the early Showa period; maybe late Taisho but it doesn’t have red lining. This kimono is very interesting. I purchased it from Ichiroya, and they had said that they believed that it could be a geisha’s susohiki instead of a traditional irotomesode. I can see why they might say that. The piece is fairly long for it’s time period; I have a few antique pieces from the same era and even I, at 5’1″, have a hard time getting an ohashori out of them due to the shorter length. (Women back then must have been so tiny!) The hem is also padded. Furthermore, the phoenix is a powerful symbol that symbolizes prosperity, hope, and new beginnings. It’s not theme that just anyone would wear. However, even if it did once belong to a geisha, I will wear it as an irotomesode.
There is another important thing about this piece: this will be my last bird piece that I purchase for awhile. I am even taking a break from my beloved peacocks. I will still wear my avian pieces, of course, but I will no longer actively collect them. Part of the reason is that I have quite a few bird pieces already. Part of it is that I am finding birds and peacocks becoming very popular among many collectors (understandably so), but I wish for my own personal kitsuke style to be unique (while still being correct, of course). But most importantly, I am finding that my tastes in kimono are maturing.
I am starting to find myself drawn to what I would call “vintage townswoman style”. For kimono, I am really starting to like the look of verticals, particularly yabane and stripes. I love the longer sleeve lengths on vintage pieces. I find the kitsuke styles of the late Taisho-early Showa periods to be very iki. And for obi, I am becoming drawn to pieces that feature mythological or theatrical themes. I have an obi on the way that features the seven lucky treasures. I want to start collecting pieces that are themed around kabuki, noh, geisha, and folklore. I’ve always been interested in these things anyway, so it only seems fitting that my collection should feature them. I am excited to see how my collection will grow as my tastes continue to shift towards this “townswoman style”.
(Lastly: I am getting back to doing Kimono 101 posts! Next I will do houmongi! If you have a picture of yourself in a neat houmongi ensemble, please send it to me! Credit will be given to you, of course, and ff you have a blog, I will like back to it with your picture.)
Has your kitsuke style ever changed? Did you find that the longer you collected, the more your tastes evolved? What is your favorite theme to collect?
Wow, long time no see, huh?
Unfortunately, I have not had as much time for kimono as I would like. I went back to work, and many people in the Kimono Society have just been busy. It’s been hard for us to make any big plans! For a few months, I was also struggling with some bad back pain, which made it impossible to wear an obi (due to having to have my spine shoved back into place); it wasn’t pleasant but I am ok now!
I am excited to finally wear kimono tomorrow as I give a presentation on kimono at a local community college. I am very excited to dress up and talk about my passion!
I would really like to get back into the swing-of-things as far as the blog goes; I will work on some more kimono 101 posts to put up and hopefully I will have more kitsuke experiences to share soon!
Since I haven’t had any ‘kimono experiences’ to write about lately, I thought I would take you down a little trip down memory lane. It was exactly four years ago this month that I was in Japan. It’s really quite hard to believe; it hardly seems like it was that long ago. It really was the trip of a lifetime and to me, it’s not a question of if I go back but when. I have been to many wonderful places in the United States but I have never been anywhere quite so magical as Japan.
The highlight of the trip happened in Kyoto, when my husband and I had the pleasure of being entertained by two maiko (apprentice geisha). I have been crazy about geisha for well over ten years, and getting the chance to spend time with them was really a dream come true for me. I would have been happy to just catch a glimpse of a maiko in Kyoto; to actually meet two was totally outside my realm of expectation.
We were able to do it through a tour group called Kyoto Sights and Nights, which is run by a Canadian man named Mr. Peter MacIntosh. He’s been living in Kyoto for quite some time and is married to a woman who was involved in traditional entertainment. He owns a bar right in the Miyagawa-cho geisha district called “Hanagumo”. This is where we met Toshiyui.
(Me and Toshiyui!)
At the time, Toshigui was a junior maiko and had only been a maiko for about eight months. I asked her (through Mr. MacInstosh; I don’t speak any Japanese and even if I did, the language that the geisha speak is very archaic and can be hard to understand) why she wanted to be a maiko; she told me it was because she wanted to be a princess and dress up every night! It was a wonderful evening; Toshiyui danced for us, played a few drinking games with us (my husband drank for her when she lost), and giggled at everything like a 16-year-old is wont to do.
We actually ran into Toshiyui again before leaving Kyoto and she kindly took another picture with me. She is just in every-day kimono here.
After Toshiyui left, Mr. MacIntosh admitted that we were supposed to have two geisha at the event, and that’s what we paid for. The second geisha had something last-minute come up and she couldn’t make it. Since I was so crazy about geisha, he offered to take us to a maiko dance recital, and then to his favorite teahouse to meet another maiko!
Some pictures from the dance recital, which was held at Miyagawa-cho’s geisha school:
A few nights later, we went to the teahouse. There we were entertained by Miehina, a senior maiko. The experience was a little different but still as amazing. Miehina and the teahouse mother, Haruno, gave us our fill of sweets, sake, and whiskey. (I just drank carbonated lemonade!) Miehina didn’t dance for us but she did play the shamisen, which we learned was her real passion. Miehina is a well-traveled maiko, too! Mr. MacIntosh has taken her to Europe, where she entertained people in England, Ireland, and Holland. Most geisha never get an opportunity to entertain outside of Japan.
Miehina playing the shamisen for us:
Miehina, Haruno, and myself:
They also had two funny little shi-tzhus and a cat!
(I really, really, really apologize for the photo quality. I have not taken the time to retouch the photos from my trip since I have so many. We don’t have a fantastic camera, either.)
Where they are now:
Toshiyui is a senior maiko and will probably become a fully-fledged geisha around the New Year. I wish i could be there for it. Here are some recent pictures of her:
Miehina became a fully-fledged geisha in the winter after I was in Japan. She is now a jikata geiko, or a geisha that specializes in music instead of dance.
A for Mr. Peter MacIntosh, you can contact him through Kyoto Sights and Nights:. I would recommend it if you’ll be in Kyoto any time soon!
Have you been to Japan? What was the highlight of your trip?
Greetings, kimono enthusiasts. I must apologize for such a long absence. Sadly, I have not had opportunity to wear kimono for over a month! My summer has stayed pretty jam-packed with family reunions, endless errands to run, outings with friends, and a trip out of town. Another factor has been the heat. It’s been too hot for yukata! I’m hoping with the cool down will come more kimono opportunities.
I know, I know….I could have still kept up with Kimono 101 posts. I’ll try to get back on those!
In the meantime, here is the very last ensemble I put together, which was on June 24th. I did a small presentation on kimono at a little local con. Since I was only there for the presentation and there wasn’t as much risk of it being damaged, I opted for my furisode since it makes quite a visual impression. I think this is my best kitsuke for this particular ensemble; the sleeves make it so hard for me to get everything lined up and rumple-free by myself! I’d like to wear it more often so I can get more practice!
The night before this event, the NWO Kimono Society had a nice sake and plum-wine tasting. Most of us wore yukata.
(We had some Team Ro, too., though I seem to be missing my entire group photo.)
I made onigiri to take to the event, since you shouldn’t drink on an empty stomach!
I hope to start posting again soon!!
If you’re a kimono collector, what’s the longest you’ve gone without wearing kimono?