Friday, May 25, 2007

Japanese tea ceremony and kimono dressing

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.

16 comments:

Steve G said...

Are there a lot of Japense living Down Under or is the shop mainly for tourists?

Val said...

The Kimono Shop caters for both Japanese living in Melbourne and locals who are interested in Japanese fabrics. Tourists would never find their way to this shop!

Steve G said...

Val, thanks. Are there losts of Japanese living there?

"Early Bird" said...

Oh that sounds like a glorious time...now I'm wanting to sample Japanese tea...
:)

Susie said...

I enjoyed reading the description of this...
I'm sure it was really fascinating to watch!
xo

Rebecca said...

I am curious as to how long it actually takes to fit a Kimono?

jellyhead said...

What a different thing to do - attending a Japanese tea ceremony. You description made it sound so peaceful and elegant. Glad you enjoyed yourself :)

PEA said...

Sounds like it would be quite fascinating, to be at a Japanese tea ceremony and to watch a kimono being fitted!! Have a wonderful weekend my friend! xox

Miss Eagle said...

A wonderful experience, Val! I love the Nicholas building - but I haven't seen the button shop. Time for another visit, methinks.

Blessings and bliss

catsmum said...

jealous jealous jealous ...
okay I'm back now
[ everyone keeps telling me about Kimono House, knowing my fetish for all things japanese, but not even THAT will get me voluntarily into the CBD ]
Isn't it amazing, given how relatively few japanese live here, the number of people interested in japanese textile?

Val said...

The fitting of the kimono took only about 15 minutes, but that was only one layer, and formal wear can be up to 12 layers!

Quilters love Japanese textiles. One of the people I went with is a quilter and almost fainted with the beauty of it all.

Not many Japanese living in Australia - the statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics don't list them separately.

Rebecca said...

12 layers? Good heavens, that puts the way we "layer" clothes in the west to shame!

lindsaylobe said...

An interesting post and what a wonderful idea to make this meeting a fundraiser for cancer. The Japanese tea party still seeks to exemplify a spiritual refreshment and harmony within our universe.

It captures the elements of Japanese philosophy and artistic beauty, - harmony, respect, purity and tranquillity.

It grew from Zen Buddhist when Monks drank tea together from a single bronze large cup in worship to acknowledging their founder, Budhidharma.
Modernised to day the ceremony retains its grace and beauty.

For it is said Buddha brought to every sentient creature, patience, symphony, kindness, and friendship without personal involvement which binds the heart to earthly things.
Zen buddhism absorbed unfluences from taiost nature and used them in everthing, becoming increasingly ascetic,and monastic prior to the renewal of Confucianism.

Cris said...

That sounds like you had so much fun, and 12 layers would be too much for me, I would look so big!

Alice said...

What a wonderful experience, made more special I'm sure by your interest in all things Japanese. There's nothing quite like tea made traditionally - certainly a far cry from the modern tea bag.

The dressing of the young lady in a kimono would have been fascinating, not just to see the way it is achieved but to experience the time and expertise in getting it just right.

I hadn't thought about lifts no longer having operators, but of course I can't remember the last time I travelled in a lift with an operator. They were still in attendance in Coles in Bourke St. (now David Jones) when I worked there in 1964.

That Buttonmania shop sounds interesting - I think I like buttons even more than beads.

Dr.Gray said...

I have been similarly pensive about the Japanese tea ceremony. It does seem like to many rules but I suppose it is with whom you have company and how strict or forgiving the may be. Glad you had fun.