Today a few of us "girls" met in the city to participate in a fundraiser for cancer research. Kimono House, a local business which specialises in importing beautiful fabrics and other items from Japan, organised demonstrations of the Japanese tea ceremony and how a kimono is assembled and worn. It was absolutely fascinating. I had been a bit sceptical of the whole tea ceremony thing, having read how ritualised and exacting it was. But I can see now how much like meditation it is, just watching the slow, stylised movements of the hostess preparing the tea and serving it. Although we were on the second floor of a building on the main street in Melbourne, we felt a thousand miles away from everything. We got to sample the green tea and some Japanese sweets which are not sweet at all, but very delicate and with the most intriguing texture. It was a lovely and gracious experience.
After lunch we went back for the afternoon session, where a professional kimono dresser fitted a kimono to a young Japanese woman who had never worn a kimono before. It totally transformed her into a graceful woman and I think she was amazed herself at the transformation. This is not attire to don as you're rushing out the door, or needing to run to catch the tram! You have to be prepared to take only very small steps. Traditional kimonos have many layers, although today we saw kimonos with only two layers. The fabrics, needless to say, were exquisite.
The building where Kimono House is situated is the Nicholas Building, built in the 1920s by the wealthy Nicholas family. It still has some vestiges of grandeur, and currently houses interesting shops, in addition to Kimono House, such as Buttonmania and a great retro shop, with clothing, shoes and lots of paraphernalia from the 50s and 60s. It also has the last working attendant operated lifts in Australia. Beautiful stained glass ceiling in the arcade on the ground floor. Worth a visit! 37 Swanston Street.