The Asian reporter. (Portland, Or.) 1991-current, November 03, 2014, Page Page 7, Image 7

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November 3, 2014
Kimono’s evolution reflects changing Japan
By Katherine Roth
The Associated Press
EW YORK — It’s difficult to imagine a more
eloquent symbol of Japan than the deceptively
simple, T-shaped kimono. Traditional yet ever
changing, the kimono (“thing to wear,” in Japanese) has
evolved dramatically over the past 150 years.
Its story encompasses the evolution of weaving, dyeing,
and embroidery techniques, as well as Japan’s aesthetic,
social, and even political history.
“Kimono: A Modern History,” on view through January
19, 2015 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is a tour de
force in textiles.
When entering the galleries, viewers see an elegant red
kimono that a wealthy woman donated to a temple, where
it was recycled and patched together to make a kimono for
an aging priest.
“There’s a wonderful paradox there, and it’s a sort of
introduction to the story of the kimono,” said John
Carpenter, curator of Japanese art, who organized the
exhibit with Monika Bincsik, also of the museum’s Asian
Art department.
Based on the book of the same name by Japanese textile
expert Terry Satsuki Milhaupt, who died in 2012, the
show is dedicated to Milhaupt’s memory and coincides
with the posthumous publication of her book (Reaktion
Books) earlier this year.
The exhibit consists of more than 50 kimono, half on
loan and half from the museum’s own collection, as well as
almost 200 fabric samples, screens, scrolls, lacquer works,
ceramics, illustrated books, and other objects.
It includes glittering, gold-embroidered, 18th-century
noh robes; cartoon-like, monster-faced, firefighter kimono
done with freehand resist dyes in reds and yellows on
indigo; political propaganda kimono printed with
startling symbols of war; children’s kimono — including
one cherished by Frank Lloyd Wright; and, finally,
contemporary pieces featuring the futuristic shibori
pleats of Issey Miyaki as well as the rips and angular
shaping of Yohji Yamamoto. Highlights also include three
breathtaking kimono made by designers designated as
National Living Treasures by the government of Japan.
The exhibit begins in the Edo period (1615 to 1868),
when the design, material, and style of garments reflected
a person’s role as samurai, farmer, craftsman, or
merchant. In addition to the grand textiles embroidered in
gold that one might expect, there are thick, quilted
firefighters’ robes decorated with bright designs depicting
heroes and mythical beasts. Farmers’ robes, meanwhile,
were mostly of recycled fabric scraps woven together, or
patchwork jackets.
At this time, the kimono was an everyday garment. But
its design and function were to change.
In the Meiji period (1868 to 1912), when Japan looked to
western countries in a quest for rapid modernization, the
textile industry — and the kimono — were transformed.
TEXTILE TRANSFORMATION. Pictured at left is a Noh Costume (Nuihaku) with Scattered Crests, Edo period, second half of the 18th-19th
century, from Japan, made of silk embroidery and gold leaf on silk satin. At right is a Child’s Kimono with Wisteria and Trellis, Japan, Meiji period, early
20th century, made from stencil paste-resist dyed crepe silk (kabe chirimen). The child’s kimono was owned by — and likely inspired works by —
Frank Lloyd Wright. Both pieces are included in “Kimono: A Modern History,” an exhibit on view through January 19, 2015 at the Metropolitan Museum
of Art in New York. (AP Photos/Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Japanese began using western woolen and velvet
materials, while Japanese silks became popular in the
west. Japanese also began using western chemical dyes
and new weaving technologies, combining them with
kata-yuzen, a sophisticated, stencil paste-resist dyeing
As western design concepts increasingly influenced the
Japanese kimono, they became bolder and brighter, while
Japanese design began inspiring 19th-century western
artists and designers.
A young girl’s silk kimono decorated with a pattern of
wisteria flowers and trellises was acquired by Wright on a
visit to Japan in around 1905. Its modernity is striking,
and it likely inspired some of the architect’s subsequent
“It almost looks architectural, and you can see how it
inspired him,” Carpenter said.
To preserve traditional crafts in the face of such rapid
modernization, the Japanese government began
designating some experts as Imperial Household Artists
and, later, Living National Treasures. Featured in the
exhibit are works by stencil-dyer Keisuke Serizawa as
well as yuzen-dyer Kako Moriguchi and his son, Kunihiko
Moriguchi. These were precious kimono to be hung as art
and not worn.
In the Taisho period (1912 to 1926), kimono became
brighter and bolder still as department stores promoted
new looks to appeal to the masses. Traditional Japanese
motifs were combined with new western design concepts
to create dazzling kimono, many inspired by the Art
Nouveau and Art Deco movements.
Designs became more graphic in following decades,
especially in unlined summer kimono, which were often
resist-dyed or embroidered. A man’s under-kimono from
the 1930s features cameras and train tickets, and is
displayed alongside a woman’s kimono decorated with
images of piano keys and libretti from two songs. One
kimono even features Mickey Mouse.
Inexpensive, ready-to-wear kimono woven from
pre-dyed yarn were so easily mass-produced that
customers began to expect new designs every year. At the
same time, improved dyeing techniques meant more
sharply delineated designs and color gradations.
During World War II, the kimono’s symbolism as a
national costume made it a perfect vehicle for war
propaganda, particularly a kimono for boys and an
under-kimono for men. Battleships and bomber planes
took hold as motifs.
Although kimono are now worn mainly for formal
occasions, the show ends with works by leading fashion
designers, and makes the case that designers, both
Japanese and western, continue to create clothing
inspired by kimono, pushing the art form further still. The
kimono seems not so much a disappearing traditional
garment but an evolving form that adapts to changing
lifestyles and textile techniques.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is located at 1000
Fifth Avenue in New York. To learn more, visit <www.>.
Only two of four state Supreme Court races contested
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — While
four state Supreme Court justices
are seeking re-election this year,
only two face opponents in the
November election.
Justices Debra Stephens and
Charles Johnson face nominal
opposition in their bids for
The nonpartisan court races
have not generated high-profile
campaigns, which is a bit of a
surprise considering the court has
been involved in controversial
efforts to force the state legislature
to adequately fund public schools.
Justice Mary Yu is running
unopposed on the November 4
ballot to fill out the two years
remaining in the term of retired
Justice James Johnson. Yu is a
former King County Superior
Court judge who was appointed to
the high court by governor Jay
Inslee in May. Yu is the first openly
gay justice, as well as the first
Asian American, to serve on the
Supreme Court.
Justice Mary Fairhurst, who has
served on the court since 2003, also
faces no opposition in her bid for a
third six-year term.
Johnson, seeking a fifth term,
UNCONTESTED RACE. Washington state Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu is ap-
plauded by court members as she acknowledges the gallery after being sworn in to the
bench on May 20, 2014 in Olympia, Washington in this file photo. Yu is running unopposed
on the November 4 ballot to fill out the two years remaining in the term of retired Justice
James Johnson. She is the first openly gay justice, as well as the first Asian American,
to serve on the state Supreme Court. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
points to top bar ratings and a long
list of endorsements on his cam-
paign website.
He is opposed by Pierce County
attorney Eddie Yoon, who does not
have a campaign website. Yoon has
raised no money, but has paid for
newspaper advertising.
Yoon teaches at a law school in
South Korea and also served as an
assistant prosecutor in Tacoma in
the late 1970s. He contends the
present justices lack personality.
Stephens, who joined the high
court in 2008, is seeking a second
six-year term. The Spokane native
is the only current justice from
Eastern Washington.
Stephens wrote the majority
opinion in the court’s 2012 school-
funding decision, which is known
as the McCleary case. Her
campaign website lists top bar
ratings and many endorsements.
She has been rated “exceptionally
well-qualified” to be a justice.
Her opponent is John “Zamboni”
Scannell, a disbarred attorney
whose nickname comes from a
previous job driving the Zamboni
ice machine at the Seattle Center.
He has been deemed “unqualified”
by the Washington State Prose-
cutors Association.
Even if he wins, Scannell likely
would face a challenge because of
Constitution says “No person shall
be eligible to the office of judge of
the supreme court, or judge of a
superior court, unless he shall
have been admitted to practice in
the courts of record of this state.”
Stephens wrote the 2010 opinion
disbarring Scannell for obstructing
a Washington State Bar Associa-
tion investigation, including an
allegation that he did not
adequately inform clients of a
potential conflict of interest.
Scannell has raised no money,
state records show.
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