Back in Crawley to see my folks a few weeks ago, I went to a 'Japanese Cultural Event' at Crawley's lovely new library. I have more enthusiasm for, than knowledge of, Japanese culture. Mainly the tradional stuff - geisha, kimono, graphic prints - but also modern phenomenon such as cosplay, especially the sort of outfits worn by the 'Harajuku kids' made famous by street fashion magazine FRUiTS. So it was great to get a good introduction from a Japanese person who lives in Britain.
Akemi Solloway is a lecturer and consultant on Japanese culture, and leads study visits to Japan. She started by explaining that she wears kimono all the time - she had her train ticket tucked in her obi! What really surprised me was that everything else she needed - purse, keys, etc - she kept in the long 'pockets' of her kimono sleeves. She also explained that while the fan she had on her was wooden, she sometimes carried a metal fan which could be used for self-defence if walking alone at night!
Akemi dressed a volunteer in a summerweight cotton kimono known as a yukata, and tied an obi round her waist which she finished with a big bow. The lady said it was likely wearing a corset - rather tight but good for your posture!
Then Akemi took us through part of the tea ceremony. Along the way she told us loads about Japanese history and modern Japanese culture, and told us about the two-day Japanese Art Festival she runs in Richmond every year, which includes art, music and food. This year it's 27-28 February, and it's FREE! I really hope I can get there.