Miggy against the backdrop of Tofuku-ji’s garden in a composite picture.

A few years ago, Dariel and I wanted to try our hand at conceptual portraits so he turned to Japanese mythology, one of his many interests, for inspiration. Being a gamer and anime fan himself, he was well acquainted with the legend of Yuki Onna, the woman who became the ghost of the snow while pining for her lover who never comes back.

The Snow Maiden concept was a technical challenge to photograph because he had previsualized a white-on-white portrait–it had to convey a mythical and mystical being in a snowy and austere environment. But Dariel loved the challenge.

At the same time, we had become friends with Sogetsu Ikebana teacher, Claudia Rendon Garcia, and makeup artist, Carine Bacani. Wouldn’t it be great to collaborate on making a “living ikebana”, Dariel asked, and use Yuki Onna to interpret that, too? That got us excited.

Our interpretation of Yuki Onna, the Snow Maiden.

But first, where do we source a kimono in Davao?

Enter Miggy Lee Acuna of Kimono Davao (thank you Facebook!). As a Hospitality Management student of Davao Doctors College, he had started collecting kimonos after watching a Kabuki performance online and being amazed at the exquisiteness and variety of wafuku or Japanese traditional attire.

He started researching and learning how to wear them. As with any passionate hobby, collecting came next. His favorite motifs are waves and fans. Today, the twenty-one year old Japanophile (a little only, he says) has about fifty of them, neatly packed and stored at home.

Miggy in a semi-formal kimono with matching haori (kimono jacket) and haori himo (tie) over a white-collared juban (traditional undergarments) and hakama. Completing his attire are the white tabi socks and setta sandals.

He plans on growing his collection of kimonos and yukatas and haoris with ever more eye-catching pieces. He has since added other Asian traditional attires like the Hanbok, Saree, Ao Dai, Cheongsam and Changshan. (His entrepreneurial spirit has made him branch out his business to baking and decorating cakes as well.)

Last November, he fulfilled a wish to go to Japan. In Fushimi Inari-Taisha, he was among the group of foreigners who toured the shrine in traditional Japanese attire for one whole morning, turning heads as he went. I would assume the curious looks thrown his way were for his attire rather than for the not-so-obvious fact that he is not a native, given that Miggy looks more Japanese than Filipino.

What does he love most about Japan? “I really like their culture because it is well preserved and the people are well disciplined.”

Our Yuki Onna as a “living Ikebana.”

(Image on top features the illustration on the inside of his haori.)

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