Amy’s Art: Kimono Cat Collection – Meet Tama The Yukata Cat

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After two and a half months of work, Tama is finally complete! I am so relieved. And what better time is there to showcase her than today, the 7th of July, which is the famous tanabata festival in Japan!


KIMONO CAT PROFILE

Name: Tama (たま)

Height: 19cm

Gender: Female

Kimono type: Yukata

Occasion: Summer festival

Time of year/season: July/Summer

Name meaning: Tama means ball/bead in Japanese. It is probably the most cliché Japanese cat name of all time. Maybe her mum was running out of ideas by the time Tama emerged.

Her Story: Tama is just growing out of kittenhood and she demands to be taken seriously, but being the runt of the litter means that no one actually ever does. She’s not so adult-cat enough yet to deny the fact that she still loves eating taiyaki and fishing out a mizu fuusen or two at the summer festival though. Plus, it’s a good chance to be seen in her beloved kingyo yukata!


 

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KIMONO CAT EXPLANATION

1. Yukata (浴衣) – Tama is wearing a yukata, which is a summer kimono that can be worn to casual events like festivals, firework displays, parties and at Japanese inns or ryokan (旅館) after bathing. The yukata is usually made of cotton or other light fabrics and is unlined.

Women, men and children wear the yukata, with younger people generally wearing bright, colourful patterns and older people wearing darker colours with little or no pattern. Tama’s yukata has a goldfish or kingyo (金魚) pattern to represent summer and because, well, she’s a cat. I also included bubbles in the design because of her name.

The yukata is known for its short sleeve length (See A) and womens’ yukata sleeves typically reach their wrists, while the mens’ is shorter and reaches just past their elbows. Yukata, like all kimono, are always worn with the left side over right (See B) because the opposite – right over left – is used to dress bodies for funerals.

When putting on the yukata, you must always leave a a folded portion hanging out from under the obi – this is called the ohashori (おはしょり) (See C). Then the left side of the yukata must come around to line up with your outer right leg (See D).

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2. Obi (帯) – The yukata is kept in place by tying a long sash or obi around the waist. Womens’ obi are usually a contrasting colour to the kimono and is the center piece of the whole outfit. Although obi can be tied into over a hundred different knots for different occasions, young womens’ yukata usually use the butterfly knot or the chou chou musubi (蝶々結び) like the one Tama has on (See 2). It resembles a big ribbon and is one of the easiest knots to tie (even I can tie one on myself!).

3. Geta (下駄) – The geta are sandals/clogs made of wood and are the footwear worn with yukata. Geta are worn with bare feet, unlike other kimono sandals where you have to wear special socks or tabi (足袋) with it. Womens’ geta are usually sized a little bit smaller than the feet wearing them.

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4. Mizu fuusen (水風船) – Mizu fuusen is a game stall found at Japanese festivals. A mizu fuusen is a small balloon hanging from a rubber band with a little bit of water inside, which you can loop onto your finger and hit with your hand in a yo-yo motion. With the stall game, you are given a small hook tied to paper and the aim of the game is to fish out one of the balloons in a pool by hooking onto the rubber band loop before the paper hook rips in the water.

5. Kingyo sukui (金魚すくい) – Like mizu fuusen, kingyo sukui is also a game stall at festivals. The game is similar to mizu fuusen but this time you have a small paper hoop to try and catch a real goldfish from the tank. If you catch one, you usually get to take the goldfish home in a clear bag filled with water, like Tama’s. And yes, that is real water in Tama’s bag.

6. Taiyaki (たい焼き) – Taiyaki is a fish shaped cake that is sold at festival stalls or yatai (屋台). It is usually made with a sweet batter and filled with a red bean paste, but they can also be filled with other flavours like vanilla custard, chocolate or even cheese.

7. Matsuri uchiwa (祭りうちわ) – Summer nights are hot in Japan and a lot of people carry around fans to keep themselves cool. People bring their own, buy one or are even given free fans by workers at the festivals as a form of advertisement. Tama’s fan is a classic Japanese festival fan which has the kanji meaning of festival or matsuri (祭り) written on it.

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Tama basking in the sun at the local park

 

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So, did you like meeting Tama?

Did you learn something new about Japanese culture?

Stay tuned for the next lovable feline in my Kimono Cat Collection!


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