Japan Part 5

Day 7

So we were half-way through the trip and this was our last day in Kyoto. I had a friend from England whom I wanted to catch up with and we’d organized to meet near a temple south of Kyoto station. We went to university together in Tokyo (she came for a 12 month exchange while I was there for the long-haul!) and after going back to England for a while, she went back to Japan and had been living in the Nagoya area ever since.

But before that, there were things to be done!

First, we wandered down the canal near the Pontocho area and admired the cherry blossoms that were just starting to make an appearance:

M liked the streetscapes of Pontocho with its many little bars and eateries in narrow streets:

Then we crossed over the Kamo river and headed into the Gion area:

And caught a bus to take me to my maiko transformation appointment at 11am.

I’d wanted to book my appointment at a traditional Kyoto machiya house, but the place I’d wanted to go to was booked out, so I had to go to a place with much less ambience, Kanon. It turned out that the staff were very nice and I had a great time though, so it was all good.

I chose a plan that included a half-wig, maiko-style kimono, 4 professional photos taken outside and 1hr free time to walk around outside. A half-wig always looks more natural because they actually incorporate your hair into the wig so there are no ‘wig lines’, but it does take more time to do and is often an additional cost. I also like the look of outside photos better than studio photos. I paid 13,500  (about $170 at current exchange rates) for everything and after doing much research on the web, found it to be one of the most reasonably priced places out of the fifty billion places in Kyoto that do it (it’s a popular thing amongst Japanese people to do too.)

I started out with some uberly sexy undergarments (that were waaaaaay too small for me as my boobs were hanging out and the lady had to put a hair clip on the front to prevent further wardrobe malfunctions):

Then the sexy hairnet went on and the war paint application began:

Then eyebrows, eyeliner, lips and other assorted highlights and blush were added (the next few pics are stills from videos so they’re not the best):

The eyeliner was ridiculously painful and you can’t wear hard contacts while they do it. I wear soft so it was okay, but, quite seriously, I was feeling the urge to safeword…

Then it was time to prep my hair for the wig:

The loop is for tying a piece of wire through to anchor the wig

Then the wig went on and my hair was incorporated into the wig:

The blonde is a bit of a problem – until you spray it black!

Once I was sprayed,  face and wig were done (taking about 40mins all up) and it was time to get dressed:

I was glad they didn’t have a huge range of kimono or I would have been seriously in trouble. I went for a red one first and after a shake of the head from M settled on a purple one with a cream obi:

Dressing took about 20mins or so. I have enough problems putting on a yukata myself (which is about as easy as it gets) but I guess if you’re dressing 20 people or so a day, everyday in kimono, you become a pro.

After the kimono I then had to choose a head piece and went with a pretty wisteria (even though it wasn’t seasonally appropriate, I liked that it was so ‘dangly’). Then I had to choose which poses I would do for the photos from their samples. Once I had chosen, the camera man, the assistant, M and myself headed outside and up the hill to a nearby shrine to take some pics with various props.

Trudging up the hill, dodging cars and rickshaws on the way

Once we got to the shrine, various poses were taken with props:

Behind the scenes it was quite involved with reflectors and stuff:

The nape of the neck is uncovered because it's the most erotic/sexy spot

Some really important things to remember when doing this are (a) don’t open your mouth – yellow teeth are not a good look, (b) don’t smile too much – you’ll look like a fool, (c) stick your chest out and hold your bum in – you’ll still look like a tree trunk, but it looks better in photos, (d) walk with teeny, tiny steps and point your toes in – this will make sure your kimono doesn’t start opening of its own accord.

After photos were done, they asked me if I wanted to change out of my very challenging angled shoes (I decided to suck it up and persevere), hitched up my kimono so I didn’t have to hold it up, gave me a map of some scenic places to walk and said they’d see us in an hour:

So I wandered around with M taking copious photos and videos and I had lots of random people coming up wanting to take photos with me and lots of passing people telling me I looked good.

Secretly, just between you and me, I felt totally like a star and it was great. I’d hmmmed and harrrred about doing it because it is such a touristy, kitcsh thing to do, but afterwards, I was super glad I’d done in. In fact, I’d like to do it again!

Once we went back, they removed the kimono and then the wig and then I had a shower and attempted to wash the black streaks out of my hair (it ended up taking a few days…). Once I was back to normal, I handed over the cash and they handed me the four pics plus a couple of bonus ones and some postcards. Then it was time to catch the bus to go and meet my friend.

We decided to go to Tofukuji and have a look at their gardens. Neither of us had been there before and after seeing it, I’d recommend avoiding Ryoanji and heading straight for Tofukuji.

The rock garden is very cool:

The moss garden is also cool:

And the hedge garden is also cool:

The temple complex is made up of a whole series of different buildings and gardens and I’d recommend wearing easy to remove shoes (as you’ll be carrying them around with you in a plastic bag on several occasions and the bags ain’t made for boots):

Another bonus pic for Chloe... 🙂

After the temple, we caught a taxi and headed down to the Fushimi area that is packed with old sake breweries. We went to the Gekkeikan Sake Museum for some education free tastings. On the way we had a very chatty driver who was pointing out all the local landmarks like the original headquarters of Nintendo (when they manufactured card games) and the current headquarters of Kyosera. Then it was time for a late lunch/early dinner at a nearby chicken speciality restaurant Torisei.

We started out with a selection of yakitori grilled on skewers:

Skin, livers, hearts, breast chunks, thigh meat with leek, minced chicken

Minced chicken with perilla leaves and sour plum paste:

Deep-fried cartilage (my favourite):

Chicken and vegetables wrapped in soya bean skin (yuba) and served in a thickened dashi sauce:

M had some unpasteurized sake straight from the barrel that is served in a very full and over-flowing cup (thus the saucer):

And I had a ramune:

You open the bottle by pushing down the marble that is in the lid (it tastes like lemonade)

Afterwards we decided to take a scenic walk back along the canals that were used to bring the rice to the breweries and head back to the station.

Cherry blossoms just emerging

Unfortunately, I got a bit lost and had to ask my friend to whip out her mobile and look at the GPS. We went ahead to see which way were were supposed to be going and got separated from M by some train tracks:

But eventually we found the station and headed back to the hotel. The next day was going to involve some more travel as we headed to Hiroshima and over to the ‘love island’.

Part 6 to come…

4 thoughts on “Japan Part 5

Add yours

  1. “Another bonus pic for Chloe…”

    You have no idea how happy this (and these posts) make me.

    Though I’m slightly concerned there is a message here… Because right after you post the picture for me, you include a large plate of virtually every organ and piece of flesh to come out of a chicken… Hrrrrrrm…


    1. Lol…sorry. I don’t mean to flaunt my total lack of concern for your ethos.

      I’ve got a bit of a policy though, which might make you feel a bit better (maybe?). I’m of the opinion that if you’re going to take a life, you should respect it and not waste any parts.

      Feeling better yet?

      Nah, didn’t think so 🙂

  2. Random comments, because I felt like it:

    1. Sakura images aren’t exotic to me. Where I live, people plant cherry trees (not to mention plums, japanese maples, and bamboo) as decorative plants everywhere, even though we’re nowhere near Asia. The streets and sidewalks are littered with cherry blossoms every spring. (The sidewalks are also littered with smashed plums every fall.)
    2. You look really good in that geisha getup. I like purple better than red anyway (it’s my 2nd favorite color).
    3. Moss garden? Hadn’t heard of that one. Is it in any way sacrilegous that I think having a moss garden with stone blocks that have tops which are well above the moss growth level and use it to play/practice “rock jumping” like a little kid would be a neat idea?
    4. I had a ramune once. Damn ball was stuck and it took about 10 minutes trying to force it down. It tasted like mild, vaguely citrus-flavored sugar water. While I do like sweet things, it was not very interesting. Lemonade is far better. In my opinion the best thing to drink which has come out of Japan is umeshu. (And I don’t normally like alcoholic beverages.)
    5. Deep-fried cartilage? Wow, they really do eat anything, do they. Do they serve Haitian dirt cookies anywhere yet? (Okay, that was in very poor taste. Pun intended.)

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