“Real” kiku from Japan

July 14, 2009

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Two photos of chrysanthemums on show in Japan – large public displays in the grounds of the Osaka Castle and the Kyoto Botanic Gardens in late Autumn (last week of October and first week of November). Each pot produces a single large flower, with supports for the stem and the metal round supports under each flower as shown. 

Chrysanthemums are a Very Big Deal in Japanese textiles – certainly as common as sakura (cherry) and ume (plum) when it comes to motifs using flowers. Some temari use the idea of petals of varying lengths as shown in some of the specimens here, as do designs on printed fabric, using katazome (paper stencils) and yuzen (paste-resist) or less traditional, more modern fabric-printing techniques. Of course, the very pure geometry of it makes it commonly seen in mon heraldic crests. 

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Here below is how it appears in the context of kimono: pink and white on a black background. The pink and white is reflected also (albeit in a different pink) in the obi. These two women were making a formal visit to Kiyomizu-dera (Kiyomizu Temple, Kyoto) in late Autumn, the time when kiku were flowering. Normally one wears a floral kimono slightly ahead of the flower season depicted. When I say a formal visit, I mean they were treating the visit as an occasion to pray. They were certainly the only kimono-clad Japanese among many thousands visiting the temple at the same time. Kiyomizu-dera, apart from being an enormously popular temple in Kyoto, is famous for helping students in exams, so on my mid-week visit to the temple, a lot of students were taking advantage of a blessing or two from the gods. The woman on the left is the younger of the two and is of an appropriate age to be wearing red and other bright colours. Tomorrow, some comments on kimono-wearing in contemporary Japan.

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