Alright...continuing with part two!
We woke up in out hostel in Nara. We took some quick showers and checked out. We went to a restaurant nearby for "breakfast" (I put it in quotes because we both had non-breakfasty sandwiches). Then we went to the train station and headed to Kyoto. We had a little trouble figuring out how to get out of the train station at the exit closest to our hostel (There were lots of trains and hostel in this trip). We ended up chatting for a bit with another traveler from Canada. She was looking for a hostel to stay at for the night, so she decided to join us and check and see if there was an empty room where we were staying. It was POURING rain, so we decided to split a taxi rather than walk. That was another culture difference...in China the taxis are cheap enough so I don't really bat an eye at the idea of taking one even for a short distant if I'm carrying something heavy or the weather is bad. In Japan, this was the only time we took a taxi.
Once we arrived D'Arcy and I checked in. Our very brief travel companion was not so lucky, however, since the hostel was full. She asked the desk clerk where she could find another, I gave her one of my disposable ponchos and we said goodbye. Again we had to take our shoes off at the door. It was around this point I realized why D'Arcy wears slip on shoes. I got really tired of tying and untying my shoes. For this one, our room was on the 4th floor, which made dragging my suitcase up the stairs a LOT of fun. Ugh.
After checking in we went across the street to get some lunch. We got katsu pork, this kind of breaded and fried pork with a yummy sauce on top. It was delicious. It came with rice and this red miso soup.
Next was one of the things I was MOST looking forward to. The geisha makeovers! Technically we were being dressed up as "maiko" or geishas in training. We kind of lucked out that it was raining on the day we were planning on being inside. We hopped on a bus to head to the studio. Turns out we got on it heading the wrong way so we had to ride it for a long time. Oh well. It was a chance to check out the sites. Once we arrived we got a bit lost. We asked an obaasan (grandmother/old woman) for some help, which ended up getting us more lost. We eventually arrived though.
First we stripped down and put on the under robes and tabi socks (the ones with the big toe seperate)...boy did those feel weird. Then we were ushered into the makeup/wig/kimono room were we picked out our kimonos. At first I was drawn to one that was black and covered with flowers in all different colors, but D'Arcy suggested I get one that was blue and red. It did look more like the ones I think of when I think of a traditional kimono. D'Arcy also picked one that was blue, but with purple flowers.
Here you can see the room we were in. The kimonos are all lined up in the back.
We sat down in the makeup chairs and they put this weird hairnet thing on us. Then out came the makeup! The speed with which this woman worked amazed me. She started painting my neck with the white paint, brushing it on and then blending it all in. On the back of my neck she left a little of my bare skin without the paint which just made me think of Memoirs of a Geisha where the main character talks about that part of the makeup process.
Next she washed my face and put this pinkish reddish blush around my eyes and cheeks. Then covered my face with white paint. Again, the speed was ridiculous. One minute nothing, the next, Casper the Friendly Ghost was staring back at me. I just wish I could have had my glasses on (or..you know...good vision) so I could see the details of the whole process.
Here is D'Arcy post-white makeup but pre-everything else. Creepy, huh?
Next she went to the eyebrows. She started with a red pencil, drawing the shape in, and then switched to a black one. The eyes were the same, done first in red and then in black. I enjoy the sensation of someone else doing my makeup for me, so I kind of just half dozed while she was doing all this. I loved hearing D'Arcy commenting the whole while saying things like "Oh my god...that looks so cool" or "Weird! She's coloring your eyebrows red!". Last came the lipstick and mascara. And I was transformed! I wish I could have gotten more pictures of the process but it really happened so quickly. I would have taking more pictures of D'Arcy's but once I was done another woman came in and started dressing me in my kimono.
We were already wearing the white under robe. Next came this red skirt with white flowers. Next came this white fabric with flowers that they wrapped over my back and shoulders, which became the inside collar. Next came the kimono. Then they wrapped this wide red fabric around me from my chest to my hips. Then another layer of fabric, red with white flowers. Then came the black with gold (which I thought was a little weird since it didn't match at all) obi, complete with the giant back piece. And last was this weird ribbon like belt thing with a metal clasp in the front. Each layer got tighter and tighter. I could feel myself standing straighter and straighter. It felt a little like wearing a corset or Renaissance dress bodice (something I actually enjoy) except that instead of trying to create an hourglass figure, I was being turned into a tube. According to D'Arcy that's the look geishas try to achieve...no curves.
Here you can see D'Arcy's whole outfit and all the different layers.
This is the only full body shot I have with me in it right now, so you can see the layers on my outfit. It's a bit blurry. Sorry. And yes...we are being Charlie's Angels.
The last piece was the wig. They tried to put one on me, but it didn't fit. Little known fact...I have a huge head. Side story: In the Medieval club back in college, we had to take our measurements so that if the costuming department ever had to make something for us, it was already on record. That included head size for hats and such. Out of all the people that had their head's measured, myself and I guy we called Panda were tied for the largest head in the whole club. Yeah.
ANYWAY. I was actually a little worried they wouldn't have one that would fit me, but the second one did the trick. Boy did that wig feel weird. It was heavy, for one thing, so I felt a little like falling over. It really was impressive though. The hair around the scalp was designed so that it was attached to a nearly invisible mesh piece. When you wear it, it looks like the hair is growing out of your head. As soon as I was all geisha-ed (or maiko-ed), I was rushed out of the room and down the hall to the photo studio.
The photographer guy had some music playing and spoke enough English to tell me how to pose. I posed holding this weird but interesting small fabric ball (called a temari?), with a fan, and with a big red parasol...not all at the same time of course. The worst was when he had me put on the big wooden sandal/shoes thing. They DID NOT FIT. Half of my foot was hanging off the back. He arranged it so my kimono was covering up the back of the shoe so it looked like they fit. I REALLY felt like I was going to fall over. While he was taking pictures he would say things like "Head...like this" and then would turn his own head the way he wanted. He kept telling me to smile more. I was aiming for the demure smile I always associate with geishas. Oh well. I was worried about letting my teeth show. I've gotten a few compliments in my life about the whiteness of my teeth but anyone's teeth would look yellow next to a white painted face and bright red lipstick. I then watched D'Arcy go through the same thing. After we took a few pictures with our own cameras and then got stripped down and washed the makeup off.
I was disappointed to find out that our printed pictures and the CD with all of the shots won't arrive until after a month goes by. We decided to send everything to D'Arcy (cuz it was cheaper and easier) and D'Arcy will send them to me when they arrive. I really can't wait. When it arrives I will be sure to update better geisha pictures.
We were both kind of wiped out after our makeovers. We headed back towards the hostel to rest for a bit, then got some dinner. After that we took a bus to Gion, the famous geisha district. We got a couple of beers and just walked up and down the streets. We chatted and people watched. I tried not to stare too much whenever I saw a woman in a kimono (unlike this incredible rude foreigner who followed a woman in a kimono with his video camera for a few blocks...ugh). We looked into the window of D'Arcy's favorite shop (which was sadly closed at the time), which makes jewelry and other things out of old kimonos. We walked for a while on a small path next to the canal. It was cool to just be in a place that had so much history and culture.
It was also on the streets of Gion that I experienced a "man" (man here rhymes with Han, as in Han Chinese or Han Solo). For those who know what baozi is, it is really similar. It's a steamed bready dumpling filled with a tasty filling. Niku man is a meat one, piza man is a pizza filling. And it's DELICIOUS. I think I had around 10 piza mans during my stay in Japan.
We realized it was getting late and we didn't feel like paying for a taxi. We took the last bus back to the hostel. We stayed up a bit longer watching silly videos on the iternet and chatting with the two women who were sharing the room with us. Then it was bed time.
We did more stuff in Kyoto the next day but this post is already WAY TOO LONG, so I'm going to lump it into the next post.