May 21, 2012

Reviving the art of Nishiki

Nishiki is Japanese brocade fabric.  According to my sources and notes:  The patterns for this brocade are woven from various colored weft floats traveling over a limited distance.  In the Han dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD), in China, they produced a warp-faced nishiki where colored warps skipping over a number of adjacent wefts formed a pattern. During the Tang dynasty (618- 907) weft faced nishiki was introduced from Western Asia, and is what is woven in Japan.  The nishiki of meibutsu gire (famous fabrics), many are used in tea, are mainly from the Ming dynasty (1368-1622) and later, and they all have a thick woven texture, as opposed to the soft, satiny feel of donsu fabric. Below are some examples of meibutsu gire nishiki:

Bishamon Nishiki

Arisugawa Nishiki

Kamon Nishiki
*Fabric photos courtesy of  Kitamura Tokusai Fukusaten Co., Ltd., Kyoto, Japan.via the now closed website Tea Hyakka..

The intricate weaving and technology used to manufacture this luxurious cloth is being revived in Kyoto by one of Japan’s most important contemporary interpreters of Nishiki, textile designer, Koho Tatsumura. In addition to applying this high level of traditional technology to his own original design work, he is actively involved in carrying forward the work of his late grandfather, Koha Tatsumura, founder of the Tatsumura Company, renowned kimono weavers since the late 1800s.

There is more information and fabulous photos of his contemporary work: Koho Tatsumura: Nishiki Weaving for the 21st Century

May 16, 2012

Appropriate Dress

I have some new students and they were asking last week what is appropriate to wear to okeiko? What is appropriate to wear to a chakai?

The short response is kimono is always appropriate to wear in the tea room.  I almost always wear kimono, whether I am teaching, or receiving a bowl of tea in the tea room.  If you have kimono and know how to dress, please wear kimono.

What if you do not have kimono?  For women, a blouse and skirt or dresses are appropriate (not too short either, you will be sitting on the tatami). Slacks if you don't or won't wear a skirt. Long sleeves, please.  For men, loose fitting slacks and button down shirt are appropriate for okeiko. No shorts, jeans, short sleeves, tank tops or sleeveless shirts.

Consider chakai, semi formal events.  Kimono is always appropriate.  Men in sportcoats and tie, women in long dress, skirt and blouse or jacket.  Business attire is also appropriate. This is not the place to wear fleece jackets, jeans or even khakis. Definitely not track suits, sweat pants or even stretch pants or tights.   Women please tie your hair up so it doesn't fall in your face or on the back of your neck. Take off your hats when you come inside.

The thing is, tea is not an informal event. Our lifestyles have become so casual nowadays, it is hard to know what is appropriate.  Even the women's lacrosse team wore flip-flops to a Whitehouse reception.  If you are wearing something that you normally wear around the house, or to run to the store, take it up a notch for okeiko and two notches for chakai. It is good training to recognize what is appropriate to the occasion and dress accordingly. 

If you are dressing in kimono, that is another post.

Questions, comments?  I'll answer them in the comments.

May 5, 2012

May showers may bring flowers

I can't believe it is May already.  It seems like we haven't started spring yet here on the upper left coast of America.   The forecast for today:  rain and drizzle, showers, rain possible followed by rain and clouds.  This morning the forecast read like a horoscope:   You can't rule out a possibility of rain.

The cherry blossoms are just falling now, but the iris are small yet, the peonies have just little buds, azaleas are just beginning to bloom.  No sign really of wisteria and other May flowers, and forecast calls for continued cool rainy weather.


When I was in Los Angeles April 12-13 for the 60th Anniversary and deidcaiton of Seifu-an, a new tea house in the Huntington Gardens, it rained all day for the chakai.  And while the rain brings the lush, green gardens, it is difficult to conduct a large scale chakai.  I was prepared with my raincoat, and umbrella of course, but many others were not.   I gave away my umbrella to a lady in a silk kimono that was getting soaked.

It was not without good humor, though as the men in hakama, tucked them up to keep their hems from dragging and getting wet.

One of the most interesting temae was the koicha seki which was held in the library of the Huntington.  I loved the venue with tapestries on the wall and the ryurei table was set in front of the ornate fireplace almost like a painting itself: