KSU museum boasts Japanese culture

Allison Tomei

A lesson in Japanese culture does not have to include subtitles or a $100 textbook. Until Sept. 17, six Japanese robes, called furisodes, will be on display at the Kent State University Museum.

The furisode has long, swinging sleeves. For weddings, the bride wears a colorfully embroidered furisode, called an uchikake, over a matching robe to serve as a display of her family’s status.

The more elaborate and beautiful a woman’s robe is, the more prominence her family is thought to have, said museum director Jean Druesedow.

An uchikake, worn by a woman for the last time at her wedding reception, symbolizes the end of her virginity and beginning of life as a married woman, Druesedow said.

“The exhibit will expand people’s understanding of traditional Japanese culture,” she said.

A bride may change three or four times during the night of her wedding, in order to keep the guests’ focus on her. Traditionally, her first garment is a white robe, called a shiromaku, worn at the wedding ceremony itself. She then changes into the uchikake for the reception, Druesedow said. Before the end of the festivities, the bride normally changes into a more traditional Western evening gown.

Jennifer Horwell, junior early childhood education major, doesn’t know anything about Japanese culture, but was able to appreciate the robes.

“I didn’t know that Japanese women changed that many times for their wedding,” she said. “They look really heavy to wear, but they are really bright and colorful.”

Along with the vast array of colors found on the uchikake are pictures and designs, which symbolize a number of Japanese values and beliefs.

The meanings of the pictures on the robes originated in China, but are incorporated into the Japanese culture, Druesedow said. Most of the patterns are consistent with things found in nature, such as birds, streams and flowers, while others exemplify objects thought to signify life, prosperity, success and longevity.

The crane is the most common motif represented on the uchikake, symbolizing beauty and longevity. Two of the robes on display depict the phoenix, a mythical bird that is considered the female counterpart of the male dragon, according to information displayed at the exhibit.

Andrea Cilona, junior fashion merchandising major, said reading what the symbols meant helped her understand the robes better.

“The robes seem to mean more than just colors,” she said. “The pictures and designs show what the bride really stands for.”

Druesedow, also the curator of the exhibit, said she wanted to display the kimonos because they represent a non-Western culture.

“There is such diversity amongst the world’s people, and I wanted to show that culture,” she said.

The Kent State University Museum is home to a variety of other cultural exhibitions, ranging from the mid-18th century to present day. The current display is titled “Raiment for Receptions: A Japanese Bride’s Last Furisode.” Entrance to the museum is free with a Kent State ID.

Contact School of Fashion Design and Merchandising reporter Allison Tomei at [email protected].