A Flock Of Cranes In Flight Over Full Pine Trees And Wild Waves On Smooth Black Silk.
Oh look. I have another one of these all of a sudden. You’re shocked. I’m shocked. We’re all just really fucking shocked about this, aren’t we? I don’t have a problem. It’s not like I’m over here snorting hot lines of finely ground kimono off of a
stripper Oiran’s ass obi. I can stop whenever I want!
What in the actual mighty blue fuck did I just write?
If you have any questions about that whimsical fuckery, an Oiran is basically a super high class prostitute (they’re not really a thing anymore), and obi of course refers to the super decorative belt over a kimono. The joke there is that an Oiran wears hers in an elaborate knot in the front. Fun aside, a metric fuck ton of the pictures and artwork that are labeled as “geisha” here in the West are actually closer to images of Oiran, and that tends to drive me legitimately insane. The art history nerd in me makes a ton of noises when people get easily verifiable shit wrong.
Anyway! That was a doing drugs off of a hooker joke, and since exactly none of that has anything to do with this kimono at all, even in the slightest, let’s turn our attention to this magnificent beast that made me literally shove the project that was hanging on my iko (kimono stand) off of it to get pictures. I’m starting to form a deep and powerful fondness for antique picturesque uchikake, as I am starting to amass a bit of a collection of them. And those are just the ones I’ve posted about so far.
I almost had to justify buying this one to myself because there’s really nothing for me to fix. Aaaand that probably answers a lot of questions about exactly what kind of person I am, doesn’t it? Haha! I love trash. But I had to have it, so here it is. Incidentally, literally two days after buying it, I found another that I’m confident is a bit older that is quite a lot like it. I’ll be sharing that one in the very near future as well. I’m confident that one is Meiji Era, whereas this one? I slapped my trusty ol’ “Antique” label on it because actually I’m not positive.
I’ve mentioned this before but it’s been a hot minute: I’m actually more confident slapping a Meiji label on something than I am a Taisho. Meiji Era (October 23, 1868 to July 30, 1912) shit tends to have a lot of hallmarks, and it was a decently long era. The Taisho Era (July 30, 1912 to December 25, 1926), on the other hand, was short AF and a ton of the design trends that started in it continued into the Showa Era. For those of you who came here to learn (oh god I’m so sorry), eras in Japan in this context are named for the posthumous title of the emperor that reigned during that time period. Taisho Era was short lived because Emperor Taisho…uh…was too.
So why am I not slapping a Meiji label on this even though it so closely resembles several other Meiji Era uchikake that I have? Well because the saturation in the green and teals is very high and that screams Taisho, as well as the fact that the kamon are not massive, either. Behold:
What I’m holding there, for reminder’s sake, is a contemporary sized kamon applique. Meaning it’s the same size as kamon have been since probably the middle to late Taisho Era to the present day. Meiji and early Taisho Era kamon tend to be pretty big. How big? Weeeelll:
The picture directly above comes from this Meiji Era uchikake depicting Mt. Fuji. And as you can see, it’s significantly larger, even though they are actually both the same kamon, tsuta (ivy). So the kamon on today’s uchikake is definitely larger than contemporary ones are, but it’s not massive.
This leads me to believe that it is probably a very late Meiji or an early Taisho Era piece. Which makes me vibrate a little bit when I don’t have provenance, so here I am with my “Antique” label. It’s fine.
Something that I was pretty excited about was the use of heavy jimon (woven pattern) on the red lining. I’ve seen it before on antique uchikake, but I didn’t own one that came with it. I have one, but I restored it with a lining with jimon rather than it being original to the piece. The Mt. Fuji uchikake has a very smooth, soft red lining, and the temple uchikake with all of the couching has a thick red chirimen (crepe) lining.
The lining on this one depicts a decadent weaving of kiku (chrysanthemums) and Uchide no Kozuchi (lucky mallet), which is one of the treasures of the Seven Lucky Gods. What a perfect thing to have on the lining of a wedding dress. And the red is so perfect and juicy that you would not believe the self control required not to just pop part of that padded hem right the fuck in my mouth like the psycho goblin that I am.
Tell me you don’t want to eat that. You can’t. Don’t lie.
Which then leads us to the outside of this magnificent motherfucker. The seller photos made it look a little washed out and I was okay with that, but it’s not. It’s black. It’s deep, dark, perfect black. And the detail in the wings of each tsuru (crane) is just candy sweet.
You can really see the saturation of the blue-green in matsu (pine) in that picture, too.
I think what really sealed the deal was this shit:
The crests in the front are decorated with tsuru as well! This makes this the first short sleeved kuromontsuki (black kimono with five crests) style uchikake that I’ve encountered that has a pattern above the hem. I suspected that perhaps the sleeves had been shortened or modified, so I took the time to pop a seam in the left sleeve to have a peek, and I see no evidence of that. Which means it was designed like this on purpose.
I gotta tell you, I love antique kimono so much, and one of the biggest reasons why: because the contemporary rules don’t mean shit to them. And that really speaks to me because my personal philosophy has always been Fuck The Police.
When this piece arrived to me, it had shitsuke ito (basting stitches) installed. You know, these motherfuckers:
The purpose of these is to make sure that the layers don’t shift around too much in long storage or otherwise keep things nice when the kimono is delivered from the store to the buyer.
Sometimes, I will leave them be if a piece is going right the fuck back into storage, but they are not always in good shape. And when they aren’t, they’re a goddamn liability. So here’s a word of warning to you: if the shitsuke ito have been installed for a very long time, for example if you’re buying an antique, you need to check them. You see, buying antique kimono means that they get thrown around a lot. And judging from the intense-ass wrinkles I had to gently steam out of this beast, I imagine that tightening and pulling on the shitsuke ito threads has happened quite a bit.
The black shell silk is in fine condition, but these thick ass white threads were absolutely putting undue stress on the lining. In fact, I would call some of those stitch holes stress tears at this point. They’re tiny, and you would have to seek them out, but damage is damage. And on sweet, thin, delicate antique silk, this happens very often. To be very clear: I’ve seen these stitches tear a fucking lining right the fuck down the line.
So if I were to offer anyone buying antiques a word of advice on shitsuke ito, it’s not only to remember that they are basting stitches and not a part of the necessary construction–but also that if they weren’t installed fairly recently, CHECK THEM. Make sure they’re still doing their job and not just fucking your shit up!
And so we come to the end of this, and it’s time to identify her properly. This is an amazing and unique antique uchikake (outermost wedding kimono) from I would guess the 1920’s. She boasts a vibrant red lining with jimon (woven design) kiku (chrysanthemums) and Uchide no Kozuchi (lucky mallet), and a liquid smooth and soft shell adorned with a flock of tsuru (cranes) in flight over matsu (pine) and wild waves (nami). She has five kamon (family crests) of tsuta (ivy). At some point, when my tansu restorations are complete, I think that I will display this one behind it. I dunno, I have ideas.
Join me next time, when I’ll either be screaming at wood again, or showcasing a nearly identical uchikake because I’m a normal and well adjusted adult.
Ninja edit: apparently this is my 100th post. NEAT.
2 thoughts on “Antique Uchikake–A Whole Flock Of Tsuru”