~ I tried to imagine what stylish woman wore this beautiful hat before me. I paired it with a kimono from the Taisho period ~
2020 was a strange year for most of us. Many have lost loved ones, jobs, soul mates, regular routines, and we have all missed celebrations, festivals and special events. It is hard to believe that we are hurtling towards the end of the year already. We all have hopes for 2021, perhaps visiting family members, traveling safely. And most of us are wishing for a little more normality, and a vaccine that is safe and readily available.
Christmas will probably not be the same this year, and neither will the New Year. But we all need to celebrate as we look forward to the coming year.
I was thinking about flowers that represent the winter season, and motifs that are used to celebrate in Japan. One of the most common winter motifs on kimono are camellias. They are seen from December through March. Such seasonal designs are seen on other objects as well as kimono.
Other popular flowers in winter are the three friends of good fortune, pine, plum and bamboo, and southern tian, for its red berries. These denote celebrations, and also good luck, which we are all in need of right now. Perhaps these will be good gift ideas, if you are looking for small Japanese themed gifts.
Celebrate with Sweets!
I went to visit Zoto, the Japanese sweet maker whose head, Miura Kazuko, previously worked in book design. She started her sweets-making company in 2011.
Miura makes wasanbon, (和三盆). She told me that sweets made from compressed sugar were originally introduced from China in ancient times. They did not discover how to make sweets from the hardened powdered sugar in Japan until the early Edo period. Sugar was very expensive, and such sweets were given as special gifts at celebrations such as weddings, or the New Year.
The thought behind the gift should be materialized in a shape that would give it special meaning. Hence the sugar was pressed into carefully carved wooden moulds. These moulds are called kashigata, and Miura orders hers to be carved for the company. Sometimes the designs are new, but often they are reproductions of traditional designs such as pine, bamboo and plum, for good luck or the crane and turtle for long life.
The name Zoto, and the logo, which is an elephant head, comes from the name of the mountain, Zozusan, in Kagawa prefecture, an area famous for Wasanbon.
Wasanbon are often confused with rakugan, a similar looking sweet. Rakugan is made from a mixture of sugar and rice or bean powder and sometimes egg white. It leaves some residue in the mouth. Wasanbon, however, is 100 percent sugar that has been moistened and then dehydrated. As it is pure sugar, it dissolves without leaving any trace.
This year Miura is making wasanbon camellias in red and white, to celebrate the New Year. They are extraordinarily similar to the camellias on my kimono. Wasanbon are used in the tea ceremony to accompany usucha, the regular matcha drink.
From January Zoto sweets will be available in the sweet shop of Mitsukoshi department store, Kayuan, which introduces Japanese sweets from around the country. Zoto has a small shop in Higashi Kurume, and an online store here.
Colorful Traditions for Everyone’s Order
Kotobuki Dou is making the cutest accessories, tassels and temari balls, and they are in Christmas colors. Temari used to be made from the threads that were produced by the unpicking of kimono for cleaning. Rather than waste the threads, they were wound into balls, to make pretty toys for children. Ito Hidemi started to study making temari in 2012, and she started to sell them for hair decorations in 2014. They are favored by those who like to spice up every-day kimono, and are also popular with the kimono steampunk community.
She mainly sells her work at REVERIE EMPORIUM Koenji 3-54-1-304, and she also has a net shop, here, and on Instagram, here. Temari would make beautiful small gifts, as well as being a perfect accessory for kimono.
Handmade-Huwa sells Japanese style earrings and hair accessories online. Mostly they are made with pieces of silk, and sometimes cotton fabrics, using tsumami kanzashi techniques. They are stuck together with natural starch paste.
Ito Kahori started to make accessories in 2018, and she has just begun to branch out into making tote bags and iphone cases. Her Christmas colored earrings go perfectly with my outfit. The little plum blossoms will be darling at New Year. Kahori’s line-up can be found at the link here, or on her Instagram, here.
Japanese like to display poinsettias at Christmas. This Christmas hat I discovered at a shrine flea market, and thought it would be perfect for the season. It is beautifully made in two colors, with a carefully crafted felt poinsettia on the side. Apparently it is very old, but it is in perfect condition.
This richly embroidered obi is perfect for the celebrations of the holiday season, and the red, white and green earrings from huwa seemed to match perfectly.
Here’s hoping that you can find seasonal gifts, decorations or accessories to make your winter celebrations special. Wishing everyone a safe, healthy and joyous winter season, and hoping that we can all find a way to be together again safely in the New Year.
Author: Sheila Cliffe