Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Celebrating Girls' Day with a Hina Matsuri

Today is Hina Matsuri, a day that Japanese people celebrate and pray for the health and happiness of girls. Dolls are displayed in homes with daughters, girls dress up in kimono and sing, and the dolls are put away that night to ensure the girls will become happily married one day.

Even though I'm an old married lady, I was happy to dress up in a kimono today and go to Ippodo Gallery in New York City to celebrate Girls' Day. The Chelsea gallery displays the talents of Japanese artists, giving them a platform and exposure in New York City. Ippodo's current exhibit, A Celebration of Spring - HANA, centers on the theme of flowers ("hana" in Japanese) in an attempt to pull us out of the winter doldrums. In honor of Hina Matsuri, Ippodo offered everyone who wore a kimono to the exhibit today a bowl of matcha, the thick, powdery tea that is served during traditional Japanese tea ceremonies.

So I donned my flower-patterned kimono went to Ippodo with my Japanese teacher, Emi Kikuchi. Kikuchi Sensei is an expert on kimono, and without her, I never would've been able to put on the contraption. It had been a few years since the last time I wore a kimono, and I'd forgotten everything about it. Thanks to Kikuchi Sensei, however, I felt like a princess.

Here I am with my spring kimono, thanks to the expertise of Kikuchi Sensei.

The only bow a like is the one tied behind a kimono.

Kikuchi Sensei and I spent a couple of hours at the gallery, receiving a special tour from Ippodo's Yoko Takahashi. Takahashi-san was enthusiastic in describing each artist and work involved in her current exhibit. It was a pleasure being there with her. Read my review of the exhibit itself here.

My absolute favorite part of the exhibit was Mikiko Hayashi's paintings of scenes from The Tale of Genji, a book by Japan's Lady Murasaki Shikibu and widely thought of as the first novel ever written. These paintings aren't simply paintings. Hayashi recreated the book's court life on the inside surface of polished clam shells. Hayashi painted identical pictures on each side of one shell in the style of a shell-matching game (known as kai-awase) that was popular in the Edo Era (from roughly 1603-1868). 

Kai-awase shells ©Mikiko Hayashi, ©Ippodo Gallery

I may have forgotten how to put on a kimono properly, but being in that costume, drinking ceremonial green tea, and hearing Japanese spoken between Takahashi-san and Kikuchi Sensei transported me to another time in Japan. I felt surprisingly at home.


Daniel said...

Looks like a lot of fun!

Is matcha a thick, green, kind of salty tea? Dave and I had a really thick green tea in a tea house at Kinkaku-ji and we were wondering what it was called.

shrinecastle said...

I never noticed a salty taste, but I'm sure you boys had matcha at Kinkaku-ji. It's powdered and stirred with a whisk. Tastes great with sweets!

Daniel said...

I have strange taste buds, so perhaps I was noticing a salty taste that wasn't there. They did give us a sweet little cake thing to eat with it too. I was really wondering about that tea. Thanks for enlightening me!

shrinecastle said...

Glad I could help!

Anonymous said...

I thought about this when I saw your pictures.


VENUS said...

great pics!!!! love the bow!!! glad you enjoyed!!

shrinecastle said...

D.F. - You're always trying to squeeze a Steely Dan reference out of my posts!

shrinecastle said...

VENUS - glad you like the bow! It's fun to dress up in kimono. I wouldn't want to do it every day because it's a lot of work!

Anonymous said...

Well it wasn't hard to squeeze a SD reference with this article and the pics. You'd know that if you bothered to click on my link. :)~


shrinecastle said...

I did click on your link; that's how I knew it was the SD album cover. Silly!