Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Motifs: Kasa (Umbrellas/Parasols)

Practical and stylish, kasa are highly underrated as far as motifs go. They carry a certain amount of whimsy into an ensemble that can't be matched with a pure floral or geometric motif. Until I started my kitsuke practice, I would never have considered reaching for a garment adorned with umbrellas, but that changed when I spotted this han-haba obi in Nichi Bei Busan:

Yes, it should look familiar! I get a lot of use out of this obi.
While kasa themselves do not have any specific seasonality associated with them, the presence of these on a brightly colored han-haba obi makes them ideal for summer wear with yukata.

As you may have discerned from the brevity of this post, this obi is the only thing in my collection with kasa. I'd really like to change that, but in the meantime, instead of boring you with photos that you saw in I for Iris (Ayame), I thought I might instead talk about another artistic medium where kasa show up-- woodblock prints.

Specifically, I'm thinking of the illustrations that were inspired by yokai (monsters). A googling of 'kasa-obake' will bring you any number of hits on the story behind these creatures as well as the illustrations. The story with which I am most familiar is the 'creation myth' behind such yokai. It's a cautionary tale, to be sure.

In legend, it's said that a whole collection of long-used and abused household objects were finally cast aside by their owners. Under normal circumstances, this might have been fine, but these particular items, including the kasa had been used for so long that they'd actually taken on a life of their own. (This seems to be a common theme in Japanese tales, the long life equated with more power, like how kitsune, or fox-spirits, will get an extra tail every 100 years they live.) Upset with how they had been abused and neglected, the cast-away objects took revenge on their former owners by tormenting and haunting them.

In our modern society, with so much focus on 'newer' and 'better,' I think this serves as a very good reminder to take care of the things we do have, so that they will serve us well and leave us in peace when it is time for them to retire. If my kind readers have any stories of a most-cherished object that abides in their home, I would love to hear about it in the comments!

Starting tomorrow, I am going to be away from my keyboard, but I have plenty of posts scheduled until I return. If I am not as prompt at replying to comments and questions as I might be, please understand and I look forward to being back next week! Tomorrow, by the way, our theme will be 'Linear,' with a look at how stripes can play a strategic role in kitsuke.

1 comment:

  1. You've seen a few. :) Like my grandma's college yearbook.

    Thank you so much for this well written, informative blog!