Monday, November 27, 2006

The Last Kimono Festival of 2006

Kumi (Yoshida) took me to the fantastic blowout kimono festival at the fancy schmancy Royal Hotel in Miyau, overlooking Miyazu Bay. The view wasn't so great due to the giant freezing raindrops (i guess we call them hailstones!) that were pouring from the gray skies. I also only had a few hours of sleep due to a late night out the night before- I was at a taiko drumming performance an hour away with some fellow JETs after a day of judging the junior high school recitation contest and then shopping for fun home stuff like mirrors and lamps and down blankets. The AET band, "The Jets" (Tom, Dave, & Adam) played some lively covers onstage (never thought I'd hear clapping to "Country Roads" or such a welcome reception to "Hotel California")- the party kept on going at a huge house but I missed out on most of the craziness so I could come home "early".

Anyway- it was great- Kumi helped me get dressed in my other kimono- a vintage purple silk one with white flowers. I borrowed an obi and a purse from her extensive collection. "Getting dressed" in a kimono is actually a huge deal- there are layers and layers of undercoverings and ties and clips and padding and a specific order in which you put them on, how you tie them on. Apparently, you are supposed to be cylindrical when you wear a kimono, not showing any sort of waist or hips- this is so different from most Western cultures!

The festival was packed with hundreds of women, from about 5 years old to about 105, each one showing off a beautiful kimono. And Becky was there too! She was there with Shinobu, her private Japanese tutor, and we were even seated at the same table. Becky wore a gorgeous vintage green kimono and she even put on her obi herself! It was my first experience at a kimono festival- but this one I guess was really different from the others anyway. We sat down to a lavish Western-style six or seven course lunch in the grand ballroom of the hotel and were entertained for the next 3 hours- there were singers, dancers, an obi fashion show, an auction, more singing and dancing (the special guest was a former member of the weirdly fascinating Takarazuka Revue troupe. However, the garish looking emcee in her pink and gold sparkly dress did take advantage of the gaijin factor and interviewed Becky and me in front of these huge spotlights and cameras and made us stand up and show off our kimonos for the crowd. Actually, she interviewed Becky and the crowd ooh-ed and ahhh-ed at her ability to understand and speak Japanese. Then she moved onto me- "the gaijin's japanese friend", but of course, I had no idea what she was trying to say so I just looked at her blankly. I get this all the time, and I've been told that people actually think that I could be retarded. Becky had to whisper the translations to me under her breath and we finally got through the painful ordeal. Got home, peeled off the layers of kimono, and watched My Neighbor Totoro. (Yes, Chrissi, and any other curious folks- my city does look a lot like the movie!!!)


giuli said...

you are hilarious. I love the staring blankly description. Its a whole new appreciation for immigrants in NYC who rush up with an address and are looking at you for help. When I was in Japan I could understand nothing but hai and ie so if someone said something to me I would have to ask a yes or no question back. dumb gaijin but its funny in retrospect.

laurie said...

Giuli, I think you are much smarter than you make yourself out to be... The funny thing was that the first question the freaky woman was asking me was something like "Are you a foreigner?" or "Are you friends with this foreigner?" or whatever, so Becky is furiously whispering me to say "hai" (as in "yes") but I said it like "Hi!!" (as in a greeting) so people were confused and then just started cracking up. The whole thing was just so awkward...