Writing about 28th December, Osaka- Kyoto
On this day we had genuinely good intentions to be on time. Having not met up at all with Sarah and Laura the day before, we’d agreed to meet at Kiyomizu temple in Kyoto at 12:00pm, which I believe then changed to 12:30pm because they were running late. This was to our relief, as for some reason I can’t quite remember now (give me a break, I left this writing stuff way too long) we were… late. Cue to us desperately trying to work out which trains would get us to Kyoto fastest (and cheapest). It was a panicked toss-up between Umeda and Tennoji, as trains often ran from Umeda (and from more companies) but Tennoji’s trains were actually quicker but ran less often, and only from JR. Somewhat lazily, we took a gamble on Tennoji. From there, Angela asked the station master at Tennoji about the fastest train to Kyoto. The tickets bought (rather desperately), the running commenced (again, checking which station we should be at) and we jumped on the train. The train would take us to Kyoto arriving approximately 12:30 (the time we were supposed to meet at the entrance to Kiyomizu dera).
^^ View of Kyoto from Kiyomizu-dera ^^
So feeling the vague sense of guilt I constantly feel as a result of being late, I volunteered to pay for us to get a taxi to get there ASAP. It felt like 15 minutes but probably only took about 8 before we got there… only to find we arrived about a minute before Sarah & Laura! Hooray! So this time, we actually met up. We’d organised this time because Sarah and Laura had been off doing something else first (can’t remember what… maybe hiking? Tea service? Oh, wait, I think they were doing Kinkakuji, Ginkakuji or something else we’d already done) and we knew we were now on a timeline. The shops preceding Kiyomizu are amazing, but we only looked in a few (read: Angela managed to buy more tea sets/ Sake sets) before deciding that Kiyomizu was the priority. Sarah and Laura didn’t want to get dressed up (which we found surprising) but we definitely did, so we headed in. About this time Laura started to change her mind. We could see the “What if…” change to outright longing, and having not previously done it herself, she eventually caved. From there, it was only a matter of time. Unfortunately, due to Angela’s height (and my height and girth… although they tactfully said “height”) we had to pay extra to get special sized Kimono, of which there weren’t as many to choose from. I picked a dark coloured one and Angela decided “Hey, the blonde hair is a draw card… but why only draw attention with blonde when I can with a RAINBOW KIMONO?!”
^^ The funky 5 do dera ^^ (I can’t believe I just wrote that.)
It was undeniably a strategy that worked. In the meantime, we were ushered upstairs. We had to strip down to our underwear (we kept some thermals on- it was bloody cold. I think I retained my thermal pants but I don’t think I could keep the shirt… not sure) and then put on the white underlayers (cotton skirt & under-kimono). From there we split up- some went straight into hair, others were still changing. The small ladies dressing us use a lot of ties- the kimono are deliberately too long for anyone, so they always have to have the first tie tie the bottom of the kimono at the right height off of the floor. The next tie goes above the first one; it ties the top down and creates a sort of excess kimono flap over the stomach. From there comes the padding- Kimono are designed to hide curves, so because of my narrow waist and huge hips, I usually get a few rolls of towels wadded into my waist to minimise the curves. From there, it was hair, where I decided for old times’ sake, to get the same hair style I’d gotten in 2010. Everyone else picked Sarah’s 2010 hairstyle. My choice was…a mistake. They just didn’t do it very well. Some people’s hair struggled to hold their curls from the start, (the others’ hair looked a bit limp) and mine just looked a bit off. There was something not quite right about it, which grieved me, but it was too late.
^^ Sister shot ^^
^^ 2010- What my hair was supposed to look like this time. ^^
From there, it was outer kimono time, where we slid on our choices (Ange looked slightly ridiculous, like a personal disco gone wrong, whereas the rest of us could have been heading to a funeral). Mankee had a lovely red Kimono (red suits her) but this was where I feel she made a mistake. At the next stage, we could pick accessories and Mankee picked up a sort of outer kimono cape thing. It was a normal addition, and a sensible one given the cold, but it also covered up the colour of her Kimono and because of the bow on her back, made her look… a bit like a hunch back. I think she was glad of it, given the cold, but beauty is pain. (My hair was also pain…fully awkward. But hey, we all made mistakes this time. I think Laura regretted not getting a more colourful Kimono.) After a quick makeup touch up (or put on, in Angela’s case) and grabbing bags and my furry neck warmer (which Sarah kindly and repeatedly referred to as “Monkey’s balls”) we were off to Kiyomizu.
^^ At first I was pleased because my bow showed. But Ange deflated that by explaining it only showed because there wasn’t enough fabric left to cover the bow like everyone else’s because I was wider than most people. ^^
I’ve always been equal parts enjoyment/guilt of the “You’re white! Way cool!” racial preference experience, and this was no different. We drew a lot of attention, being 5 white girls in Kimono, but none more so than Angela. With her blonde hair and COLOUR!COLOUR!COLOUR! kimono, she was like a neon sign, slightly blinding. And people commented. Some thought we were hot shit. Some thought we were just shit (Angela heard someone comment “Not cute” in Japanese, unaware that she and Mankee could speak pretty decent Japanese). We moved up, pausing for photos, enjoying (but in my case, often also slightly guilty of) the attention. And we posed. We took photos with about 6 groups of people who wanted a photo, before we ended up moving on. We took lots of photos. It was definitely different from how Sarah and Laura had obviously planned their trip, but they weren’t arguing! (I’d say Laura probably thought it was the best decision she’d ever made! Laura was very into the whole photo experience, probably because like us all, she’s always been a fan of Japanese culture but unlike most of us, has probably not worn Kimono before. Not sure about Mankee?) Mankee at some point revealed the red Kimono.
Anyhow, part of the temple was under reconstruction (very disappointing. I’m not even going to go into how disappointing Himeji still is. Bloody hell castle, get your act together!) but we still found plenty of opportunities to get our photos taken in groups- Sarah/Laura, sisters (Angela/Carly ovbs), the epic travellers (Carly/Ange/Mankee) and friends: Mankee/ Angela & Carly /Sarah / Laura. Sarah took the brunt of the photo taking burden, with Angela and myself relieving her. There were many, many photos taken. I got a few “old times’ sake” photos with Sarah, but hardly managed any with Laura as they got a lot of what I now know are couple photos before I could turn around and say “Now Laura!”) As we moved around the temple, it got colder and colder. Like, it got really cold! Finally, we were itching to get out of our Kimono (and the temple was closing) but Mankee spotted a food stand (I think she got tea and Gyoza?) so we waited for her and then headed out.
^^ 2013 & 2010 – look pretty much the same ha ha^^
And it got colder. As we started to head back down the shopping street, Sarah and Laura asked if we wanted to split up because they wanted to shop for ceramics. We agreed to meet at the Kimono entrance and wait for the others, because we wanted to shop too. Buying a number of things (a little octopus, so cute! It matches my big octopus and my octopus hat from OsCas!) We went down to where the Kimono store was to wait for Sarah and Laura. We waited, and looked around in the shops a bit and still we didn’t see them. (They said they might take a while so we figured we’d walk down a bit, do some more shopping and then head back up). We bought candy. We tried to restrain Angela from buying (another) tea set. Angela may or may not have bought another sake set.
^^Exemplifying the refined characteristics of Japanese nobility. ^^
^^ When you’re hot, you’re hot. ^^
Finally, we were waiting (and shivering) because we’d agreed to get one or two last kimono photos. It was at this point it started snowing. No wonder we’d been so cold! It seemed to be our fate, Angela, Mankee and I, to wear beautiful traditional clothing and have it begin to snow. (Flashbacks to Gyeongbokgung palace…) It was also at this time that Sarah and Laura emerged from the Kimono shop, having gone to change! We’d been waiting for them but they’d already gone and changed. Apparently, we’d travelled ahead of them at some point, not behind, so they decided we’d already gone in and went to change while we were waiting for them out the front wondering where they were! So Mankee, Ange and I got some photos (Snow kimono!) then changed out of our Kimono.
Sarah suggested we go to dinner together because we didn’t really hang out much on the trip (overall, we saw them 3 times) which was nice. We headed to Saizeriya, one of my favourite places in Japan. They’re cheap, do a magnificent cheese pizza (hold the buffalo) and of course… the Creamy Melon soft drink. We had to wait on the stairwell (it was awkward until we belatedly figured out the seating system, which was to go in, write your name and group number in the seating book and then go and wait outside to be called. This of course took a bit longer because then we had to write it in and then come back out and wait) before entering. When we got in, I, enraptured, took to my beloved Suntory creamy melon pop like a fiend. Angela, Mankee and Laura became instant fans. (Sarah of course, already being a fan.) It’s funny, because I don’t actually like melon. I don’t like Rockmelon or honeydew melon, and I’m pretty so-so on watermelon. I don’t enjoy Midori, or other fake-melon flavours. But Suntory Pop Melon soft drink is like ambrosia. It is divine in a chemical, no doubt fake colour, flavour and carbonated form. Mmmm, Creamy Melon…
^^ So good!^^
It is the perfect accompaniment for pizza! Of which, Saizeriya make a great one, when I can order it without buffalo cheese. (To be fair, I’m probably at the point now where I could just eat the damn cheese without being too fussy but old habits die hard.) The pizza was so amazing I had two (I like my pizza. Ain’t no one ever gonna touch it and survive my wrath) and then I had such an amazing dessert- a chocolate mousse with raspberry coolis on the side. The best thing was, it was so cheap there was no need to share. If people wanted to try it, for $2 they could just get their own. (Dear reader if you haven’t already figured, as someone who is fussy, I hate sharing because the other person almost never has things I like to eat! Therefore I lose the only food I like in exchange for something I won’t eat. The only exception is sometimes Ange, because we have similar tastes. Who am I kidding, I’m the only one who reads this shit.)
^^ As most people commented- “Who be those stylin’ gangstas?”
At about that point, we split up. Ange, Mankee and I headed home because we were set to go out with J&F people. Austin and Kei had agreed to meet us at 10 in the kitchen so we needed to make a move. We didn’t see them which worried us a bit, especially since Ange heard they’d been talking to Leon. At 10pm, all our fears came true; they’d left at 8 with Leon (fucking Leon, what a douche) because he wanted to leave early and forgot they were supposed to meet us. I was super pissed off which both Kei and Austin were forced to take note of later. Naturally we’d invited Sarah and Laura, but going out isn’t really their thing anymore so we weren’t surprised when they declined. That left us with an issue- we didn’t want to just go to sleep because that was really our one chance for going out… (Next Sat we were in Hiroshima) but we didn’t want to go out on our own so much (a bit deflated after being forgotten!) and we weren’t confident they’d stay in one place to meet us! Also, if we couldn’t get to that place… well meeting up is a lot harder without phones! Messaging and internet is definitely one thing we take for granted at home.
So we did the most logical thing we could- took a series of ridiculous hallway shots where I become an angry gangster, Mankee becomes a hobo and Angela becomes a prostitute because we are so emotionally distraught that we were left behind. This proceeded well into the night and we were majestic.
Her majesty herself,