Saturday, July 18, 2009

Investing in quality

I'm not really one to spend a lot of money on clothes, but I seem to lose my usual thriftiness when it comes to yukata (Japanese summer cotton kimonos).

The summer I first arrived, I bought one on sale for about 7000 yen (~$70) including the obi (sash), and tying sashes. The next summer I bought one that cost about 20,000 yen (~$200) for just the yukata. This summer I've just placed an order for one that costs 20,000 yen for the fabric alone and another 10,000 yen for making it (~$300 total).

At first I thought I'd go to Uniqlo or Jusco to get a cheap (mass-produced) one, but then I remembered that a friend had told me that her husband had a kimono shop. (I met her doing taiko at the Towada Aki Matsuri (Towada Fall Festival) and I'd gone over to her house once for tea.) So I decided I'd drop by and check it out.

When I got to the store, though, I was too intimidated to enter because it looked kind of upscale/higher class. I stood in front of the store for a while (peering into the window) before heading back to my car to leave. Just as I was going to get into my car, however, my friend pulled into the parking lot, and (when I explained that I hadn't actually gone into the shop) she invited me to go in with her.

Once inside, she explained to her husband that I was looking for a yukata, and I was shown upstairs. Upstairs they laid out a bunch of different fabrics for me to look at (I had explained that I was looking for something in a darker colour) , and I eventually settled on a black one with a silver pattern.

All the while we were chatting about various things--work, taiko, their daughter (whom I'd just taught on Friday during my elementary school visit), Canada, etc. Since they didn't have any silver obi on hand, they made arrangements to order a couple for me to take a look at. (They told me they'd get in touch once the obi came in and so I could come in to take a look and to also bring in one of my other yukata which they could use to take measurements for the new one.)

Looking back at the experience, I believe that even though I've once again ended up spending more than I'd intended on a yukata, it was a worthwhile investment of both my time and money. I mean, if I'd gone with a ready-made yukata from a big chain store I could've walked in and walked back out with my purchase within 20-30 minutes, and it probably would've been 1/5 of the price.

But by going to a local shop, I was able to build (upon) a relationship in the community. And I was able to get a yukata more unique and probably better-crafted than any
thing I could purchase in a store from off the hanger. Not to mention I got some ideas from my friend on how to tie the obi to make myself look more "chalet" (stylish)! =P

Guess it's just all part and parcel with my recent efforts to "go local". Consciously investing in local products and businesses has definitely required a greater investment of money and time on my part, but I think I value and appreciate my purchases a lot more than before, too.

(Yukata #1 and #2! I'll definitely post a picture of the newest yukata (#3) when it's finished!)