Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Today, I had a very long lesson (about six hours, but not entirely non-stop) on how to hanayome, or bridal kimono.

I practiced on my mannequin at first. When after she was done with work, Masako-san came over and I got to dress her. Working on a real person is actually much easier than working on a mannequin.

This particular kind of hanayome is called shiromuku, since the outfit is entirely white. Some hanayome types are very colorful, with red being a very dominate colour choice, as red is considered a lucky color.

Hanayome outfits, because of the number of layers and the quality of silk, tend to be very heavy. Masako said this one wasn't too bad, maybe about 10 pounds.
Fancier or more heavily embroideried outfits can weight up to 20 pounds or so!

Even an experienced kimono dresser needs an assistant in order for the hanayome to be put on as efficiently as possible.

Monday, April 24, 2006


Bunka is the Japanese word for "culture".

On Saturday, Eiko-san invited us to go with her to a culture recital with her on Sunday. I was pretty psyched! I figured it would be a nice way to spend two hours.

We picked up Eiko-san at 11, after we spent an hour getting ready, because we weren't sure what to wear and Chris ended up having to put on a tie at the last minute. We were both sort of nervous, this was a new thing and we don't have much Japanese and Eiko-san has only a few words of English (NO!, OK, GOOD! BAD! and husband)

We picked up Eiko-san at the BX and went to the Bunkakan (Perfoming Arts Hall) is right out the main gate, next to the library! I felt kind of bad that I had no idea that it was there (or what it was). Chris said it wasn't a big deal, the flyers are all in kanjii and we don't get the native language papers and they don't advertise in the English ones, so it wasn't for a lack of interest, it was more a lack of information.

Eiko-san was worried about where we could park because parking in Misawa is pretty much non-existent, however, we got an amazing park (as Eiko-san said "Rucky!"), directly in front of the hall.

The hall was very nice, in a 70's kind of way.

The tickets were 2000 yen a piece (about 17 bucks) and Eiko-san wouldn't let us pay. She took us to our seats, then we came back out to the lobby where they were selling dance and theatrical supplies. Eiko-san introduced me to one of the dance teachers. He was very elegant, despite being in a gimme cap and work clothes. She introduced me as her student! =)

When we walked into the theatre proper, we noticed:

1. We were the only foreigners. My blonde hair would have stuck out except it was blocked by the woman two rows over that had a two-foot tall hairdo. Seriously.
2. There was a range of dress styles, from sweatpants (the old guy across the aisle) to full suit and tie
--that would be Chris and a few other men)
3. People bring snacks. A lot of snacks. I thought that was strange.
4. The program was magazine-sized. It had 69 entries, which I thought was the list of performers.

For people who produce some of the best techinical equipment in the world, the sound system in the auditorium was terrible (but the seats were comfy)! I don't think they had any kind of mixing board or other controls --they simply turned up the volume. My brother, a gifted musician, will attest to the fact that if *I* can tell something's bad, it is. Really bad.

The perfomance began at noon, with a lovely traditional dance. I wasn't sure if I could take pictures, so I missed a few opportunities at the start, until I realized it was okay.

* * * F I V E H O U R S L A T E R * * *

1. It was not a list of actors in the programme, it was a list of acts. Yes, 69 acts!
2. I was starving, not having had anything to eat since 9am. I'm used to eating every three hours, too.
3. Chris was asleep. He started to snore, too.
4. I had more Japanese culture in one afternoon than in two years of being here!
5. The acts had all started to look/sound pretty much the same.
7. At this rate, the show would be finishing up at about 7:30pm.
8. Now I understood all the bento (lunchbox) lunches.
9. I was ready to cry. Really.
10. And I was unable to ask if would be okay to leave! Damn my English-centric propensities.

Luckily, Eiko-san is pretty damn observant and took pity on us and we left. On the way home, she treated us to coffee and cheesecake. We tried to jump up and pay the check, and she shouted NO! quite loudly, causing everyone in the coffee shop to turn around and look at us. Eek.

Here we are after the show. Chris is doing the Japanese version of "rabbit ears" over my head--it's supposed be the rays of light ( halo) radiating from the buddha's head. And here is me with Eiko-san.

Eiko-san gave me a souvenir-- a beautiful Odori (Dance) fan...in purple. She's so sweet. And we played the obi game during the shows--everytime a performer came onstage in a kimono with an obi knot that I knew how to do, she would point it out.

I enjoyed the first 10 acts, but honestly, I'm not going to want or need to see any sort of cultural thing for a while. Possibly ever again.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Kakunodate Trip

Kakunodate is a former castle town in Akita Prefecture and is well known for its beautifully preserved samurai district and spectacular cherry blossom festival.

The cherry blossoms weren't even budding when we went, but on the news last night, they showed them getting ready to bloom. But even without the blossoms, our trip was terrific. What a nice way to spend the day, walking around in the warmth and the sunshine and seeing the sights. Actually, it was probably nicer than if the cherries were in bloom, because then the place would have been a madhouse.

We parked at a parking lot that was advertising 500yen for the whole day. We drove in, parked, and couldn't find the lot attendant. Figuring it was "pay when you leave", we spent the day out enjoying Kakunodate. When we were done, we noticed there were still no cars in the lot and they had closed off the lot! We drove around trying to find an exit when a worker finally waved us over, telling us that this lot was closed for renovation and we should go around the block and park at the lot there! He told us there was no charge when we tried to pay him, so we got parking for free! Yay for being stupid round-eye foreigners.

I'll post the pictures soon.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


One thing about being here that really makes me unhappy is that I am about 20 hours of travelling away. News doesn't always travel quickly or efficiently. I got an email from my mother today, which is not unusual, but what was upsetting was it was not the best news regarding my Aunt Den. She has a health issue that has been ongoing since last week.

After reading the email, I immediately called AD, she sounds chipper, they're just playing a waiting game. Other than this mystery thing, she's in good health. I'm reluctant to say more, as I am not sure if her kids read this. If you guys are reading this--call your mom and don't tell her that you saw it here, ok? Or when you are in Kiawa and she talks about it, act suprised but don't rat me out. This is one of the few ways I have to cope.

So I was all wound up from hormones, drugs, and the doctors and from the phone call. I'm probaby making mountains out of molehills since nothing has really been determined, but all I could do was stand in the foyer and cry, which is stupid, because crying doesn't generally do anything except make my eyes red and my nose runny.

The odd thing was, if I had received the same news about my mother, I can say, without a doubt, that I would not have reacted with a big boo-hoo. But relationships between mothers and daughters are strange, to say the least. My mother has a living will. I am the designated puller of the plug if she's on life support. I asked her why me and she said because I have a mean streak wide enough to kick the plug out of the wall. =) Of course I would be upset if Mom was having problems, but I would be working out logistics and whatnot. There would be something to latch onto, a problem or problems to wrestle with, something to get angry about or occupied with. It's not like I'm a wuss. When I was 19, my best friend and the person I loved most in the world was slowly dying of cancer. It was like watching a slow-motion train wreck over and over, but I took care of her and her house and what I needed to, so it's not like I am a complete wimp, there's some iron will in there, and as such, I was completely suprised by this morning's outburst. The little logical "watcher" (you know, the little voice that remains rational during drunks or bad trips or car accidents or in whatever bad shit is going down) in the back of my brain was totally like "WTF?", which had to be a first. It usually knows what to do.

My brother said to me once, after seeing me handle my grandfather dropping dead in the garage, and my mother threatening to kill herself the Xmas after dad died and giving eulogies at both my father's and my grandmother's funerals, without crying or freaking out, that I had a certain ability to put away who I am and get on with the unpleasant things that have to be done. Bill said "It's like 'the sister you know is not here right now, I am this stone-cold stranger who is completely calm and unfazed and let's do this and if you can't do it, too, just get the fuck out of my way." Bill says it's the scariest thing he has ever seen me do and it frightens him on a very deep level.

But that didn't happen, not this time. I stood in the foyer and cried. I'm not crying now but simply waiting, because that's all I can do from over here.

Saturday, April 08, 2006


After watching Tate selecting scorpions for his next tattoo, I have to admit that I've been wanting more ink. Sly had mentioned getting another, too. Sly wants her mon for her next tattoo. Sly's mon is a mitsudome. She wants the crest on her back, between her shoulderblades. This made me laugh pretty hard, becasue if a kimono has a mon in that location, that means it is semi-formal. So Sly's birthday suit would be semi-formal. Oh, it's funny, in a kimono-geek kind of way, trust me. I have a kimono from Sly that has her family crest on it, in the middle of the shoulders. Sly and her mom have been so kind as to allow me to wear their crest. I love that fact so much it makes me cry. I will post a picture of my most special kimono soon and tell you all about it. But I digress.

The picture I want, based on an "ukiyo-e" (Japanese woodblock print) print would have to be a backpiece. I gave up trying to describe the image and brought the book with the print into work to show people. Here's the print. You can click to see the larger version.

This is a woodblock print by Kuniyoshi of the Lady Hatsuhana in prayer under the Gongen waterfall at Hakone from the series Stories of wise women and faithful wives.

A quick summary of the story: Hatsuhana's husband had sworn revenge against his brother's killer. However, Hatsuhana's husband was badly wounded in a skirmish with the killer and was left unable to walk. Hatsuhana faithfully cared for him, even pulling him around in a wheeled cart. Seeing her husband so enraged at being helpless and unable to seek his sworn vengance, she went to Hakone to do ascetic penance under the pounding ice-cold water of the Tozen waterfall. Miraculously, her husband was cured and vengeance was wrought, but poor Hatsuhana died from her ordeal. Hatsuhana is held up as an example of martial fidelity and devotion as well as example of the fearlessness, fierceness, and selflessness of the Samurai wife.

I first saw the print in a book is called Heroes and Ghosts , a collection of woodblock prints by Kuniyoshi. Woodblocks are prints and are endeavors that began as Edo-era simple drawings and gradually developed into a complex printing process.

Kelly had asked if the process was done using one block, carved away as it was used for each color vice one block used for specifically for each color. In the case of ukiyo-e, it's one block for each color. Not only that, while the artist (such as Kuniyoshi) did the original drawing, he didn't necessarily carve or ink or do the other parts of the process himself. In fact, Japanese Printmaking is composed of the division of labor of many craftmen, such as painters, engravers and printers, and needs at least the same number of different woodblocks as colors, often more than twenty wood-blocks. At first, there was just a one color woodblock prints with brush-added color in the 1710s, then two or three colors wood-block prints evolved in the 1740s, and finally in the 1760s the multi-color wood-block prints called "nishiki-e" (brocade picture) was invented and continued to the early Meiji period in 1890s.

Friday, April 07, 2006


Aaaah, co-workers.

Oooookay, so today, Kelly wouldn't tell me my boobs looked bigger than usual, because he "didn't want to create an uncomfortable workplace enviroment." That threw me for a loop, I mean look at the blog (DANGER DANGER WILL ROBINSON GROSS STUFF) of that creepy little man. Kelly is a man who has discussed, vividly, at length and in great detail the joy of pooping on people's chests (and that's a mild conversation).

I can't even begin to explain why he wouldn't just flat out tell me. I think maybe he wasn't feeling well. He finally told me, in a roundabout way, but only after I started getting paranoid that my cat flap was open or the lump on my lip really did look like Space Herpes (although I did offer to share) or I had a booger hanging out of my nose or something.

The boobs are not any bigger than usual. It's just that since November, I've worn humongous wooly sweaters because it was so cold, and said woolly sweaters made it look like my boobs had flown south for the winter.

Spring is here, stuff is bust-ing out all over.

Neener, neener, neener.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


I got my results from my annual exam. I have a healthy hoo-hoo. Thought you'd like to know.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Lost in Translation

I wrote a letter on Monday, thanking Ikeda-san for the fun I had at the Big Bazaar and for his generous gift of kimono and accessories. Here's the original:

Monday, April 03, 2006

Dear Ikeda-San,

As I look out the window, I don’t see Cherry Blossoms, I see snow! Spring has yet to come to Misawa! I wonder if spring has come to Yokohama yet? Will you take time off from working to do Hanami?

I am writing to thank you for the wonderful time I had selling kimono with you at the Big Bazaar. It was very good to see you; you are looking well and that makes me happy.

I also wanted to thank you for your kindness and for all the lovely kimono you gave to me. You were far too generous, I wish you had let me pay for those items – I may have used up all of your profits! When I wear my lovely kimono, I will think warmly of you.

I am looking forward to seeing you again at the Fall Bazaar! I hope will we do lots of business and have lots of fun. Until then, please take good care of yourself.

Your Friend,

I sent this off to be translated (by a human being) and this is what I got:



窓の外を見ても、桜の花は見えません。見えるのは雪です! 三沢には春はまだ来ていません。横浜には春は来ましたか? 仕事を休んで花見に行かれますか?





And finally, for shits and giggles, I ran the above through WorldLingo (machine translation):

2006 April 3rd (Monday)

Ikeda which becomes love

Looking at outside the window, the flower of the cherry tree is not visible. Those where it is visible are the snow! Spring it has not come to Misawa yet. Spring it came to Yokohama? Work going to bed, you go to Hanami?

Selling you and the kimono together in the big bazaar, when being splendid, in order for us to convey the feeling of appreciation to passing, you write this letter. Being able to meet with you, it was very good. You being cute, make me happy.

You appreciate even in the lovely kimono as for me, your kindness and, you in me. Because you generosity were good excessively, you think if I the payment could point to price. Perhaps me you used your profit entirely. When me wearing this lovely kimono, as for me remembering your thing, heart becomes warm, probably will be.

It enjoys that again it depends on the eye in the bazaar of the fall. Doing many works, the large quantity we would like to enjoy. To that, please pay attention to the body.

Your friend

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


Today I volunteered at the Library! I read a story called Suki's Kimono to about 12 kids, all under the age of 6. I wore one of my kimono, too. The one I wore is a Taisho-era kimono, so its really colorful and quaint. After I read the story, I had paper kimono for the kids to color as well as origami samurai helmets. Tami, the head librarian, took pictures:

I originally had every intention of changing into yofuku (Western) clothes and going into work but then I decided to call it a wash and head over to the Kaneya kimono shop and show them I can dress myself. I ordered a cute pair of patterned tabi, since I always like to buy something when I go there. I had a nice chat with the one lady who speaks some English. She told me all about her trip to Norfolk VA. She's been to America four times, with her husband, who is in the service. I think he's Japanese, but she said she learned her English from her husband's American friends. She seemed excited to have someone to talk to and I was excited to be that person. I have got to work harder on my conversational Japanese. While we were chatting, I got tea and a higashi (sweet) which is always nice. The elderly lady who is the shop manager came in and was so excited to see me! She was laughing because I had left the basting stitches in my kimono. Duh! She was also pretty impressed that I dressed myself, and told me (again) that many Japanese can't dress themselves, let alone as well as I did (except for the basting threads). It was a nice way to spend some time.

Then it was home, take off the wafuku (kimono), finish the laundry, work on MCSE, Japanese, and web pages and narf down lunch. I need to squeeze in a 20 minute run today, but my hair looks great for once, and so does my makeup and I don't want to wipe off the makeup and wreck the hair by going for a run. This is unusual for me, since usually I'm a hot mess and I don't give a damn. Man, the day is fading fast. I also want to do some knitting and I wanted to bake cookies...

Monday, April 03, 2006


I worked half a day yesterday, so that makes this Monday feel even worse.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Flash Your Stash 2006

Gundel showed me hers, so I'll show her mine! My stash is considerably smaller than it was when I arrived in Japan almost 2 years ago. Some of it has to do with actually knitting stuff and some of has to do with sending scads of Japanese yarn to Sista and Gundel. When I finally get this stuff knitted up, I'm going to stick to buying yarn for a project and nothing more. No more hoarding. It really drives me nuts to have unfinished projects. Most of the remaining yarn actually has projects assigned to it. The big purple skein of Lamb's Pride will make a hat--quickly! I wasn't sure if I should include the batts in the stash, since technically, they're not yarn. The green and green- blue skeins are also Hello Yarn and will be a scarf and hat for the mister. The five skeins of Plymouth Encore were orginally going to be a sweater for Chris, but he gained weight, and I didn't have enough yarn to go up a size, so seven of the original 12 skeins have been made up into hats, socks, scarves, teddy bears, etc. I might knit myself some arm warmers (for biking on cold mornings) with the remaining skeins so I can use them up! The fuzzy pink yarn is for stuff I send to Insou, although the mister has been hinting he'd like to see me in a bikini made out of it. He can keep hinting. The purple Hello Yarn silk tussah mix is going to be a purse, once I can find handles that will do it justice. I love knitting Hello Yarn. It makes even my stitches look great. The sock yarn came from Gundel and I'm working up to making socks with it. The green ribbon Berroco was leftover from a tank I made for my mom. The white acrylic is used for practicing new stitches and for crafts. The red Japanese yarn was leftover from a hat, mitten and teddy bear set. The purple satin ribbon Berroco yarn will be a tank top for me. The purple Berroco suede is going to be a purse for someone. The rose and orange mixed Berocco ribbon are spares for a knitted t-shirt I'm currently working on. The big skein of blue/purple/green is Hello Yarn and is going to be a sleeveless sweater for ME. The cotton yarn is also Hello Yarn, but I forgot what I had scheduled for it. The green ribbon skein was supposed to be fringe for a scarf, then trim for my mom's tank top, but that didn't work out. Now I have no idea what the #$@& to do with it.

Currently, I'm working on a checkerboard pattern scarf in that damn Plymouth Encore (I think I'm going to make it massively long), a ribbon t-shirt (I fear I have lost my place on the decreases for the sleeve set-in and may have to start over, since the note I had pinned to the piece has gone missing) and I have a pair of booties I knitted, washed and blocked but haven't sewn up.

Saturday, April 01, 2006


Penn Jillette does not believe in God. Sly does.

I was glad to be a part of her baptism, even if I did not appreciate it on a religious level, I appreciated it as an important and profound
milestone in her life.

My husband will not discuss his (conflicted) religous beliefs with me.
I was hoping it would be an interesting discussion. Nope.

Most Japanese are not Christians and practice a combination of Shintoism and Buddhism. Real Buddhism (not the"lite" stuff Westerners see) is scary.You pretty much go it alone, although there are buddhas to help you out now and again. Buddhists have over 1,000 different kinds of hell and hell is not hard to get into but hard as...uh hell, to get out.

Buddhists don't go to heaven as we think of "heaven."
Ultimately, they want to be come nothingness, so as to stop reincarnating but doing so requires about 1,800 devotional acts, most of which are agonizingly difficult on a mental and spirtual level. I believe there's some level of acetism, too.

Religions of all sorts are strange.