I remember taking–or rather, voluntary sitting in on three mornings a week–an elective class about kimono from a guest professor. I was so excited that the class offered because I already loved kimono and had (been) dressed up in them any chance I could get, but I wasn’t especially knowledgable about them. Early on in the class, the teacher admitted than she didn’t really like modern kimono partly because they’re such a pain. Hearing that dampened my spirits a bit. Aren’t art forms like that worth being a little fussy about? (Say I with my lazy comics like this one.)

Now I think I understand what she meant. There is a fascinating history behind kimono and a complex world of them them in modern Japan that is not limited to old ladies and tea ceremonies and coming-of-age ceremonies. I have ever-deepening admiration for the people who choose to wear them and incorporate them into their lifestyle and innovate with them. However, yes, they can be a bit of a pain.

This contest is a special case because I don’t get to take my time to make sure everything looks nice (in the case of a tea ceremony, I give myself lots of time to do it over again if I think that’s necessary). I’m doing this for the sake of kimono culture instead of wearing kimono for the sake of doing other cultural things or just for the sake of wearing clothes. I’ve been practicing a very specific method on a tool for such an occasion, and it is a method which is not widely applicable, and sometimes it feels a little silly.

Sometimes I really don’t want to practice, especially when it means it takes me an entire hour to do a single practice. By that, I mean 9 minutes for the actual practice (should be aiming for 8!), and 51 minutes for setting up and putting things away. Hence, I try to practice three or four times every time I have to do all that preparation. With the exception of the plastic bag under the zori sandals, I walk out on stage with all 33 of these items on my person, of which only 11 are visible (or supposed to be visible, anyway).

And this is before you add hair accessories! Not to mention hair product and make-up…

Furthermore, I was doing really well with my practices until last week. At one of the beginning stages of folding the obi, I need to grab a specific point to set the length of the part of the belt that goes around my waist, which I had been doing automatically until I tried to adjust the length. Then I started overthinking it and have gotten stuck at that early point every time! Now I’m also dropping the finished obi when I try to mount it on my back, and turning parts of it inside outside while fixing it. As the contest draws closer, I’m getting more and more creative with my errors.

There is a part of me that can’t wait to be done with this contest, but I still have my own casual kimono for normal tea ceremony use. It still requires many parts, but while I’ve been borrowing items from my teacher(s) I’ve slowly been able to assemble the other necessary pieces, as well as mix and match with a few other used obi for different seasons. I keep an eye out for sales. Even when I find a really big sale on them, though, I am reminded of how much financial commitment a kimono lifestyle requires. I’ve admired kimono since middle school and dreamed of the chance to own my own, however simple. Myself of only a few years ago would be estatic to know I’m dressing in such nice furisode at least once a week, and would have been sad to hear me whine about how much time and effort it takes. When I think about how this competition might be my last chance to wear such a nice ensemble, the tiredness melts away a bit and I start growing fonder of it again.

Pretty. Pretty, pretty silk. Pretty patterns. Pretty much a giant hassle, but pretty nonetheless.

The Shikoku-Chuugoku region competition is on Sunday. Wish me luck! I’ll post the results after I have a chance to organize the photos.

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