It’s More Complicated Than It Looks. 31.07.2014

Kimono translates roughly into ‘ wearing thing ‘. There are many different ranks and types of Kimono worn by both men and Women, there’s a huge variety and one can spend days sifting through racks of vintage and new kimono in second hand shops and markets here. There’s also a tonne of accessories, endless fun. But let’s say you know nothing about Kimono but you’d like to wear one? Here’s a basic guide to Yukata – the summer kimono – originally worn as pyjamas but now popularly worn at summer festivals and fireworks.

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So let’s begin! Here’s my Yukata, in my fave colour, pretty huh. Then we have three belts – two slimmer rough belts called Koshi-Himo plus the wider and brighter Datejime belt. We start by popping on your yukata and pulling the fabric by the sleeves to get it centred on your body. One it’s settled you pass the front panels LEFT OVER RIGHT (because the other way round means you’re dead). Lifting the bottom a few inches from the floor secure that line by tying your first Koshi-Himo belt around your hips/lower waist. Tie firmly, this is your anchor. You don’t want to be flashing everything.

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There are long slits on either side of the Yukata beneath the arms, pop your arms in there and ensure the layer of fabric covering the belt is neat and straight, use your chop action here. This overlap is called the Ohashori. And there should be at least a couple of inches showing under your final obi belt. Short people like me have no problem with this.

The back of your Yukata should expose your neck a little, very sexy. Pop your fist between the back of your yukata and your neck, this is the correct width. The higher your neckline at the front the more youthful it is. To secure your neck like use the second Koshi-Himo under your bust and tie at the front/side securely. Pull spare fabric to the sides to get rid of unsightly extra material and folds. Secure this line further with the wider and prettier Datejime belt (red one pictured). This is secretly my fave belt, it’s subtle and hidden but really pretty.

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This is the most decorative belt, it goes on the outside. Past it around yourself twice and make a bow at the front (easier).  Describing how to tie the obi here won’t work, look on YouTube, there are some great obi tutorials. Once you’ve tied your obi swing it round the back.

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Not done yet! Personally I then like to insert an Obiita into the layers of obi, it keeps everything neat and flat, getting rid of those pesky folds and bumps from the layers of belts underneath.

And finally we add accessories such as the sandals which are called Geta – they make a great sound while you walk about, and I’ve got a fan called an Uchiwa popped into the back there. This one is from Tokyu Hands which just opened downtown. I love their simple patterns.

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There, you’re ready for a day or night out at a matsuri (festival), or simply a walk down the river, or some fireworks, or take a taxi ride somewhere and have a cheap trip to a museum because here in Kyoto people who wear Kimono receive discounts. I love Kimono, and if you do too and have any questions just ask away. This was a pretty rushed and rough guide and there are much better ones on the net, give it a search.

For now I’m off to get an ice cream as it just hit 36°c.

All the best,

Rach xoxox

Foreigners, Fortunes, and Fashion.

It has been a month since my last post. In that time friends have got Married (Congrats Peter and Mari!), I’ve had three guests come and go, I’ve been to Tokyo, taken a hundred Kawaii photo booth snaps, taught about a million English lessons based on Frozen’s ‘let it go’, and spent at least 4 hours doing Karaoke. The last one is no exaggeration and happened in one evening.

So – Tokyo. My featured image was taken from Tokyo’s sky tree. The tower looms at 634 metres, I’m not a fan of heights as such but there’s something fun about being scared; I couldn’t miss out on looking over the biggest city I’ve ever been to. There had been a sizeable earthquake just before our visit (a 4 on the richter, felt in the centre) and I wondered – what with the swaying technology fitted into tall buildings – just exactly how an earthquake would feel from this height. We would probably be swung for metres from side to side, that’s according to my massive assumption and tiny knowledge of engineering. I’m imagining a limp old celery stick being shaken about. I’d love to know what would really happen? The view itself as you can see was very impressive, although it lost an edge with the pollution. It’s a great way of taking in the size of Tokyo and getting a grasp of where you are.

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Here you can see Richard, Rachael, and Loesja, plus the Sky Tree to the left and the thing which to is foreigners looked like a golden poo – The Asahi Flame. My students agree that it looks like a shiny turd and blame it on the bubble economy (or influenza as the Brits have started calling this phenomenon). The bubble is when Japan had lots of money, put very simplistically. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe it’s beautiful.

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Nearby the Sky Tree is Asagukusa Temple which sits among lines of very entertaining and expensive market streets. Anyone looking to buy anything ever should not spend their money down these lanes, I couldn’t believe the prices. Anyway, the Temple itself is noted for its fortunes which are written in several languages. First you pop your hundred yen into a pot and take a cylindrical hexagonal wooden box with a hole in, you then shake it and take a wooden stick which comes out of the hole. You the. Read the number (in kanji) and find a corresponding drawer which is full of fortunes. There are several levels of fortune, great blessing, middle blessing , small blessing, blessing, near blessing, curse, and great curse. I’ve not been a fan of these because although I don’t believe in it I’m worried about receiving bad fortune. However, just this once I took part with
Rach and Loesja. Well, I got Daikichi – which is the great blessing! I can’t start believing it just because of that but… It did sort of feel like I’d won something. My fortune is pictured above. In contrast Rach and Loesja got bad ones, along the lines of “you will not meet a hermit” and ‘” if you climb a mountain with a harp you will have an empty heart” written on them, oh no. We cleansed our hands at the temple and got some incense to get rid of any bad air left from that. You know, just in case.

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These are the sort of images I’d have associated with Tokyo before I went, and this is the modern side which I sought after as Kyoto is full of old traditional Japanese culture. We went to a tiny shop filled with condom related gimmicks, we spent hours down Harajuku’s ‘freaky fashion’ filled shopping streets, we left Richard in a Disney themed Starbucks on the roof of a shopping centre. There was some time spent gawping at artefacts in a ten story sex shop – purely for educational reasons, you understand – in Akihabara. As recommended by the Lonely Planet guide to Japan we found a spot to do some people watching at Shibuya crossing. Harajuku was my highlight, I loved all the alternative looks, mad hair, unpractical footwear, and cutesy frills. There is so much energy and everything made me want to redesign myself – pretty inspiring place actually, so expressive. I want to go back there.

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In contrast I spend my last few hours in Tokyo in the tourist information centre near the Imperial Palace. Rach, Rich, Loesja, and I were encouraged and taught to write calligraphy and do origami as well as getting dressed up in Kimonos. It was great fun, what a fantastic centre.

With that it was time to go home to Kyoto. It really did feel like coming home, and I adore this city. When the guys came back we went to Saiho-ji which is called The Moss Temple. I will leave you with this image to rest your tired reading eyes.

Thanks for visiting!

Love Rach xoxox

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