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  • Shona McCarthy

Family Crests: Banbasenkogyo Ltd.

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(A selfie I took at Banbasenkogyo Ltd., 2019. Though I didn't speak Japanese very well, and the girls didn't know English too well, we were still able to communicate through Google Translate!)

If you've seen a number of kimono, you may have noticed that some of them have small symbols on their shoulders. These little seals are actually family crests. Once upon a time, these were called "mon" and were an important way of indicating your allegiances, or even displaying which samurai warlord you were a vassal to. I'd always wanted to learn about how to mark kimono with these seals, since they carried such important meanings and looked so cool on kimono and other things. So I signed up for a class with Banbasenkogyo Ltd. through Veltra.com. It was a little tricky to find, since the building is slightly off the road and down a footpath. The lady who runs classes is named Maki and she is very spunky and full of personality. She had many young students who also function as assistants with her; all beautiful young women. Some of the walls in the workshop are mostly covered in different mon, but since you choose the mon you want when you make you book your lesson, you can't choose on the spot. However, if you would like to buy a larger wrapping cloth and to choose the colour of your cloth and mon on the spot, you can do that.

Maki was very funny as she took out a small panel that seemed to be made of plastic. She took a small flat tool with a wide handle on it, and some thick paint out of a jar, smeared it onto the edge of the tool, and then thrust it rapidly down upon the plastic. When she lifted it, a perfect little image of the company logo remained. She jokingly told me that I had to get mine right the first time, since I couldn't have another if I made a mistake. I told her that knowing this made me quite nervous and worried. And it did! The girls had a good laugh at how surprised I was by such a stipulation. I didn't quite load up the scraping tool with enough paint, so Maki helped me get it right. Then she took one of the hair-dryers that was clipped to the table.

The end result was so lovely. I later draped the cloth over one of my obi, so I could wear it to a textile exhibition and the Kyoto Imperial Palace Gardens.

(A selfie of me wearing the furoshiki I "monned" at Banbasenkogyo Ltd. in Kyoto Imperial Palace Gardens. Furoshiki is a kind of cloth you can use for wrapping gifts. It's more environmentally friendly than wrapping paper. But also, I like wearing them as scarves and tenugui. 2019.)

These classes were very reasonably priced, for upwards of $15.70 USD. I went for the large furoshiki option, which was $23.02 USD.

The whole experience only takes an hour or two, and just outside the studio is a special water fountain with water that is incredibly pure and delicious. You are able to buy bottles of it for cooking, drinking or making fine teas. The studio is also very close to Nishiki Markets, so you could easily make a day of it. I didn't know it, but it turns out that Banbasenkogyo actually has a connection with Doshisha University!


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