| EN |

Written by Mika TAKIGUCHI   
Published: November 11 2008

fig. 1 A Hedge, Peony Flowers and Fans (Mid Edo Period), copy right(c) 2008 Nikkei Inc.

     Those women who once wore these kimono are not alive anymore. Designs of Kimono, however, speak for them and express who they were, like a portrait.

     Peony flowers with hedges are represented in the bodice, while fans are fluttering in the lower part [fig. 1]. A woman who wore this kimono was raised by the parents who cherished her like a treasure. She is comparable with beautiful peony flowers which were carefully grown by a florist, being in a garden enclosed by the hedge. She is like a large bloom. Since she is surrounded by the hedge, she is almost inaccessible, even if men wish to see her. Fans scattering on the ground suggest that a man danced with fans to draw her attention while she was behind the hedge. Did he successfully get over the hedge and see her, or did he give up, leaving his fans behind?

     It is a box like basket, about eighty centimeters in width and height [fig. 2]. The frame is like a lattice window, and fine nets tightly cover the frame. Inside the basket, you burn incense while you cover the basket with your kimono. Soon, the kimono is impregnated with scent. Now put your favorite kimono over the basket, the one with the design of flower carts peeped through the clouds [fig. 3]. These clouds depicted on the kimono absorb the scent, and grow larger and larger like smoke. When a woman wears this kimono, the clouds will send out the scent. A man who approaches her will realize that she is wrapped by clouds which emit sweet odor. Soon he lowers himself deep into the clouds, being befogged by the scent.

fig. 2 A Square Basket (Late Edo Period), copy right(c) 2008 Nikkei Inc.

fig. 3 Flower Carts and Clouds (Mid Edo Period), copy right(c) 2008 Nikkei Inc.

     "Kakuremino", a hiding straw raincoat, has a magical power. When you wear it, your figure becomes invisible. No one notices that you are here. Two straw raincoats are hanging from the trunk of the orange tree [fig. 4]. Under the tree, maybe a couple is dating in secret. They are stealing out of their houses, wearing the straw raincoat. When they come to the tree, he throws off the coat, and hangs it on the trunk. Now she takes off her coat too, without hesitation, to reveal her body in front of the man whom she loves.

     Around the shoulders, white wisteria is depicted on the dark background [fig. 5]*1. It is a garden in the evening. Petals are white, being illuminated by the moonlight. In the lower part, a sliding paper screen represents the interior of the house which faces the garden. A man opens the screen to see the moon in the garden. What he opens is, however, not the screen, but the train of the kimono. Then he will find, not the moon, but fair skin of a woman under the kimono. Here, woman's white body covered with the kimono is comparable with the white moon concealed by the sliding screen. Probably the pattern was designed for a woman who was as white as the moonlight.

fig. 5 Wisteria and a Sliding Paper Screen (Mid Edo Period), copy right(c) 2008 Suntory Museum of Art

fig. 4 Straw Raincoats and a Wild Orange Tree (Early-Mid Edo Period), copy right(c) 2008 Nikkei Inc.

     A Japanese word "matsu" has two different meanings. Matsu as a noun means a pine tree. Matsu as a verb means "to wait for something". People came to assume, therefore, that pine trees were the trees that were waiting for something. More precisely, they were waiting for the arrival of god. Thin leaves of pine trees slightly tremble and tell us the subtle (otherwise invisible) arrival of god. The branches are carefully pruned, for they are the way along which god would come down.

     A ball game is being played in the garden of pine trees [fig. 6]. People who enjoy the game are not represented though. Instead, a ball kicked high in the air is conspicuous on the pale background. It seems as if god (not people) is kicking the ball, amusing himself, without showing his figure in the garden. God has ccme to the garden, being welcome by the pine trees. He does not sit down heavily into a throne. Instead, he is cheerfully playing with a ball. Who was the woman who possessed this kimono? Probably she was the one who said, "my body, be a garden in which god will come and play." *All images quotated from ”Kosode Haute Couture Kimonos of the Edo Period" Nikkei Inc., et al., eds., (Tokyo, 2008).

fig. 6 A Pine Tree and a Drooping Cherry (Late Edo Period), copy right(c) 2008 Nikkei Inc.

This Kimono was displayed in the exhibition of "KAZARI: The Impulse to Decorate in Japan" (May 24 - July 13, 2008). The images quotated from "Kazari, the Impulse to Decorate in Japan" Suntory Museum of Art, et al., eds., (Tokyo, 2008).

Related Exhibition

"KAZARI: The Impulse to Decorate in Japan"
24/May/2008 - 13/Jul/2008
Venue: Suntory Museum of Art

Last Updated on July 06 2010

Related Articles

| EN |