Antique Kurotomesode–Eyeless Cranes

What In The Actual Hell Was The Artist Thinking These Things Will Give Me Nightmares On Black Silk.

Who wants to watch me write up a blog on a kimono that I have literally no attachment to, was a little squicked–yes that’s the technical term, shut up–out by, and cleaned up for display anyway? You do? Fantastic, you’re in the right place. This piece comes to me in a large box of goodies that I discussed in this entry where I stumbled ass-backwards into owning a hikizuri (kimono for dance). And it has been a strange experience since the moment I pulled it out of the box.

Let’s get what we know out of the way first, because that’s a short fucking list. What I know about this is that it’s a kurotomesode (auspicious formal women’s black kimono with five crests and pattern on the hem) a soldier brought back to the USA with the accompanying hikizuri and other items in the box back from the Pacific Theater, in 1945. I know that some of the items in the box are older than 40’s, but I also know that some of them are very 40’s. Other than that it…is confusing. I’m calling it an antique because I think that this is probably a very good example of kimono artistry when shit started to go south in wartime Japan.

To start with, the silk itself is weird. Because if you had just asked me, based on texture, weight and feel then I would have told you that this was probably jinken (rayon). It’s also very much a different hue than most kurotomesode I encounter. I mean, you would think that black is black, but when it comes to silk dyes, that’s not true. Most of the antique kimono that I handle have a fairly warm black hue. That’s why when they fade, they’re brown and not grey. This one is not warm. It’s a cold black.

Pictured: Chilly.

If the fact that I put my tongue on stains isn’t enough of a clue, I don’t like to guess. So I opened up a seam allowance and picked out a loose thread, and performed a burn test. Well fuck me gently with a chainsaw, the burn test confirms silk.

Okay then.

Moving on. There were some surface stains and a lot of dust. Mostly just stuff that can be brushed off, and that’s basically all I had to do to clean it up. I made the decision to leave the basting stitches intact because of just how wrinkled it was. I’ve had a lot of luck with those being more of a help when I steam it to release the wrinkles.

Then I started to inspect it closely and the weird shit started piling on.

To start with, the dye work had some trouble coloring inside the lines. And now that I look through the pictures I took, you’re going to kind of have to take my word for that. I didn’t get a great shot of what I meant by that. Look closely at the drum.

But let me tell you something about me. I have an incurable phobia for things with weird eyes. Porcelain dolls, fursuits, mascots, and now these fucking eyeless cranes.


Oh hey. That picture actually shows a little of what I mean by coloring in the lines. Check out those green ume (plum blossoms) especially. But yeah, for a second I was like “Yo, did something fall off of this crane’s face?” You know, because I’ll fix shit if it’s broken. That’s kind of my thing. But no. No it’s not broken. None of the goddamn cranes have any goddamn eyes. They are all subterranean freaks that are going to burrow into my skin at night if my foot slips out from the sheets.



You know what that is? That’s a beak that’s just perfect for piercing skin. That is an auspicious, good fortune bird of EATING MY VEINS WHILE I SLEEP.

Now other than being legitimately horrified by those fucking birds’ faces, there’s another rather bizarre choice when it comes to this piece. Yeah, the lining is thick-ass cream meisen tsumugi (a specific weave) silk. [Note: I had thought of the wrong term, and have been corrected by a fellow enthusiast. If permission is granted, I will credit them here.] Observe:

Pictured: Okay but why though?

At first glance, I thought it was a run in the silk. Then I touched an inspected it with my eyes–that reads like I rubbed my eyeballs on it and I’m not changing it–for more than three seconds, and I found that it’s lined this way throughout. The silk is woven in this texture intentionally, it’s quite thick and heavy, and it’s in good repair.

The lining silk is infinitely thicker than the shell is. This brings up a lot of questions. So, just judging from the mirrored image, it’s possible that this kimono was made when red linings were still fashionable. When red linings fell out of fashion, during WWII, some kimono that people still wanted to wear simply had their linings replaced. But typically, those replacements are done with a similarly weighted silk that’s meant to be for the lining. This silk is thick enough to be the shell of another kimono. Was the owner just so desperate to remove the red lining that they just picked literally whatever-the-fuck they had on hand? Was this a deliberate choice? It’s weird, rough, and not particularly nice on the skin.

Let’s add up the weirdness. We have a oddly cold black on silk so smooth I mistook it for something else, we have random shading mistakes, we have FUCKING EYELESS BIRDS OF DEATH, and we have a meisen tsumugi lining.

Let’s add another weirdness. In spite of that mashup of whimsical fuckery, it also has a very heavy hem. Like, it’s fairly heavily padded down there. That’s usually reserved for formal garments, especially if they want them to trail a little bit. It’s not that I’m surprised to see it on a kurotomesode–nah, that happens all the time. I’m surprise to see it on this kurotomesode.

Pictured: Thicc


She’s an antique kurotomesode sporting five sagari fuji (wisteria facing downward) kamon (family crests. She’s also adorned with tsuru (BLOODTHIRSTY DEATH BIRDS), matsu (pine), kiku (chrysanthemums), ume (plum blossoms), kasumi (haze), and tsuzumi (hand drum). It has some beautiful gold stitching and couching throughout the design, and it has a small flock of flying evil that wants me fucking dead.

…I think this will make a good gift or something. I don’t think I’m keeping this one.


2 thoughts on “Antique Kurotomesode–Eyeless Cranes

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s