Objects of Meaning

black and white stripe silk kimono
This is a black and white stripe silk kimono given to Masumi by her mother Kino when she came to Australia in 1985. It had been woven and made into a kimono by Kino around 1917-18. Kino wore it for formal outings.
Image: Jonathan Augier
Source: MV


The women in Masumi’s family have woven and sewn kimonos since the early 20th century. Kimonos are traditional Japanese garments, worn by men and women. Kimonos vary in style, colour, pattern and fabric depending on the occasion and the wearer. Masumi’s kimonos hold special meaning for her, as mementoes of her homeland and as cultural artefacts which she wears socially and for performances.

Noh theatre

Noh is an important form of classical musical drama performed in Japan since the 14th century. The principal actor, and sometimes minor actors wear masks. All performers, including the chorus singers and musicians, carry fans.

Masumi Hiraga studied Noh Theatre at Toyo University in the 1950s and continues to learn and practise the art at the Hosho School of Noh in Japan. She performs in Japan and Australia.

Paper dolls

Paper doll-making in its simplest form dates back over a thousand years in Japan. By the 8th century, a unique method of crepe paper production was introduced to the Shimotsuke region. The technique has been refined over time, using flexible crepe paper which is easily moulded into various shapes. The colours and patterns hand-dyed on the paper reflect kimono designs, while the characters are taken from Japanese folk stories and Noh theatre.

Tea ceremony

For Masumi, the traditional Japanese tea ceremony is an art form, one of beauty, tranquillity and simplicity of movement.

Tea ceremony is the ritualised way of preparing, serving and drinking ‘matcha’ (powdered green tea). Tea drinking was introduced from China and first practised only by Buddhist priests, and then by samurai warriors. It gradually spread throughout Japan. Greatly influenced by Zen Buddhism, the tea ceremony has in turn influenced many aspects of Japanese culture.

Image Gallery

brown kimono with small cherry blossom pattern Benkei, Kabuki priest warrior - Shimotsuke paper doll Oiram the geisha - Shimotsuke paper doll Tamakazura from Noh theatre Nakizo wooden mask Kazura silk headband Fan used by Masumi in Noh performance Kettle, charcoal pot and charcoal sticks Tea serving bowl and tea whisk