One of Rainer Maria Rilke’s most beautiful poems contains the line: “I want to be with those who know secret things or else alone.” Having stumbled upon a recent video on Eater by apprentice sushi chef David Bouhadana, who recently toured a secret tea house (chatitsu) called KeiSui-An near Union Square, we hurriedly found the Facebook page for Globus Washitsu, the larger organization helmed by venture capitalist Stephen Globus that owns the tea house.
The next day, hypnotic modern kimonos appeared in our feed, and we realized there was a secret kimono show going on and closing on that very day. We wrongly assumed we could just push a button to the seventh floor and enter – but in our rush we missed that it was strictly appointment only, and dammit, the elevator did not open on the floor.
Untapped Cities had to talk our way in with a deliveryman, a gambit that paid off splendidly. After removing our shoes, KeiSui-An’s manager Kumi Shimizu invited us to wander the two-floor space; and explained there is yet another floor out of view where cultural exchange guests stay in traditional style at their secret ryokan. In addition to the notable silence of the two rooms available to tour, the color of the kimonos popped amidst the traditional Japanese architecture.
These kimonos have flash. Kyoto Kool, this four day-exhibit of the designs of Modern Antenna, was on its last day during our visit. We were introduced to Hirayama Yoshihide, the Kyoto-based designer of Modern Antenna who wore a snappy brown plaid suit with striped tie. He brought us over to his young wife clad in a gorgeous kimono that looked to be made of Marimekko black and white flowers fabric – or at least inspired by Marimekko.
A woman who runs the Greater New York City Kimono Group was present during closing hours – who said she has organized several kimono outing meet-ups. It was 4 p.m. and there was little time for questions, but on the way out we met the big man in charge, Stephen Globus – who bowed and warmly invited us back. “I’d like the Facebook page to get a handle on what we do. We will have more Japanese exhibitions coming, like an exhibit of wedding kimonos in June. And we have many interesting events around cultural exchange.”
He made sure to point out the artistic mannequins the kimonos were draped on. “They’re from the showrooms of Ralph Pucci who has such a way with mannequins that he had his own museum exhibit at MAD Museum. And two of the mannequins at the exhibit were designed by famed illustrator Maira Kalman in the 1990s.”
A word of caution if you too have an impulse towards secret things, and are would like to plan your own visit to this special place. Make sure you make an appointment. You might not be as lucky as us and get in with a deliveryman.