Known as shochikubai, the Three Friends of Wither (the pine tree sho, the bamboo chiku, and the plum blossom bai) are powerful symbols of perseverance, integrity, and resistance to hardship in Asian culture, thriving even in the winter months when other plants wither and die. In Japan in particular, they are highly associated with the start of the New Year, and during this time maiko frequently wear shochikubai kanzashi. This piece features all three Friends of Winter alongside a large white crane, decorated with shining mizuhiki cord accents. Mounted on an alligator clip for easy wear, the piece measures approximately 6" x 5.75".
I'm a big fan of Japanese textile design, and I've been collecting kimono and haori for about 18 years—thanks to two friends who got me started . So over time I have learned a bit about some of the designs you see on the textiles.
Yeah, I have quite a collection. I mostly buy haori because I can wear them over "Western" clothing. I've taken a couple of "how to wear a kimono" workshops, and I have my doubts whether I'll actually ever where a full kimono set (right now I don't have the proper underclothing).
My collection has been growing over the years, in various ways. I made a huge jump in my collection about 11 years ago, when a lady I knew who was both a jewelry maker and a kimono collector passed away. Her family decided to have an estate sale of her kimono collection (keeping a few high-end pieces for themselves). They sent out invites to the sale to everyone on her mailing list as well as family and friends. Since I had talked to her about her collection, I had some idea of what it was going to be like. She'd been collecting for 40 years! Of course I went, and spent about $2000 but got some unbelievable pieces, including a couple of gorgeous shibori haori with minor flaws that at a show would have been at least in the $150 to $200 range, and I got for $25 each!
Then back in 2008 I had the opportunity to go to Japan. My husband, bless his heart, agreed that we had enough money for me to do this, and he knew I'd been wanting to go for a long time. It was a wonderful trip, with a very small group of people, and one couple were our guides. He's originally from Texas, she's from Japan and is an artist—ceramics—with a business she maintains in Japan. They go over every year for a couple of months, and so a small group of people got to go too. Because they have connections, we got to do a few things a regular tourist group would not get to do (like visiting a wonderful textile factory that is a blend of traditional and very modern—on the modern side they work with special plastics and similar materials and have made the panels inside the cars on the bullet train. On the traditional side, they still use huge looms and have artisans who do traditional hand embroidery. To my delight we not only got to visit that part, but we were able to get up close and taken pictures.)
Thanks to the two friends who got me into collecting kimono and haori, I also knew about the Kyoto temple flea markets. We spent the first 5 days of the visit in Kyoto, and on the last day I had the chance to go to a temple flea market. Midori, the artist half of our guides, and I grabbed a taxi and went off to a temple that morning. It was wonderful having her with me, because of course she's a native speaker and I only know a very few phrases. I was in kimono heaven! I adore shibori work, and I bought several beautiful shibori haori at about $20 a piece! My husband had "warned" me not come back with suitcase full, but of course that's exactly what I did.
I have a three-section kimono tansu and a half-tansu, and they are both full. We also have several pieces from my collection up on our walls. So yes, I do have quite a collection.