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Artist, Junko Sophie Kakizaki (Part 2)

Junko Sophie Kakizaki is an artist from a venerable old Japanese family. This is the second part of an interview with her to learn about her life, her ideas of beauty and kimono culture.

Junko Sophie lives in Kyoto, but spends a third of the year abroad.

The Hakuryuen garden in Kyoto
Junko at Hakuryuen garden in Kyoto. She is wearing a kimono and obi sash inherited from her grandmother.

Junko Sophie often wears kimono when she travels around Japan and internationally for her work to promote Japanese culture.
She has lived in Kyoto for the past four years, but spends a third of the year abroad (before the pandemic), including France and Taiwan, which she calls her second home.

Since she moved to Kyoto, she has more opportunities to wear kimono, especially when entertaining overseas guests.

Since Junko Sophie moved to Kyoto she has more opportunities to wear kimono.
With French translator and writer, Corrine Atlan
With French translator and writer, Corrine Atlan.
She is a leading Japanese translator who has introduced many Japanese novels to French readers.
When Corrine is in Kyoto she often comes for tea ceremonies with Junko Sophie.
Junko Sophie wears a kimono and Obi sash suitable for tea ceremony.
With French designer Clémentine Sandner
Dressing French creator Clémentine Sandner in kimono.
Clémentine remakes bags and accessories with antique kimonos and Obi. Here she wears a kimono for the first time.
The director of Hakusasonso Hashimoto Kansetsu Museum was Junko Sophie's first benefactor in Kyoto.
The director, Tae Hashimoto of Hakusasonso Hashimoto Kansetsu Museum was Junko Sophie’s first benefactor in Kyoto.
She occasionally visits for dinner and to enjoy the estate’s beautiful gardens.
With Daniel Pescio, friend and French perfume designer
Junko Sophie introduces traditional Japanese incense and scents such as the camellia flower to her friend Daniel Pescio, the French perfume designer.
She is collaborating with Daniel to create a perfume inspired the world of Shosoin, the ancient Japanese treasure house.
With Daniel from France and Michelle Lu from Taiwan
Junko Sophie in Budapest with Daniel from France and Michelle Lu from Taiwan to discuss a scent project.

A Kimono that Decided My Destiny

What kind of kimono inspires Junko Sophie that decided her destiny?

“The most meaningful kimono is one my grandmother customized for me when I was seven years old. It was for the traditional coming of age day.

I remember my grandmother commissioned a special kimono for me to wear for my Shichi-go-san (Seven-five-three) ceremony.

My grandmother had my kimono designed so that I could continue to wear it even when I became an adult. I remember the kimono was a vivid navy blue color with hems that were sewn short so it would fit around my shoulders and waist.

When I became an adult at the age of 20, my grandmother had the kimono re-dyed into a chic darker blue and had the fabric altered to make the garment longer.

Along with the kimono, she also commissioned a new Obi sash with an auspicious pattern in a high-quality weave. As a child, I didn’t like the blue kimono. I thought it was too boyish. I wanted to wear a feminine kimono with pink and red flower patterns like the other girls my age.

With my mother. The heavy kimono made of crepe fabric was quite heavy for a 7-year-old child
With Junko Sophie’s mother. The heavy kimono made of crepe fabric was quite heavy for a 7-year-old child.
Kimono that her grandmother customized

Now, however, I realize it was a sign of my grandmother’s refined sensibility which she sought to cultivate in me. The exquisite kimono and Obi sash that she had made for me were full of auspicious patterns, showing her love and tenderness. I am now deeply moved by that foresight.

This is how the kimono that my grandmother made for me looks now. The small kimono I wore when I was a child became bigger, and my grandmother customized the Obi sash accordingly.

A pattern suitable for each new year or celebration. Junko Sophie often wears it for the first time after becoming an adult
A pattern suitable for each new year or celebration. Junko Sophie often wears it for the first time after becoming an adult.

I imagined the thoughts of my grandmother that she included in the many auspicious patterns, and I researched all the pattern’s meanings. ”

What Junko Sophie is aiming for- “Beauty is the expression of our life energy”

In Italy following the footsteps of Yomokichi Sawaki, her great uncle and art historian.
Junko Sophie’s great uncle, Yomokichi Sawaki, studied abroad in Europe for many years before the war.
Visiting this old Italian villa made Junko Sophie feels as if she was closer to the spirit of her great uncle.

It is because of the nature of the kimono that we can re-dye the color and re-sew it like this. Also, by knowing the meaning of the patterns, Junko Sophie was able to understand what her grandmother wanted to convey.

This got Junko Sophie interested in historical kimono patterns. She began to search for relevant scholars and graduate school programs who could assist her to deepen her understanding of the connection between kimono patterns and the world of art and culture.

“I give lectures on the beauty of kimono, including demonstrations on how to dress in kimono. When I introduce the Housouge flower which is a kind of imaginary lotus flower pattern, people get really interested.

I first thought that kimono patterns were unique to Japan, but for example, the Housouge flower pattern originated in Persia and crossed to Japan via the Silk Road. A similar pattern with the same roots is called arabesque in Europe. When people hear such stories, many people feel the romance of history.

Visiting the Louvre dozens to see the Venus de Milo
Junko Sophie when in Paris always visits the Louvre to see the Venus de Milo.
Her kimono for this occasion was a chrysanthemum flower pattern that was introduced from Japan and was once popular in Europe.
The Pera Palace hotel where the Oriental Express passengers once stayed
At the Pera Palace hotel in Istanbul where the passengers of the Oriental Express once stayed, Junko Sophie wore a kimono of Hosouge flower pattern.

I thought this design was unique to Japan, but when I look carefully at the details, it is full of exoticism. Not only the patterns but also the weaving, such as a rare nail-scratching weaving technique called Tsumekagituzureori.

This was the Copt weave in Egypt. It is very interesting how these ancient traditions are revealed in the kimono and Obi sash. I want to understand this deeper connection of kimono designs and the cultures that came to Japan.

In Beijing, Junko Sophie wore an Oshima Tsumugi kimono with Tang flower pattern.
In Beijing, Junko Sophie wore an Oshima Tsumugi Kimono with a Tang flower pattern.
“I visited Beijing when anti-Japanese sentiment was rising, so some people were worried about me wearing a kimono in China. The Chinese people I met were very pro-Japanese and complimented me on my kimono.
This helped me realize the power of culture and beauty. I am learning day by day that it is very important to know the source of Japanese culture that originated from other parts of the world.
In the last few years, I am also learning a lot from the refined sensibility of Chinese and Taiwanese friends.”

I am concerned about kimono culture now. Most of the experts on kimono design and history in Japan are old and there are few young people interested in learning from them.

This has inspired me to learn from them while they are still able to teach. This is now my mission. I was even thinking of going to graduate school, but was surprised to find there are no programs to learn kimono culture in Japan, because of the lack of interest.

The craft of the braided Obi sash originally came from the continent.
The craft of the braided Obi sash originally came from the continent.
“The braided Obi is easy to tighten and luxurious, so I like it. ”
◆The above four photos show influences from Europe-Turkey-China-Japan. It can be seen that the kimono is a mixture of many world cultures that have been sublimated in Japan.

I remember the words of Yomokichi Sawaki, my great uncle and the Western art historian
“Beauty is the spirit of living. Let’s grasp that realization through deeper learning.” I believe this reflects the sensibility of my family as a whole and what has inspired my ancestors through the many centuries. This is what inspires me too.

I cannot do it alone, but I have a dream to make a kimono museum in Kyoto with the help of others who value kimono culture. I know it is a big dream, but I believe it can be realized. It is surprising really, with all the interest in kimono, that there is no museum specializing in the culture of kimono in Japan.”

If you wear a kimono, wear it beautifully. Wearing a kimono makes us more beautiful.

Kimono with chintz pattern and shantou embroidery on white Oshima tsumugi
Kimono with pattern and shantou embroidery on white Oshima tsumugi.
“I am currently collaborating with my friends in India, to promote ancient Japanese cosmetic concepts.
We’re also exploring ways to make new uses of fine used kimono fabrics.”

Junko Sophie’s life is devoted to exploring the spirit of Japanese “Iki” and French “Art de vivre”. Through her elegance and way of thinking, we are inspired by her spirit and her determination to live and convey beauty.

How can we dress beautifully in kimono? We asked Junko Sophie her advice about wearing her kimono.

“What I’m careful about and actually enjoy is the matching of patterns, the colors of the seasons, the matching of Obi sash with kimono, and whether these are appropriate for the venue or occassion. But the most important thing is the overall care and sense of creativity we express in the coordination of the articles we wear. What we wear should be an expression of our thoughts and feelings. This is a way to live life more beautifully.

Oshima Tsumugi with a rare woven pattern
Oshima Tsumugi kimono with a rare woven pattern.

“I think it’s okay to be free from the basic rules of fashion, but it is important to be aware of the basics. This gives us a foundation to build upon to develop our own style and hopefully come to understand the sophisticated elegance of Japanese women.

To do this I believe it is important to be aware of the historical and cultural influences from abroad that have given Japanese culture inspiration and form.

If you are interested in kimono, it’s easier to buy fine antique kimono and to get them overseas. You can learn how to wear kimono by watching videos. If you have a chance to wear a kimono, please try it. Unlike western clothes, you may find yourself experiencing your body and emotions in a different way. For me this is one of the joys and pleasures of life.”

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