Category Archives: Japan

An “AHA” moment aboard ANA

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An “AHA” moment aboard ANA

August 2, 2012

ANA Flight NH 010

Some where over the Pacific Ocean near Russia

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The plane is now flying over the Pacific Ocean and according to the map we are about to cross the International Date Line and I am having a moment.

I have been wanting to Visit New York ever since Nat moved there some 12+- years ago.  Now, I am eight hours away.

I etched into stone my desire to visit New York a year ago. This was the time when I felt that there was a need in me to refresh my skills as a makeup artist and at the same time the need fulfill Nat’s 12-year-old invitation. So instead of going on a mindless vacation, I decided to study at the same time.

Getting to the point where I am now, I have just realized, is a very humbling experience. I have never worked so hard to try to fulfill a dream. I asked for money from my parents and I even borrowed money.

Trying to come up with money was tough.

It got tougher when I began to doubt myself. It got a bit tougher when other people started doubting me. It became stressfully tougher when I had to wait for 4 months for word from the school that I got accepted and on when I can move forward with my enrollment. My nerves went out the window as soon as I walked into the doors of the US Embassy for my M1 visa interview.

How stress was I, you ask? My right eye was twitching for 2 months!

It’s a good thing I am a very patient person with impaired hearing and a crazy mind! *Laughs*

But I do have to admit. I have never been so scared in my life. After all this is the biggest monetary expenditure I have ever made.

To experience the realization of a dream slowly unfolding before you is a profound gift. It gives you knowledge. The knowledge that you can do what ever your heart desires as long as you work hard for it. I cried with relief and gratefulness inside the lavatory of ANA flight NH 010 bound for New York from Tokyo.

~

May I be liberal in quoting Judi Dench’s character named Evelyn in the film “ The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel For the Elderly and Beautiful” that I saw on board the flight , for leading me to this “AHA!” moment:

“The only real failure is the failure to try.

And the measure of success is how we cope with disappointment. As we always must.

As long as we try.

Can we be blamed that we are too old to change?

To scared of disappointment to start it all again?

We get up in the morning and we do our best.

Nothing else matters.”

Thank God for old people, for they do speak wisely.

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Becoming Sayuri

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Becoming Sayuri

August 11, 2011

3rd floor AbAb Store

Ueno, Tokyo, Japan

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I see Tita Petite and her Thai friend, Rudee, go through a stack of Yukata.

Tita Petite then lifts one from the rack and holds it up in front of me.

She starts to asses the how the Yukata would look on me.

Tita Petite and Rudee then starts to discuss something in what I hear is a mix of Thai and Japanese.

And I begin to wonder.

My mind floats back to when Cholo and I  had first arrived in Tokyo and I pointed out to Tita Petite how pretty the Yukata girls look. When she asked me if I wanted to wear one. I said “Yes!” I didn’t think she would take me seriously.

I was snapped back to reality when Tita Gina started to explain to me that the Yukata I would be wearing tomorrow would compliment the Yukata that she, along with Rudee and her other friend Grace, would be wearing.

She gave the Yukata to me. I drape the black Yukata with flower designs in pink, yellow, white and purple over my arm.

I thought we were done, but no! Rudee then held my arm and pointed out to me that we are to go to the accessories department.

“Oh My God! I couldn’t believe this is happening!” was all I could say to myself.

There I was standing by the accessories counter, my face with a 4 day old beard, with two lovely ladies clipping flowers on my hair.

~

August 12, 2011

Kimono Tansu Ya, Shin Nakamise- dori

Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan

Cholo and I found ourselves in a Kimono-ya San* in Asakusa. Tita Petite along with her friend, Grace, was talking to two older Japanese women who, I presume,  run the place. Lets call them Oka-san one and Oka-san two. While Tita Petite was having a conversation with the owners. I decided to look around the store.

At the inner left corner of the store, I see curtains. “That must be where we would change”, I surmised. As I looked around I see beautiful Kimono all around me! Such vivid colors and such amazing details in its design.

A bell rings and I turn around. As the door slides open, two girls wearing their Yukata comes in and goes to one side of the store. They are buying accessories.

I look back to Tita Petite because I sense that she was telling the women that I would be wearing the black Yukata with pink, yellow, white and purple flowers. I could see the look of confusion in their faces and I could tell what was running through their minds!

Grace is now being dressed and as per Tita Petite’s instructions, I start to get ready.

My makeup was already done for I applied it at the hotel an hour before we left. As soon as I put on the wig, styled it accordingly with Tita Petite’s help, I turned to the two old women and asked; “Oka-san, Atashi daijobu?” (Mother, I okay?) in barbaric Japanese.

And they swooned! They started saying things in Japanese that I couldn’t even understand but I felt that they approved of my immediate transformation.

“They say you look pretty!”offers Tita Petite. I bow and gave them my thanks.

getting ready

It was now my turn to get dressed. I wore a shirt and shorts so that I could have something under the Yukata. The old women wouldn’t allow it. So with their help, I removed my shirt and I stripped down to my boxers.

Oka-san one started to dress me, she first gave me a white robe which would serve as an inner lining. She tied it around my waist and stopped. She went behind the curtain and came back a few seconds later with a face towel.

” A face towel? What for?”I asked myself.

She placed the towel on my waist and tied it with the strings of my inner robe and secured it in place. I later found out that the white inner robe would keep my sweat from seeping into the Yukata. The face towel was used to add some meat on me because I have a very small waist. A Obi sash sits better on  a “not so trim waist”.

Oka-san asks me if I’m okay. I nod my head. It’s a little bit tight but I could still breathe.

Oka-san two comes along and starts to dress me in my Yukata. She drapes it left over right. She goes behind me and spreads the reminder of the cloth on the floor nicely. She then disappears behind the curtain.

Oka-san one appears and kneels in front of me. She holds the Yukata from the waist and gently adjust the hem. I look down and realize that the Yukata has to be at a certain length. It brushes by my ankles.

Both women are now attaching my Obi sash. Oka-san one wraps the pink Obi sash around my waist. Before securing my Obi, she instructs Oka-san two to put an Obi-ita in between the layers of my Obi sash. I can feel my Obi sash getting tighter and tighter as she ties it. Oka-san two gently pulls in one area to adjust it, making sure my Obi sits nicely around my waist. My Obi sash is called a Tsuke Obi, this is an informal type of Obi that is usually used for securing a Yukata. It comes with a “Sailor Moon-like” ribbon too.

Oka-san one asks me once again if I’m okay. I nod my head. Though it’s tighter now, luckily, I can still breathe comfortably.

Through the mirror, I could see Oka-san two hand my “Sailor Moon-like” ribbon  to Oka-san one. Once more I could feel my Obi getting tighter. Oka-san one secures my “Sailor Moon-like” ribbon that perches at the edge of my Obi to prevent it from falling down while I walk around later.

Oka-san one disappears behind the curtain and I thought we were through but, no! She comes back with a white lace. She folds it and ties it around my Obi sash. I turn to look at the mirror. I could see the white lace was tied like a ribbon and was placed just above my pink “Sailor Moon-like” ribbon. She once again disappears behind the curtain and comes back holding a long string colored in variations of red and pink with tassels dangling at the end. This is called a Obijime, a string that is tied around the Obi sash that serves mainly as a decoration.

She stands back and observes her work.

I look at myself in the mirror with such amazement that I couldn’t  stop giggling. I turned around and look at the ribbons behind me. I continued giggling.

sharing a laugh

Oka-san one declares that she is through. She guides me off the dressing area and helps me wear my Geta.

I gathered my bearings and faced the two Japanese women.  I bowed and thanked them for dressing me.

everyone in full garb by the Nitenmon

It was now Tita Petite’s turn to be dressed. When she was done, Rudee arrived and got dressed in 15 minutes.

When all the women were done changing,  It was now Cholo’s turn. No, he didn’t change into a Yukata, but he wore a Jinbei, a traditional summer clothing for Japanese men.

After arranging the necessary things I need in my bamboo purse and having some last minute adjustment from the two Oka-san, we were ready to hit the temples of Asakusa.

~

This wonderful experience wouldn’t have been a blast if it was not Tita Petite. Bless her sweet heart! Never in my life have I ever dreamt that I would ever walk around Japan in a Yukata. That’s why I am most grateful to Tita Petite for making this dream into a reality. I will forever cherish this experience.

Cholo and I went to Japan to celebrate our 5th year together as partners. Tita Petite made sure that we are to experience “getting married” in a traditional Japanese manner. Cholo and I had our selves smoked! We gave offerings to the gods! We even cleansed ourselves with water. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter if it was all for fun, Tita Petite choreographed everything to give meaning to our excursion for this day. It is not only about going around Asakusa in drag, but it is a celebration.

A celebration of new experiences, a celebration of love, a celebration of friendship and a celebration of LIFE.

Thank you Tita Petite! Thank you Rudee! and Thank you Grace! Our visit to Tokyo is truly an affair to remember!

~

To view the complete photo album of “Being Sayuri” click here.

Kimono Tansu Ya

*A Kimono-ya San is a store that sells new or second hand Kimono, Yukata, and all the accessories that comes along with it. In some Kimono-ya stores, they offer to dress you and to have your picture taken for a fee. It ranges from 3000 Yen to 6000 Yen.

Tita Petite brought us to the Kimono-ya San she usually frequents in Asakusa. It is Called Kimono Tansu Ya.

To get there, you have to get to Asakusa station and make it your starting point. From there, make your way to the Kaminarimon. When you face the great red lantern of the Kaminarimon, go through the gate. You will find yourself at the main starting point of Nakamise-dori (If you walk straight this will bring you straight to the Hozomon of the Senso-ji). You will be flanked by kiosks on the left and the right. Start walking until you reach the end of the second block of stores. This is the first corner.  Turn right and you will find yourself at Shin Nakamise-dori. Continue walking until you see the Kimono-ya San situated on the left.  See the photo on the left for reference.

My Kimono

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Ueno, Tokyo Japan.

Aug. 11, 2011

Tokyo National Museum

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We had just finished going around the different galleries on the first floor of the Tokyo National Museum.

“Lets proceed to the second floor Bubba.” says Cholo.

“Can we pass by one of the galleries? There’s something interesting I want to try.” I pleaded.

~

Earlier on my way to the bathroom, I passed by a small section teeming with people. As I start to get closer, all I could hear was…

Thump! Thump! Thump!

This caught my interest and I took a closer look.

It turns out that many of the Japanese tourists were stamping patterns unto pieces of paper.

“I’ll come back later!” making a mental note to myself.

I then dashed to the toilet.

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Just before we headed to the second floor, I went to the gallery where the stamping was happening. As I got closer, an old Japanese man handed me a paper in the shape of a Kimono. He must have seen the unknowing look on my face.

He then said, “Get Stamp. Design Kimono.”

Then it dawned on me. This was going to be fun.

I told Cholo what we were to do and we stamped away.

While stamping away, I turned to the old Japanese man and showed him my Kimono.

“Oto-san, Kimono daijobu?” I asked.

“Hai!” he replied and went on to speak Japanese for 300 kph.

Never understood what he said.

~

Once I was done, the old Japanese man who gave me the Kimono paper, gave me a leaflet. As I perused over it, I realized that every pattern on every stamp had a meaning. Some symbols have a specific season it belongs to and some are celebratory patterns.

It tuns out that my Kimono has design patterns for Spring, Summer, and Autumn. If this was an actual Kimono, I’m sure I’d be laughed at because it is a discombobulation of the seasons.

Anyway, according to the leaflet this is what my Kimono “says”:

Cherry Blossom – The flower of flowers (Spring)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maple Tree – For Freshness (Summer)

Autumn Graases – Elegance (Autumn)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bamboo – A pure spirit (Celebratory Pattern)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plum Blossom – The Vitality Of Life (Celebratory Pattern)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chrysanthemum – A Symbol of Longevity (Celebratory Pattern)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Chinese Phoenix – Good Luck (Design Motif)

 

 

 

 

There are some patterns in my Kimono that is not listed in the pamphlet. So I will never know what they mean.

I truly enjoyed this experience at the Tokyo National Museum. It is not everyday where in you get to have a hands on activity that reflects Japanese tradition and culture.

Other museums should follow suit.

~

To get to the Tokyo National Museum, you have to make your way to Ueno Station and make your way to Ueno Koen (Ueno Park) by taking the Ueno Koen exit. Let me just say that there are lots of exits in a train station in Tokyo, and if you go out the wrong one you might end up getting lost. Just ask the station master to point you in the right exit.

There are signs inside the park that will point your way to the museum.

For a map of Ueno Koen (Ueno Park) click here.

A Different Way to Fish

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A Different Way to Fish

August 9, 2011

On a boat, floating on the Katsura-gawa.

Arashiyama, Kyoto, Japan

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The little Japanese girl in front of me is bending over the edge of the boat feeling the water. I take a look over the edge.

“The water is not as deep as a thought.” I said out loud.

I look over to Cholo and thought to myself, “I don’t think he heard me.”

I look at the other tourists that shared our boat. There’a a Canadian couple with their two boys, a Japanese woman with her two girls and a mix of Japanese tourists up front.

I’m beginning to think U KAI is quite an event that even locals come out to watch it.

The old man driving the boat with a long pole starts to maneuver the boat. I’ve notice that our boat is starting to line up with the other boats.

The audible crackling of firewood signals the event is about to start.

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U KAI or Cormorant Fishing is an event to look out for during the summer season in Japan.

I have been quite intrigued about Cormorant Fishing ever since I saw an episode about it that air on NHK World. It’s quite amazing to see a seabird “fishing”.

You start off the evening by getting unto a boat that will bring you to the middle of the river. You’ll know that the show is about to start because the boatmen start to align their respective boats into one long line. The fishermens boat comes into full view. You won’t miss it because there’s a huge fireball hanging from the end of the boat. This is to attract the fish to come closer to the surface.

You hear them quacking first, then once your eyes adjust to the darkness you see these black birds in front of you.

With a bang from the pole, they dive into the water and surface in an instant. You hear the fishermen shout something in Japanese. You get lost in translation.

You then realize that there’s fish in their throats!

One of the fisherman then pulls them over, lifts them from the water and makes the bird spit out the fish. A splash heralds their return to the water.  Another banging of the pole unto the side of the boat sends the birds underwater again.

The show lasts for an hour.

~

You don’t get to eat the fish.

But you do get to experience a piece of history and experience tradition in before your very eyes.

~

The show costs 1,700 Yen for adults and 850 Yen for kids aged 4 to 12 years old.

There is a kiosk that sells tickets. Make your way to the Katsura-gawa. Cross Togetsukyo Bridge and turn right after that small kiosk selling souvenirs  and walk straigh. It is located right before you go up the steps to the Iwatayama Monkey Park.

For more photos click here.

A Burst Of Color: The Yukata Girls of Kyoto

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A Burst Of Color: The Yukata Girls of Kyoto

 

Arashiyama Kyoto, Japan.

August 10, 2011

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“If we walk down this street go straight and turn left, we will end up by Katsura-gawa.” I said to Cholo.

“Are you sure?” he asks.

I rolled my eyes and replied, “Yes.”

“How do you know?”

“It’s on the map.” I replied.

A burst of colored appeared before me. I fell silent.

I took out my mom’s camera.

The girl passed us by.

I turned around raised by mom’s camera and CLICK!

 

 

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My first Yukata sighting.

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We had just arrived in Kyoto that afternoon and decided to venture around our neighborhood.

We found ourselves right across from the Tenryu-ji in Susukinobaba-chō, Ukyō Ward, Kyoto, Japan, a UNESCO world heritage sight. We decided to explore it another day and turned left on the intersection.

I was welcomed with a throng of girls dressed in their Yukata.

Suddenly everywhere I turned, there are lots of girls in their Yukata!

It’s like watching colorful flowers bloom under the summer sun. It is indeed a sight to behold.

~

If one decides to travel to Japan in the summer, I believe one of the best sights that awaits you are the Yukata girls. It amazes me that such tradition lives in a modern society.

It is perfectly okay to have your photo taken with them! They look forward to it. Just approach them, ask kindly and you will be rewarded.

~

to view the complete album (on my facebook), click here.