Two of my absolute favorite books for kimono and kimono-related research are The Traditional Crafts of Japan, volumes 1 and 2 of an eight volume series on traditional Japanese crafts published by Diamond, Inc. in 1992. The volumes are rich with historical background and gorgeous color photos, and are eye-catching in their brick red slip cases. When I first started seriously researching kimono, I found these in the oversized book section of my local library in Bend, Oregon. Month after month for nearly two years I would check these volumes out and renew them until I had to return them, then wait a few weeks and check them out again. They served as valuable resources, and even occasionally as rather uncomfortable pillows when I’d fall asleep reading them in bed.
One day I went for my regular kimono-research fix, but the books were nowhere to be found. Had they been checked out? Moved? Retired? I panicked. The reference librarian reassured me that they had only been checked out, and asked if I’d looked for copies of my own from an online book retailer. Considering that they had never been issued for retail sale but only donated to public libraries, I had assumed that wasn’t possible. “Of course it’s possible,” the reference librarian told me with a smile. “What do you think we do with all the books that are retired from libraries? We sell them, one way or another.” Ooooh. Aha.
And so the search began. It had a rocky start as I tracked down a very few copies and found prices ranged from the hundreds for single volumes to thousands for the entire eight volume set. Finding volumes 1 and 2 from one dealer, I contacted her to verify the cost (the listing was vague, was it for one book or both?) and how soon she could ship, only to be told she could no longer locate the books and had possibly sold them already. The next dealer on my list raised his price shortly after I first found his listing, and I could no longer afford the cherished books. I kept my eyes open for a pair at a reasonable price for another year, and finally landed a set thanks to a generous tax refund. Thank you, Uncle Sam.
The set originally came with all eight books in slipcases and included a few VHS videos to complement the series. As I haven’t own a VCR in years, I had no interest in the videos, although I did check them out from the library and watch them on a borrowed VCR just so I’d know what I was missing. Watching a Nishijin silk weaver at work is impressive, as is hearing the swish-clack-clack, swish-clack-clack of the shuttle and loom. Seeing oversized, full color images of the finished product isn’t half bad though, so I won’t complain about a lack of video reference, especially as there are several good videos available on YouTube featuring such information in both English and Japanese.
If you are a kimono or craft fanatic and would like to see these for yourself, ask at your local library. If they do not have any copies on hand, ask for an interlibrary loan, either from another library in your area, or from a college or university library. If you would prefer to own some copies for yourself, ask around. It’s possible to find them on Amazon and Alibris from time to time, and once they are retired from circulation, libraries do sell them off by the volume or by the set.