Thursday, April 7, 2016

Motif: Fuji (Wisteria)

Part of the challenge that I set for myself when contemplating this undertaking was to find examples of each motif amidst my own collection. As a consequence, I'll be talking about the flower, rather than Mt. Fuji-san for today's motif. I'd like to point out, though, that Fuji-san IS an exceedingly popular motif, not just in prints and on accessories like fans, and that the iconic mountain can be found on kimono as well. Just not in my collection. Yet.

In truth, the best examples for wisteria come from my collection of ningyo (dolls, not the fishy yokai monster). The 'Wisteria Maiden' or 'Fuji Musume' is a very popular theme for ningyo, stemming from it's popularity in Kabuki theatre. They often appear with a willowy branch of flowers, a round, flat hat, and their kimono fairly drip with stylized wisteria motifs.

This lady is most typical of the 'Wisteria Maiden' style. She was a thrift-store find, but still has her hat and  wisteria branch.

This lady is also a thrift-store find, and though she has lost her hat (it's hard to tell if she had one) and wisteria branch (the posture suggests she did have one, as well as the position of her left hand), there is no doubt that she is a true Wisteria Maiden.

Detail of the left sleeve and obi of the second maiden.
While the first lady has all of the typical accessories and a wisteria-themed kimono, I feel that the second example is a little closer to the garments as they might have appeared on the Kabuki stage. Her's is a much more dramatic presentation, and if you look again, you will notice that the right sleeve of the kimono is actually slipped off, revealing the wisteria patterning continued on the juban sleeve.

As for garments in my own collection, the most striking is this haori.

The pattern isn't as rounded as wisteria is often portrayed, but the tiny hints of blue in the lighter petals lead me to feel that it's decidedly more flowery than a willow.

A garment like this can really pack a visual punch, and so it isn't often that my outermost layer is the focus of my ensemble (mostly because of the likelyhood it will be removed, unless it's quite chilly). I did have a chance to show it off in its glory in late January, when I attended the Edwardian Ball (in honor of Mr. Gorey, the illustrator). I had wanted to go for a look that would hint at the Taisho era (1920's) and the haori fit this to a tee with it's bold coloring and pattern.

The stripes don't show up well in the photo, and yes, this was taken in a mirror, causing my collars to appear to be overlapping incorrectly.

Wisteria is a decidedly spring motif, though you could push the season a little by wearing it in very late winter, thereby offering an expectation of things to come. If my kind readers have something they're looking forward to, perhaps upcoming posts in their own blogs, I'd love to hear about them in the comments!

Speaking of things to come... we'll be back tomorrow with Grasses (nowaki)! We'll be looking at botanical themes for the next several letters, so stay tuned!


  1. This reminds me that I have some kimono-clad dolls somewhere that I should dig out! I believe they came from my g-grandma.

    1. What fun! I'd love to see them if you ever find them. Almost all of mine have been thrift store rescues, though I have two that were gifts. Eventually, I'd like to do a post just on the dolls, but I need to do a lot more in the way of research for their stories.