Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Good Books About Japan: Geisha & Kimono

Beautiful geisha and colourful kimono are two of the most striking and popular images of Japan. There are plenty of books dedicated to these fascinating and complex subjects from the autobiographies of ex-geisha and colourful photobooks to detailed analyses of the history and culture of Japan's national dress.

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Here is my list of recommendations and personal favourites ...

The first book that I ever bought about geisha is filled with photographs and information about the history of geisha, their costume and make-up and their life in modern day Japan.
This is the best book about geisha that I have read. Dalby is very knowledgeable and combines her own personal experiences of living and working in the Pontocho hanamachi with a lot of facts about geisha culture and history. Read more about Liza Dalby here.
This book suffers slighty in comparison to Liza Dalby's book on the same topic but is still an interesting and informative read. It covers geisha history from its origins to modern day.
The interesting autobiography of a geisha who worked in the prestigious Gion Kobu hanamachi.

Autobiography of a Geisha by Sayo Masuda
An autobiography describing the difficult life that Masuda lived both as a geisha and in rural wartime Japan.

Madame Sadayakko: The Geisha Who Seduced the West by Lesley Downer
The fascinating life of geisha Sadoyakko who not only became famous in Japan but also thrilled the West with her dancing and acting, was painted by Picasso and inspired Puccini's Madame Butterfly.

Kimono: Fashioning Culture by Liza Dalby
A fascinating and well-written book by the author of Geisha that chronicles the history of kimono as well as how it is worn and its place in modern Japan.

The Book of Kimono by Norio Yamanaka
A very informative and useful book that covers kimono and kimono accessories as well as how to wear them and and look after them with lots of clear pictures and illustrations.

Making Kimono and Japanese Clothes by Jenni Dobson
This book contains instructions not only for making kimono but also for hantenjimbei and mompe as well as decorative techniques and brief historical information.

Kimono and the Colors of Japan by Katsumi Yumioka
A book filled with pictures of antique kimono from the author's collection illustrating the traditional colours of Japan. The text is in both English and Japanese.
This book is part of a 5 book series which also includes the following books:

Kimono and the Summer Color of Japan

Kimono Obi and the Colors of Japan

Kimono and the Motifs of Japan

Child Kimono and the Seasonal Motifs of Japan

Though this book about wearing stylish yukata by Sasajima Toshimi is in Japanese it is filled with color pictures and diagrams showing how to put on the summer kimono and tie obi as well as hairstyle ideas making it easy to follow even if you don't read Japanese.
Kimono Hime is a Japanese language 'mook' or magazine book published in installations. Each edition focuses on a different aspect of dressing up in kimono with particular focus on antique garments. If you don't read Japanese the magazines are worth buying for the gorgeous pictures alone.

Tried & Tested by Itsumo Japan!

Entries that bear this stamp are books that are on the Itsumo Japan bookshelf and are especially recommended.


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