April 20, 2010

Seattle Cherry Blossom Festival

I attended the 2010 Seattle Cherry Blossom and Japanese Culture Festival with my sister's family. This year my sister and niece asked if I would dress them up in yukata! My sister, Nicole, had worn a yukata before (mini-skirt goth style!), but this was the first time for my niece, Dakota. I did not dress up in yukata this year since I am big-pregnant and I don't have a heko-obi to wear with my maternity yukata. I had a good time dressing up the girls and watching their experience with wearing yukata.

I arrived early morning to dress the girls up. The family watched intrigued over the dressing process! Dakota's uchiwa says "matsuri", "festival" in Japanese. Both of their yukata were purchased from Shiga's Imports in Seattle, a shop I reviewed on this blog earlier. Nicole's purple yukata was bought brand-new for $15 a few years back. Dakota's was purchased for $20 on my recent trip to Seattle when I wrote about the shop.

A back view of their obi with their uchiwa tucked in the back.

Walking to the festival hand-in-hand with Dakota's dad, Scott. He looks like a lucky man with two lovely ladies!

The Cherry Blossom Festival is held every year at Seattle Center because it is the home to thousands of cherry trees donated to the city of Seattle from Japan. As we walked to the festival, we could see the Space Needle framed in the branches of the cherry trees. Last year all the cherry blossoms had already fallen off of the trees, so we were lucky to be able to view the blossoms this year.

We started the day off at the Center House where the main stage was holding performances. It is also where the food court is, so we got a bite to eat first! We weren't aware that they were selling Japanese food in the Fisher Pavilion, so we missed out on that... Instead we had some burgers and burritos while taiko drums played on the stage. In the background of this pic you can see a toddler girl in a pink yukata. She was one of 2 other's that I saw dressed in yukata... I was sad to see so few people dress up! Nicole and Dakota had been approached many times by people asking about their outfits and where they could get one!

There is a booth that dresses people in yukata so that people can take pictures of themselves looking Japanese-y. Never a fan of this booth, they do a terrible job. The umbrella the girl is holding actually has a very large hole in it.
After eating, we went to the Fisher Pavilion, where most of the cultural displays were at. We first admired the many Ikebana flower arrangements.

A beautiful set of armor. At this display was a nice katana as well, and a set-up to demonstrate blade sharpening.

There were booths set up for children (or adults acting like kids) to try their hand at games and skills, such as origami or Japanese calligraphy. We waited for a long time to try calligraphy, but people are rude and they kept cutting in front of us. We played with a traditional toy, called kendama. I took a video of the girls playing with the kendama. Dakota catches the ball at the beginning of the video, and Nicole near the end.
video

There were kimono dressing demonstrations. While we didn't see the demonstration, we did get to look at the dressed dress-forms. A houmongi pictured above.

A furisode. Some uchikake on display. After seeing all the displays in the Fisher Pavilion, we went outside and enjoyed the beautiful International Fountain. This is one of the coolest fountains I've seen, set at the bottom of a giant bowl with powerful water jets and even fog effects.

Kids and adults loved getting soaked on such a beautiful day, or playing games of running from the random jets of water. You can hear Scotty at the end of the video, "haha! Suckers!"
video

Before the day was done, we definitely wanted to get some good pictures of the girls in their outfits under the cherry trees. Here is the result of our photo session:
The necklaces the girls are wearing were prizes won at a game of jan-ken-pon (rock, paper, scissors). The necklaces were made for the festival attendees by residents of a Japanese-American senior home.
The paving stones for the sidewalk under the cherry trees are made of tiles commemorating donations, memories of people who have passed, or drawing made by children. I spotted one that says "konnichi wa".

And finally I wanted to catch a video of the girls simply walking around in their yukata.
video

If you've attended the Cherry Blossom Festival, I'd love to hear about your experience! Or any other events in your local area, around the country or around the world. I'd love to share your stories of cultural events or even random dress-up days!

April 15, 2010

Upcoming: Seattle Cherry Blossom Festival

I'd like to know what kinds of events you like to wear kimono to. During the Spring in Washington state, I love the Seattle Cherry Blossom and Japanese Culture festival. It is held in the shadow of the Space Needle, and always draws a huge crowd of people, many of whom come to the event dressed in yukata. If you live in the Seattle area and would like to attend the festival, it will be held April 16th-18th. Link

This is a yukata I wore to the Cherry Blossom Festival many years ago. Last year I attended with my sister's family but didn't dress up. This year my sister and niece have told me that they'd like to dress in yukata, so I hope to get good pictures this year!

If you like, you may read my blog entry for last year's event. Look into local events in your area! I'd love to hear how you enjoy your kimono life!

April 08, 2010

Where to Buy Kimono - Seattle: Shiga's Imports

People ask me all the time where they can buy kimono. The best place is internet shops like Ichiroya, but some people prefer shop off-the-rack. It can be hard to find specialty shops in most areas that sell just kimono, but you can look around other shops. Vintage clothing boutiques are good places to look for kimono, but be careful! Many boutiques cater to high dollar clients who are willing to pay far too much money for a kimono to hang on their wall or lounge in like a bath robe.

If you live in the Seattle/Tacoma area, you can try Shiga's Imports in the University District. From time-to-time, Shiga's sells cheaply priced yukata. A few years back they had a large selection of brand new yukata for $15 each. When I went there today there were no such deals, but maybe during the summer time (or when the economy picks up again) there may be a better selection.
Shiga's sells all sorts of items, mostly from Japan and other parts of Asia. They have a good selection of dishes, tea, Sanrio items, and one of the only places in Seattle that sells real tatami mats.

The uchikake pictured above was priced at $500, which is far out of my budget, but I find that this is the average price for uchikake sold in boutiques. If you are in the market for an uchikake, please buy it online! Ichiroya sells them for $98, and they will generally be in better condition since they haven't been hanging around collecting dust and stains. The happi pictured was similarly over-priced at $95.

There are many maru obi and fukuro obi hanging above. I imagine they are quite dusty! They are priced around $130-250, so I recommend buying obi online as well. You will get a better price from Ichiroya, and better quality.

The yukata/kimono section has gotten so small. I don't know if maybe there will be more in the summer, or if the economy is too bad. Despite the small selection, they are good quality. They are priced between $19-99, which isn't as bad as most shops. The yukata I bought today cost me $19 and it is brand new with the tags still on it (original price was ¥4800 which is $51 today). There is a glass case with accessories. Heko obi are being sold for $45 (Ichiroya sells for $15), geta are sold for $25, and koshihimo are well priced at $6.80 for a set of 3.

Shiga's Imports is worth a visit, but I recommend research before buying any of the pricier items.