All About Japan

The Spectacular Story Behind Keiko's Kimono

Art Kimono Video Greater Tokyo Kanto

With a history that's older than many countries, the kimono is, by far, one of the best-known aspects of Japanese culture, and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Taylor Hawkins is shining a light on one artisan's remarkable account with his new short film, Keiko. We've journeyed out to the former samurai town of Aizu-Wakamatsu to witness the laborious work of love that goes into making Aizu lacquerware, but this time, we are sticking closer to Tokyo.

Keiko Tanabe is a master of an art form known as yuzen (友禅), a dyeing technique which she does painstakingly by hand (and she's one of the few females in a diminishing field dominated by men). After the death of her second husband, she felt desolate and lost, unable to create, let alone hold a paintbrush, while unhappy. A friend gave her a wonderful piece of advice: to express her feelings of gratitude towards her husband and friends through her artwork. And that gave her the strength she needed to keep going, even finding inspiration for new pieces.

We also get to see Keiko dressing a young woman named Misha, who can't help but tear up at her stunning reflection in the mirror while wearing one of Keiko's kimono, a bespoke seijin-shiki kimono. Misha's mother, Sheila Cliffe (author of The Social Life of Kimono), commissioned the kimono for her, and we have the opportunity to witness the first time Misha tries it on. Emotions were high all around in this culmination of a multi-month journey together. Not only is this the kind of quality craftsmanship we love about Japan, but it's an honor to gain access to such a touching and intimate story.

- (Japanese)