As you may know, the Japanese tea ceremony is a comprehensive art, which can include ideas of gardening, interior decoration, calligraphy, arranging flowers, ceramics, fragrances, textiles, food and tea, and costume.
I am a huge fan of kimonos, and I especially like the antique ones. Some of my kimonos are wearable and some of are not as they are just too delicate and old. I can still enjoy them though, spending ages looking at the wonderful fabrics. I expect I have inherited much of my taste – and knowledge – from my mother, who is a kimono specialist, and who has a great an infectious passion for them.
In Japan we have an acute sensitivity about the seasons, and we wear particular kimono and obi (belt) patterns and materials during each season. So, if you want to wear a cherry blossom kimono, that should be done during early spring, an iris pattern one in early summer, and a chrysanthemum one in autumn.
Antique kimonos sometimes have wonderful embroidery, and I have often heard that there are very few people now capable of carrying out such work anymore. It seems so important to keep these skills going, and we must achieve this somehow.
The Japanese government has a system called Living National Treasures. This applies to all sort of artisans from basket weavers and textile weavers to ceramists, and from kimono makers to actors and dancers. These are all listed as living national treasures. That makes their work rather more expensive than other, anonymous artists’ achievements, and one regularly sees special exhibitions of the work of national living treasures being held at national museums.
These works can be exquisite of course, however, just as beautiful are the works and crafts produced other lesser known, or unknown, artisans, including those makers of beautiful kimonos. I know that I am extremely fortunate being able to wear a beautiful antique kimono, something made over 100 years ago, and handed down through several owners. It makes me hope that in the future someone will be equally appreciative and careful, when they own and wear these fabulous garments in years to come.