Monday, December 7, 2009

Custom Kimono Gaijin Smash

When you live in a place long enough, you sometimes become immune to the little things that make it unique. I was reminded of this last week during an amazing experience I had while visiting a fabric and kimono shop with a couple of my friends who were looking for gifts to take home to their families:

The owner of the shop, a man around 60 or 70ish, and his daughter immediately had us sit at the counter while they brought out a large stack of furoshiki (beautiful printed Japanese cloth that's used to wrap up anything and everything under the sun) wrapped in protective paper. When we went to check out, we were surprised that he used an abacus (modified as a soroban here in Japan) to figure out the total, and insisted on him showing us how to use it as well. I think that he was quite taken by our inquisitive natures (not to mention our dashing good looks), because he insisted on his daughter bringing out hot cups of green tea for us...

...and then proceeded to roll out and show us some of his most exquisite and antique obi (thick fabric belt tied around kimono and yukata). This particular one was hand-woven in the 1940s with pure gold thread:

And, not surprisingly, it has a nice little price-tag to go along with its extraordinary work:

That translates to about $4,500USD!!

Afterwards, he insisted that I come up on his tatami stage and try on some of his works-in-progress...namely custom-ordered silk kimonos! They were beautiful and not like the standard kimonos which are usually stiffer and a little heavier (and, nowadays, rarely made out of silk...or in Japan for that matter!). This one ran about $3,000USD:

And this kimono, which felt silkier and lighter, had a price tag of about $4,000USD:

We first thought we had taken a trip back to bad-1980s wall-art when he had Steph try on this kimono:

Until we saw the price tag on it:

Folks, that's $15,000USD!!! Seriously. In other words, Steph now knows what it feels like to wear a new car or a down-payment on a house!

Us in about $20,000USD-worth of silk, thread, and Japanese-commodity:

I was wondering what this woman (on the left) thought about all these gaijin (foreigners) trying on people's custom-ordered kimonos, probably just like the one she's purchasing!

Even Zofia had a go at getting dressed up in other people's goods! I think we pull off the look quite nicely:

So, what started out as a 20 minute hop into the store turned into an amazing 1 1/2 hour experience...and a very Japanese one at that! While one of these babies won't be on my Christmas list anytime soon, it's definitely one of those things that will stick out in my mind of my time in Japan!

1 comment:

webrunner said...

Prolly stupid question, but do you remember if the man or his daughter had a business card, or even an email? I'm trying to see if I can get a custom kimono made for a bridal gown (patterned fabric, but bigger than what they normally sell in Japan). Last trip I was in Japan I wasn't engaged and I couldn't find a properly fitting kimono so I was poking around hoping I could find a store to contact in Japan (the ones in Canada/America won't do custom patterned ones, only solid colors). Thanks and sorry for my long-winded comment. (sleepywarlord at yahoo dot ca)