Thursday, September 17, 2009
Traditional Japanese Clothing
This is another entry in my series about Kyoto.
Although I wear black in the office, at home I wear season appropriate traditional Japanese clothing.
Kyoto is a wonderful place for traditional crafts including fabric weaving, dying, and clothes making.
Here's a few of my experiences:
Samue - The most incredible fabrics and Indigo dyeing is done by Ken-ichi Utsuki, owner of Aizenkobo workshop, a traditional Japanese natural indigo dying and textile firm. He and his son fitted me with a Samue (Japanese workclothes for Zen monks and tradespeople). Indigo naturally repels mosquitos, and imparts a wonderful feel and odor to the fabric. I wear my samue while gardening, doing weekend chores, and while playing the Japanese flute.
Geta - Remarkable Japanese wooden sandals made from Kiri wood and Sugi (cryptomeria wood) are created by Kunimi Naito and her family in the Gion (Geisha) district of Kyoto at the Naito Geta shop (they do not have a website). They carefully studied my feet and are making a custom pair of geta for my 27cm western-sized foot. Standard geta available in tourist shops or online just do not fit my foot correctly because my arch is too high. Custom made geta are perfectly sized to my anatomy and enable me to walk comfortably. I wear Geta with my Samue.
Tabi - In Diane Durston's book, Old Kyoto, she highlights Fundo-ya, maker of custom tabi socks for Kyoto's kabuki actors and tea masters. If you use her book, note that the maps are wrong and that you should just find Fundo-ya by its address - Sakai-machi-kado, Sanjo-dori which means the corner of Sakaimachi and Sanjo street. Addresses in Kyoto are often very obscure, which was done purposefully to confuse invaders who might threaten the emperor/his resources when Kyoto was the capital of Japan. The owner of Fundo-ya carefully measured my foot and noted that I'm the largest Japanese size made - 27cm. Fundo-ya specializes in custom Tabi, so those with larger feet can be accommodated. I bought white and black Tabi to wear with my Geta.
Noragi - The clothing I wear most often around the house in the evening are traditional farmer's clothes. My favorite are Ikat Kasuri Hippari - Ikat Kasuri is a process of dying threads before they are woven. Hippari is a wrap around style of top. It's becoming increasingly hard to find antique traditional clothes in Japan, so I purchase them from 3 sources
Although I may be the man in black, you may find me on a mountain with a flute and Indigo dyed Samue or Ikat Hippari. Although there are other wonderful Japanese clothes - Kimono, Obi, Yukata, the clothes I've listed above are those that work best with my active lifestyle.
Posted by John Halamka at 3:00 AM