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! XD

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.

More かわいい, less こわい

NB:

かわいい – kawaii (cute) こわい – kowai (eerie)

So this post is a long time coming…

Our bad but better late than never. It’s unnerving to start all over again. Thankfully, the craziness is over for now. I figured it’s best to start off in a chronological order – starting with the halloween post that’s been collecting dust in a corner of my brain.

Between the two of us, Plum is the more outgoing and sociable personality. I’m more tethered to my room, home and all things familiar.

So it took her more than a week’s worth of nagging to get me to agree to attending a Halloween party. Even the bit about it being on a boat, while novel, didn’t hook me.

Halloween isn’t anything much beyond an excuse to party, for some girls to wear next to nothing under the guise of it being a costume and generally getting up to mischief. I’ve done my share of partying in my late teens and I can honestly say that another evening of this didn’t quite appeal to me.

However, like all other ideas, this one took root and my brain was soon running away with what I might like to wear should I choose to attend.

As you can tell from the onsite pics, gunning for the sexy school girl (overrated and too close to home) or the hot slutty sailor wasn’t going to work… so I decided to corner the market on Kawaii-ness.

And that meant dressing up like a porcelain doll or…going Loli.

I’m not and expert so I was in for a huge surprise. I didn’t know till doing some sort of research online just how much effort it took to constructing the Loli-look. It isn’t just some concoction of all things frilly and pink cooked up while one’s ‘discretion gland’ is suspended.

Here’s a summary of all the stuff I gleamed throughout the process and I hope it helps anyone who wants to know more or just wants a rough breakdown. (Do click on the links. Some of the sites aren’t active – which is a shame – but just take a look. ^_^; Enjoy!)

A few issues that certainly made me stop to think were:
– type of Lolita
– anatomy of a Lolita’s getup
– the cost of an ensemble
– my own cynicism

Type of Lolita
Just go on wiki or simply googling the term ‘Lolita Fashion’ and one can see the many types of Lolitas. So my first task was choosing the type of Lolita I was going to dress up as.

According to this site, there’s up to 16 types of Loli-styles to choose from – something I find completely mind boggling. Eventually, I narrowed them down to what I understand to be the ‘main’ types of Lolita:

  • Sweet Lolita

Sweet Loli (but somehow, I have a feeling we're seriously lacking frills here...)

The Sweet Lolita is the one we all recognise dressed in varying amounts of pink, flouncy things with lots of frills, natural make up, curly hair and… all things insanely girlish and feminine.

  • Gothic Lolita

Gothic Loli... personally, I love her entire look.

This brand of Lolitas seem to capture the same ‘spirit’ but with an approach involving contrasting colours such as white and black or pink and black… Lots of black, really because it’s an easy way to show contrast. It’s apparently modeled after Victorian servant wear or mourning clothes. One blogger mentioned that it was the oddest combination of Little Girl meets Old Woman… which reminded me a little of the Olsen Twins.

The other Loli sub-types fall in between these two. The Hime or Princess Loli is very baroque and elaborate in style with pearls, more frills and at times, seems possessed by the spirit of Marie Antoinette. The Ero Loli… is pretty much straight forward sexiness playing on the nymphet fetish. On a tangetial note, the Aristocrat is an interesting alternative that I recommend you pay attention to. It seems to be lumped under Loli because there’s no current classification for it.

The Anatomy of a Lolita Getup

After deciding that I would dress up as the normal Sweet Loli and Plum, as Gothic Loli, it was time to scout for items that would make up our look.

Note the frills on this otherwise scientific diagram! *points finger to heaven*

Looks simple enough, right?

We were so dead wrong. While we knew what to look for or what sort of colours we wanted after looking through the myriad of recommended websites like Baby, The Stars Shine Down (Paris site) or Innocent World, we discovered a distinct lack of shops that could provide us with the needed items at a reasonable enough price… which brings me to the next concern I had…

The Cost of an Ensemble

Most of the cost of an outfit is offloaded by making or crafting your own stuff. Most of the Loli-sites I went to were full of people sharing their works that they take great pride in. Most of these items are very elaborate and pretty… and only understandable that it would cost quite a bit when you put them up for sale.

Still, the cost of a full ensemble is staggering, especially if everything is storebought. After some calculation, we found that it could easily reach upwards of SGD$500 with the dress and shoes being the most expensive items.

Also, due to the scarcity of these sort of shops in Singapore, the few that do sell Loli fashion items e.g. Black Alice or Haru tend to:

  • charge super expensively
  • have terrible service (though this is attributed to the salespeople and not the style… I’m just still annoyed at their No-Trying policy and their hiring of totally uninterested teenagers-pretending-to-be-adults-working-at- Abercrombie&Fitch whose level of social skills are far below the standard known as ‘Lacking’)
  • have a limited range of goods and sizes.

Thankfully, we found a good enough shop called Atsuki at Liang Court. The salesperson aka ‘Holy Princess Devil’ Jolyn (I found her email quite amusing and couldn’t help but advertise it XD) was very helpful and even told us about the rental policy they had.

I rented this gorgeous skirt…

Teal skirt with black lace and crinoline

Gothic-esque... at least

… while Plum opted for this…

So, we ended up straying away from the strict definitions of Loli by a mile… I opted to go as a porcelain doll while Plum went as a cabaret girl.

After all that effort, I can understand why and recommend people actually sew their own clothes in this style. Its amazingly hard to find what you want in stores, even online.

My Own Cynicism

While we didn’t end up dressing as Loli as we wanted to, for many reasons ranging from cost to availability… I had to say that we had tons of fun exploring another facet of ‘extreme’ fashion that I otherwise would never have considered even trying out.

While I do still have a love-hate relationship with all things cute and typically girly, I do have newfound respect for the real Lolitas who really put in effort in creating their ensembles and expressing themselves with such fervour. It’s not easy. At all.

I was surprised that I didn’t look as silly as I thought I would but that could be attributed to the fact that I already have the curls and the lack of height that already labels me as pretty diminutive. I might not look like this…

(... well maybe in my fantasies involving a certain Japanese-Taiwanese actor)

All in all, it was good fun and a great experience to go through. I’d really recommend it to anyone who thinks that this is just some really ridiculous or inane subculture to simply try it out and make the decision based on your own experience as opposed to simply hopping on the Loli-bashing bandwagon.

~Blossom

P.S.

We’ll be doing our furisode shoot soon… Here’s to hoping that we don’t overtan ourselves while on holiday! -_-;