The kids go to a Japanese immersion school as their primary school. In addition to learning the Japanese language, they also get to participate in cultural events. One of those events is called, “aki matsuri,”or Fall Festival. For half the day, we convert the school into different games popular in Japan during these festivals. At the end of the games, the kids parade around the school with decorative floats, chanting, and dancing. One thing that is very common for people to wear at the fall festival is a yukata. I’ve been told it’s like a casual kimono. The girls really wanted to wear one, but even after all of our trips to Japan, we had never bought them one. The basic garment is constructed similarly to a bathrobe. It looked simple enough, so I decided to make them one. I mean, I made an Elsa dress for Halloween before, I could handle this, right? In the end, I was right. But getting there, that was the tricky part.
The first step was to locate a pattern. I didn’t want to buy a pattern from JoAnn fabrics. If they even had one, it would most likely be in the costume section. I didn’t want me or the kids to think of this as a costume. Even though we don’t live in Japan, the language and culture is a part of who they are and I want them to honor that. So since JoAnns was out, I consulted some of my Japanese friends to point me in the right direction.
We all decided on a blog post from a Japanese blogger that had fairly detailed pictures and measurements. They couldn’t quite explain all of the text to me, but assured me my wife would be able to. This is where things started to get complicated.
I could figure out the pattern and directions mostly by looking at the pictures. But this one task, a major task, I couldn’t tell by looking at the pictures. And every time I showed it to Aya, she said she couldn’t read it.
“What do you mean you can’t read it?” I asked.
“It’s using different words. I don’t know what they are saying,” she explained.
“But what does it say?”
“I don’t know.”
It went around like this for a little bit, me not accepting what “I don’t understand” means.
I really didn’t want to involve a lot of people on this, but I gathered up some courage to ask one of the Japanese moms at school. And guess what she said…
“I don’t understand this.”
What do you mean you don’t understand!?
So before I knew it, it became a discussion with four other people in the room. One of them even contacted their mom in Japan to ask. And all of them couldn’t read it and didn’t understand. The way it was described to me was that there are specific verbiage used for sewing of Japanese garments. So unless you are trained or experienced with those specific things, you really wouldn’t understand. I was still a bit baffled because my question was very simple. Luckily though, someone had a book with a pattern and even more detailed pictures on how to make a child’s yukata and let me borrow it! And then another parent brought in their child’s yukata for me to borrow so I could see how it was put together. I felt a bit embarrassed with all the people that got involved, but thankful they went out of their way to help me. And thankfully because of that, we didn’t have to decode any special languages.
Now I really had to bring it. Word was beginning to spread that I was making the kids a yukata. If they showed up with mismatched sleeves or messed up straps, or worse, with no yukata at all, everyone would know I failed. I was starting to feel the pressure.
After many days and nights of cutting, folding, sewing, ironing, and double checking, I was able finish them with just enough time to figure out how to wear them. I had no idea how to dress them with this, but at least I made them. My job was done. Now it was Aya’s job to dress them. She had to Google a Youtube video to find out the proper way to fit them, but she managed.
They were well inspected when we got to school and I got the official approval from the people I consulted with. But most importantly, the kids were really excited to wear them and loved it. And that is good enough for me.
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