When you go to a foreign country, you expect to discover and learn new things. You find yourself changing in ways that you would have never predicted. Going 100% cotton was one of my adjustments.
I don’t think I ever thought all that much about the content of my yōfuku in America. I bought what looked nice or was well priced. A tee-shirt was a tee-shirt and jeans were jeans. That was the bulk of my wardrobe and still is today. But in Japan, I learned the value of cotton.
The simplest explanation is the otenki. Kyoto is just so darned atsui and mushiatsui that cotton was going to be the best option. And it was prefect for layering during the cold winters. And that was what I found in shops when I started cautiously delving into clothing. I say cautiously, because my size was so different from the typical Japanese women’s size back then. Until I was pregnant and really needed to shop, I didn’t. And then when I confided in my Japanese giri onēsan, she kindly sent me all of her maternity clothes! She was just as tall as me, and had some items that were surely tailor-made.
When my musume was born in 1984, nuno omutsu were still what most mother’s were using. My giri okāsan sewed 100 of them for me. One of the nicest gifts I’ve ever received. Cotton of course and I still have a few of them with blue puppies scampering across them. She had two granddaughters already and perhaps she was hoping for a grandson, but that wasn’t to be…yet.
My own parents sent baby clothing from America that had fire-retarding unknown content to me. It did not breathe. I stuck with the Japanese baby clothes—of course, all cotton. And on summer nights I’d religiously insert gauze hankies into her pajamas to absorb ase and change them out during the night every few hours. Yes, I really did those things. Cotton ruled!
And cotton held up well. Our washing machine only used cold water and I hung everything out to dry. The smell of cotton clothing imbued with sunshine and fresh air is always an upper to me!
- yōfuku – 洋服 clothes. Western style clothes. There’s a different word for Japanese style clothing.
- otenki – お天気 weather
- atsui – 暑い hot
- mushiatsui – 蒸し暑い humid
- giri onēsan – 義理お姉さん (older) sister-in-law. If you put giri before mother, father, sister, brother etc. it turns it into an in-law
- musume – 娘 daughter or young woman
- nuno omutsu – 布おむつ cloth diapers (as opposed to disposable diapers which are kami omutsu)
- giri okāsan – 義理お母さん mother-in-law. If you put giri before mother, father, sister, brother etc. it turns it into an in-law
- ase – 汗 sweat