wafuku – noun: traditional Japanese clothing
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I have just come across a couple of photos of the actress Leslie Caron in promotional shots that the celebrated photographer, Cecil Beaton, took for her 1958 movie, ‘The Doctor’s Dilemma’. The photos show her in a magnificent furisode kimono, covered in dramatic, flying phoenix, taken in in the conservatory at Beaton’s house.
I notice that as well as the phoenix in the textile art, it has flying cranes in the weave. I find myself trying to guess the colour of the kimono. Is it a rich purple, an emerald green, a dramatic red, a glorious lapis blue…? I think I’m going for red.
The UK is having quite the heatwave just now. My sisters and their families are within the hottest area, enduring horrendous, punishing, inescapable heat. I am just above any area that has been designated a heat warning colour. The Amber warning line just misses where I am, my overheated sisters are in the darkest red area, poor things. Where I live has had warmish days with overcast skies for the past week or more, the sun peaking out for perhaps five or ten minutes a day and reminding us that without cloud it would be a pleasingly hot, sunny summer day but summer is determinedly staying just out of our reach here. It has also rained on and off each day for the past week. Today, however, even here it was very hot and very sunny, although still, thankfully, outwith those unbearably hot Amber to Red areas. I believe tomorrow will be even hotter, then summer will steadily fade away again in my area, it only came to show us what we are missing. It is unfortunate that when the hot day becomes a beautifully warm, still evening and night, the plagues of midges make being outside my home just impossible, they eat me alive, and they even make it impossible to open any windows when indoors, as they then flood into the house and continue to make a meal of me indoors.
I was thinking today how lovely the Mr Moon kimono shown below would be to wear in this hot weather. I have shown it in a blog post before but showing it again because the hot weather brought it to mind. It is made from ro weave silk. Ro is a banded, very airy weave, designed specifically to keep the wearer cool and allow air to pass through it. It is very slightly sheer.
There is another weave that is intended for making kimonos suitable for hot days, it is called Sha. Sha tends to be sheer, even moreso than ro, and is woven to be a stiff fabric, to ensure the kimono really keeps its shape when on, since it doesn’t hang in soft folds. Ro, however is weave with a softer, much more supple textile. This Mr Moon kimono is, at time of writing, on my website and probably a couple or so other ro weave kimonos are on there too
I am very fond of Japanese mochi, on its own, with creamy fillings or filled with ice-cream (ooh, suddenly want some right now and I do have some in the freezer but, as it is after 1am, I really shouldn’t indulge). One type I haven’t tried yet is dango, which is a Japanese dumpling made from a mix of uruchi rice flour and glutinous rice flour, not strictly mochi but similar in some ways, I think. Dango is usually ball shaped, three to five dango are usually served on skewer (skewered dango pieces called kushi-dango). When I think of dango, I think of the version known as Hanami dango, which is also called sanshoku dango (sanshoku means 3 colours), and is traditionally eaten during hanami, the Japanese flower viewing season when the cherry blossom bloom. Hanami dango has three colours (pink, green, white) representing winter snow, spring cherry blossom and summer grass, and one of each colour is usually served on a skewer. Dango are often sold by street vendors, Hanami dango during the cherry blossom viewing season, when the parks and such fill with people out to spend the day in the beauty of the blossoming trees.
On Instagram, mm_meiyee made the beautiful version of Hanami Dango in the picture below. The recipe and instructions are there too. mm_meiyee makes the most beautiful confections: cookies, desserts, sweets etc. and all, I believe, are vegan. I think I have all those ingredients apart from the matcha and pandan leaf powders to create the green. I will order some matcha powder and give the dango flowers a try. I bet mine don’t come out quite as beautiful but you never know.
I was feeling the heat as I typed this post, so I switched on a fan to cool me. Since I immediately became engrossed in this post again, it took me a few minutes to realise I had switched the fan on at hot, not cold, and was getting steadily hotter and hotter instead of cooling down. Doh!
Rita Ora.One of my vintage, silk kimonos, from wafuku.co.uk, modelled by the beautiful Rita Ora.
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