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A young woman designs her own kimono for a rite of passage

  • COURTESY JAPAN NEWS-YOMIURI
                                The finished kimono, above, is an example of the decorative technique.

    COURTESY JAPAN NEWS-YOMIURI

    The finished kimono, above, is an example of the decorative technique.

  • COURTESY JAPAN NEWS-YOMIURI
                                Miu Manaka, paints her own kimono with the help of Takayuki Kato, a master of yuzen dyeing.

    COURTESY JAPAN NEWS-YOMIURI

    Miu Manaka, paints her own kimono with the help of Takayuki Kato, a master of yuzen dyeing.

TOKYO >> A Tokyo woman’s quest last fall to make her own “furisode” kimono for her Coming-of-Age Day ceremony started through a chance meeting.

(The ceremony, held each year in January, is a rite of passage for 20-year-olds. Young women decked themselves out in gorgeous kimono for the celebration.)

Miu Manaka’s project began when her father, Haruyuki, a custom furniture maker, met “yuzen” master Takayuki Kato at a 2019 craft exhibition. Kato specializes in Tokyo yuzen, one of three major styles of resist dyeing for decorating kimonos.

Other styles include Kyo yuzen from Kyoto and Kaga yuzen from Ishikawa prefecture.

When other artisans heard that Manaka would soon be attending her coming-of-age ceremony, one of them suggested she learn the yuzen technique from Kato, who readily accepted the idea.

Tokyo yuzen developed in Edo (present-day Tokyo) during the Edo period (1603-1867), when kimono shops flourished there. Known for a muted or cool color palette, Tokyo yuzen is a contrast to the more flashy, vibrant hues of Kyo yuzen.

Kato’s business focuses mainly on kabuki and stage costumes, but last year most of his orders were canceled because of the pandemic. With plenty of time to teach yuzen culture, he began working with Manaka in September at his studio, Ishiyama Senko, in Tokyo.

Kato designed a pattern with input from Manaka that featured dahlias, a symbol for gratitude, as the main motif. He also arranged forget-me-nots and butterflies, favorites of the young woman, to complete the beautiful design.

To mark coming of age amid the pandemic, the lining of the kimono is decorated with amabie, a popular mythical creature said to ward off epidemics.

In October, Manaka visited Kato’s studio daily to work on her celebration kimono, painting the fabric and adorning patterns with touches of gold powder.

“Because we are all facing a difficult time, I want people to feel more cheerful through such a gorgeous kimono,” Kato said.

The young woman’s interest in yuzen is encouraging. About 50 years ago, there were more than 600 Tokyo yuzen artisans; today there are only about 60.

To keep yuzen culture alive, Kato holds monthly workshops. He said in the next year or two, he will also begin accepting other young women who want to make their own coming-of-age furisode.

As she worked on her kimono last fall, Manaka said she wasn’t sure whether her ceremony would ever be held. But that didn’t seem to bother her.

“Even if the ceremony is canceled, I want to wear the furisode I made and say thank you to my parents,” she said with a big smile.

Kato said he hopes her effort inspires other youth.

“I hope this will get young people interested in the beauty of the craftwork produced in their neighborhood,” he said.

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