Japan Photo Story – Nara Park

We went to Nara Park today. Nothing in the world could have prepared either Plum or myself of the wonder that is Todaiji, the largest wooden structure in the world.

We gawked… and if a picture is worth a thousand words, then these will tell you just how speechless we felt. No vlog today because… it was just WOW.

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@ Oji-cho, Nara

Vlogs & Japan Love!

We haven’t done a review as we planned to… but it’s because we have a pretty good reason.

After so many years of waiting, Plum and I are finally in Japan!! 😄

It’s amazingly beautiful, fresh, earnest and… cold. Well, cold by Singaporean standards anyway. As I type this, the ambient temperature is around 17 degrees celsius and rather cloudy. I suspect its due to the rain and according to google, the weather will continue to be this cold till tomorrow when it might clear up and be sunny.

Below are the vlogs we made en route and once we got here. I’ve lost all sense of time and Plum enjoys sleeping whenever she gets the chance. I envy her for being able to do so. I’m wide awake after 5 hours and I didn’t get an ounce of sleep on the plane from BKK to KIX. :/

But Japan is worth it and I would write more but we’ve already vlogged it. So… Enjoy our rants!

@BKK:

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Incredible Tales – Revenge

Yay! We finished the second episode after much pain…. ^_^

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No thanks to iMovie ’08 *mutters*. <_<; This episode is proof that there are moments where Apple just made something so insanely difficult to use. I was looking forward to the editing process but in the end, Plum had to do it again. Still, she did do an excellent job.

Enjoy!

Vlog #1 – Karaoke

Bad singing…. loads of fun. ^0^

– Blossom

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Incredible Tales – The Passenger

Diversity.

It’s always a nice thing. Even if I wonder whether or not, Plum and I might get potentially sued for this. We don’t mean any harm but with the litigious nature of today… I thought we should put this out there.

It’s not about kimonos or anything Japanese today. It’s really about Singapore and in a sense, you could say that this is the other side of PnB which is the gaijin experience.

We started doing the video for the lulz but soon found that we had a legitimate reason on our hands. Plum and I grew up on Singaporean tv and we remembered ‘the glory days’ of when we loved whatever they served us – local or otherwise. We particularly enjoyed the local productions because most of the time, they were quite good.

However, most of it is less than stellar nowadays… or rather, started when I became a teenager. This problem just seemed exacerbated by the advent of the internet and with youtube, it just put the final nail in the coffin. And let’s not forget cable tv which totally kills local Singaporean programming.

That’s not to say that Singaporean tv blows. They have some great fare… so this is our attempt to sort of sieve through what we like and what we don’t like about local productions. Hopefully, we’ll learn more about the industry to make more informed reviews… and also up the standard of our own editing (though Plum and I aren’t professionals so it’s going to take us a while to figure out how to even use iMovie properly >_<;)

So, what happens when 2 Singaporean girls get bored and have a webcam and a mike… well, they load xinmsn.com, log their thoughts… and make jokes and bad puns about the stuff they’re watching. Pardon the audio and the editing, our dear audience of 1. 😄

-Blossom

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this time, next month…

… we will be in JAPAN.

Needless to say, we’re both very excited to actually be able to say that and mean it. Tickets are bought and the hotel room is booked. Plum and Blossom are off to Japan for 12 glorious days.

It’s been a while since either of us blogged and if the dashboard wasn’t virtual, it would have covered with a layer of dust. As usual, the culprit that distracted us from all things Japanese was basically work. Oh, that evil, evil word…

One thing we’re definitely looking forward to is the ability to wear yukatas as much and as often as we want when we get there. Since its the summer, tourists in traditional dress aren’t that rare a sight. Plus, Plum and I are Asians so we’ll stick out less as compared to people who aren’t Asian and wearing a yukata. (I still think afro hair with a yukata can totally work though)

Ah, Japan… we’re prepared to be wow-ed and reduced to total fangirlism. @0@

– Blossom

Furisode girls here to make your day!

Some of my favourite shots!

To all curious onlookers at the park: Yes, we were there to make your day! 😄

Sakura-hime waiting

Himes resting at the pavilion. Tired.

Kogane-hime crossing the river

The day we became Kogane-hime and Sakura-hime

It’s the day of our Furisode photoshoot. I’m amazed. I felt glam. So glam. Glam and chi-chi, more so than I’ve ever felt in any western style dress I’ve worn. I’ve come away from today with valuable lessons in mind, that I shall – at length – share with you in chronological order of my learning:

1) Bliss comes in many forms.

The day began with me sleeping in late – which I usually do since, as Blossom will gladly point out, I sleep like a dead log. Shizuru, Blossom and I would be the Himes for the day, while Yukikahou (a.k.a. Kahouya/Kitsuke-oba-san), would help us get ready. As Kahouya did my hair ala Malay-Dance style, she proceeded to move on to the kitsuke, dressing us up one by one. I have to admit, she and I take a very different approach to the process. I tend to wrestle with it – to git r’ done, as it were. She, on the other hand, smiled all the way through, blissfully wrapping us in silks while constantly checking if we could breathe. We joked about her unusual joy found in dressing up other people, but I do realize that she approaches the process like an art form. Seeing the ‘creations’ come together in her own way made her happy, which is something I should pick up. Kahouya beat my kitsuke time, OBVIOUSLY, getting us all dressed and out the door like an efficient mother hen.

2) Photoshoots bring out a sense of your inner self.

And apparently, my inner self is old and dated and probably wrinkled and naggy. I wore my golden furisode, with yellow flowers in my hair and a comb and hair-sticks (they probably have proper names, but I am too tired to research). My bronzed look made me look… well, old poised and classically glamourous. Still, I was the Mama-san to my two geisha girls.

Shizuru had transformed into Shizuru-hime, garbed in red with her hair elaborately curled and done up. She was rather beautiful, truth be told, her hairstyle accentuating her features and making her look like a lost and severely culturally-confused westerner. Was it obvious that her hobby is doing her hair up? Yes, just a little. She was vibrant and eye-catching in her red, like a pretty lost ang-pao.

Blossom was sweetly flowery, revelling in the femininity of her furisode’s motif. For all that she sometimes comes across as caustic and jaded, she ultimately comes out of the clothing closet as the girly girl who wants to be pretty and girly and wreathed in flowers while being surrounded by Takeshi Kaneshiro/Daniel Henny clones – or the ultimate creation of a TK/DH lovechild, synthesizing their hotness into one mighty uber-stud. This paragraph took on a life of its own, it seems.

Even the props we used conveyed our personalities, with Blossom opting for a sweet lotus-leaf motif fan while I ran around looking murderous with a tanto stuck in my obi.

3) Posing is harder than it looks.

You feel so self-concious! Is my hand ok? Do I look kaku (stiff)/constipated/insanely-smiley? All these thoughts are running through one’s mind. Shizuru, the veteran of many a photo-shoot, took to it like a fish to water, while Blossom had a bit of trouble settling into it. Eventually, the OMGIAMPRETTY of her furisode seeped into her nervous system and she started to be more at ease. It was nice to see her finally opening up and enjoying herself, since she has this self-fulfilling belief that she grimaces on camera and always looks horrid in pictures. She even went so far as to try and take pictures with terrapins, but they were scared and ran from her for some reason. Don’t let it fool you, people. Posing is tiring, frustrating and moving from place to place hurts your feet more than anything.

4) Photographers have a hard job.

It is not just taking photos – point and click. The number of times I saw the frustration on their faces at a shot not taken right… I have to hand it to them. It was an honour working with them, for all that I probably irritated them with my stupid jokes. The effort put in was nearly palpable, and once again, I have to sit back and admire the talent and art that they create. Hats off to them, especially knowing that I have little to no patience to do their job. I was extremely impressed. And they even accommodated my whims to pose in the sunlight which made my furisode glitter (Magpie Mode Initiate)! I will forever be grateful to stand in the middle of the water, glittering like a fallen sunbeam!

5) Zori are the shoes they make you wear in hell.

They are narrow, uncomfortable, and have no distinction between left and right feet. Why? Isn’t it obvious that feet are shaped different? Why no left and right shapes? Why are they so narrow? Agony, agony and pain. My feet soaked for an hour and they still hurt.

Right, my long preamble is over. Goodness knows I talk/write too much. Pictures to come, promise! We have to begin the painful wait now for the photos to be processed. It was only towards the end of the day that I realized I’d survived posing, walking, shallow breathing for 5 hours on nothing but a cup of tea and half an egg-sandwich. I had a big dinner, believe me…

But I know I speak for Blossom/Sakura-hime when I say this: Thank you everyone. It has been truly a pleasure. You’ve made this day a day to remember for us and rekindled my love of kimono, which has dwindled in my busyness. Thank you Shizuru-hime for organizing the event so well (so teacher). Thank you Kahouya for dressing us up so professionally and prettily and for touching us up throughout the day – especially me. Thank you Eriol and Eugene, our photographers, for taking pains to immortalize our hime-ness in the best possible way. Thank you God for not making it rain that much today and for not letting us slip off stepping stones and fall in the water. Thank you to everyone else who was there, for your helpful advice, company and occasional bag-pulling. Even the people who walked by and stared at us with a smile – thank you! It really has been a wonderful day.

Meet Japan’s First Western Geisha

From time to time, I find pretty interesting articles on life in Japan.

This one’s about Fiona Graham, the first ever non-Japanese, western Geisha. I’ve always thought Liza Dalby was the first but apparently, Dalby never billed the clients she entertained. She also didn’t undergo the same amount of intensive training.

Below is an excerpt of the article. Enjoy! 🙂

~Blossom

Meet Japan’s First Western Geisha (excerpt from msn.com)

So how did this tawny-haired foreigner gain access to possibly the world’s most secretive profession? Geisha customs are so arcane, Sayuki says, that even Japanese women are told to imagine they’re “entering an alien country” when they start training. “I spent almost 10 years in Japan from age 15, first as an exchange student, then attending a Japanese university,” says Sayuki, who is fluent in the local language. Later, she specialized in Japanese culture while completing her doctorate in anthropology at Oxford University. Without this grounding, becoming a geisha would have been impossible. “I get many e-mails from American women who want to be geisha. I explain that it’s like trying to be a Japanese politician — nobody could arrive in Japan and become a politician overnight,” she says. “You need advanced verbal and social skills.”

American author and anthropologist Liza Dalby, the leading Western authority on geisha culture, agrees. “For Japanese, geisha are a repository of essential Japanese-ness. A foreigner in this role is almost a contradiction in terms,” she says. Sayuki is the exception to the rule, and she has become so immersed in her geisha persona that she loathes discussing the fact that she’s a gaijin — literally, “an outside person.” Says Sayuki, “My Western background is irrelevant in my daily working life. I have to adhere strictly to the rules and customs just like everyone else.” For instance, as the second most junior geisha in Asakusa — in terms of when she made her debut rather than her age, which no geisha reveals (although she looks to be in her mid-30s) — Sayuki must greet each of her 44 geisha sisters in order of seniority when they hold a meeting, and do so on her knees. “If I get the order wrong,” she says, “I am severely reprimanded.”

Read more of the article here.

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