Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Kimono Cuties

Click on photos t0 enlarge! "Never let your sense of morals get in the way of doing what's right."
Isaac Asimov
Honolulu in the 1850's

"When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability... To be alive is to be vulnerable."
Madeleine L'Engle

Husband & Wife

"A successful marriage is an edifice that must be rebuilt every day."
Andre Maurois

Picture Brides en route to new lives in Hawaii

"Marriage. It's like a cultural hand-rail. It links folks to the past and guides them to the future."
Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider

Back "in the day," many Asian men came to Hawaii as contract laborers intending to return home with their savings at the end of the contract period. Lots of these single men decided to stay on in the Kingdom (later the Republic, then the Territory) and sent back to their home countries for wives. Some marriages were arranged by families; other wives were chosen by the men themselves from among "picture brides."

These pioneering Hawaii couples usually had their pictures professionally taken, and they sent copies back to family in "the old country." The men wore suits to betoken their successful adaptation to "the west." But they wanted to preserve their culture, and for their wives to remain traditional. Hence the genre of Kimono pictures. In the earliest times, the wife would wear her own best kimono. In later days, the photographer might own the clothing used in the "shoot."

Even today in Hawaii, especially on "Girl's Day" or Hina Matsuri in March, local children still dress in kimono to be photographed. A tradition that used to be specific to the local Japanese community is now enjoyed by girls and families from all walks of island life.

Hina Matsuri has its roots in an ancient Shinto spring-welcoming ritual celebrating the Earth's annual renewal. It is sometimes referred to as the "peach festival" ("momo no sekku") because the peach symbolizes softness, mildness, peacefulness, happiness and marriage.

The festival is also the time when Japanese families bring out a "hina ningyo," or "doll display." "Hina Matsuri," in fact, translates as "doll festival. The full hina ningyo can encompass up to seven tiers, topped by dolls representing an Emperor and Empress of the Heian Period (794-1192). The lower tiers display three ladies-in-waiting, court musicians, government officials, and footmen in imperial livery. The bottom one contains items of daily life such as carriages, dressers, plates and peach trees.

Less-than-wealthy families usually started their Hina Ningyo with the emperor and empress dolls, then added to the collection year by year. It was said that anticipating each year's new doll would cultivate patience, respect, diligence and responsibility in the family daughters. The hina ningyo was put on display about two weeks before Hina Matsuri, then taken down on that day. It was believed that leaving the display up beyond March 3 would cause the girl(s) to marry late.

In today's Hawaii, community organizations host events where girls are invited to be dressed up by professional kimono dressers, and to have their pictures taken. Girls who possess their own kimono are encouraged to wear them and take part in a parade.
A L O H A! Cloudia