Wednesday, January 28, 2009

SURPRISE!

So first I'm going to apologize that I haven't been giving you all the super interesting stuff that's been happening as it happens. I wanted to surprise you guys. I recently got an amazing opportunity. As you know I was taking a Japanese politics class this semester. My professor (Morikawa Tomonori) is a very well-connected person, and in Japan the idea that connections are everything is completely true.

Professor Morikawa is friends with Koike Yuriko's top secretary (Koike Yuriko is a well-know female politician here in Japan. If Japan were to have a female prime minister in the near future, it would be her.) and he know Koide Yuriko as well. The secretary has a friend who's a make-up and hair artist that was working a fashion show. This fashion show wanted a couple of foreigners to model. I volunteered. Here's my adventure.

First, on Friday we went to meet with Koike Yuriko's secretary and Obara-san (the make-up/hair artist). And where was this meeting? The Diet Building (that's the Japanese capital building and has nothing to do with losing weight). Anyway, we had lunch and got to wander around the Diet Building and the offices of the House of Representative members. So here I am standing in the press box above where the House of Representatives meet. That box with the curtains you see behind me is where the Emperor sits. All the seats you can see in this photo are for the younger members of the House. The ones for the older members are hidden from camera view presumably so they can nap without getting caught. While we were there, there was also a bunch of school tours going on. The kids would talk to me in English which was cute. I asked one where he was from, hoping to get a school name. He said "Tokyo". I'm really glad I brought a suit jacket.

The fashion show was Tuesday in a really swanky hotel in Shinagawa. I got my hair and make-up all done for me then went to the dressing room. Now I didn't mention this before, but the fashion show was for kimono so that's what I wore. Getting dressed in one was an experience in and of itself. I felt like a doll mostly. These three women (two were assisstants as they kept calling the third "sensei") wrapped me in several layers of cloth casually moving my arms if they were in the way. And that obi? Sooooo tight! The West had the corset, Japan has the obi. I could barely breathe. And the shoes are very hard to walk in. However, the end result was pretty stunning.

Now, a few trade secrets. That obi (the orange cloth belt) has carboard under it (one of the layers anyway) to keep the cloth smooth I think. Also, I believe I counted over thirty pins in my hair when I took them out that night.

After the show (during which I did not trip or otherwise embarrass myself thankfully) there were a lot of photos taken. Everyone wanted a photo of the gaijin in a kimono (and the other models got photos of them too, but they were professionals unlike me so knew what they were doing). Then I got changed out of the kimono for lunch. I was told that I could wear the kimono to lunch if I wanted, but I declined. After all, that's thousands of dollars worth of silk I'm wearing. And I figured, if I could barely breathe, how would I have room for food?

The lunch was incredibly lavish with many courses. Seriously I had at least five forks. The wine was excellent and the food was yummy. Plus, I was sitting at the table of honor apparently (my table mates included a CEO and a television producer among others) as we were front center and everyone at the table got introduced to the assembly at large (there was a total of about 150 people there).

After lunch, I had to go to Waseda because I had a class at 4:20. My hair was still all done up. I got quite a few stares for that.

And now I have a cold :(

I also have a couple of announcements. I'm leaving next Tuesday (Feb. 3) to go to Osaka. I'm visiting there for a couple of days during which time I will go to a Fall Out Boy concert. Directly from Osaka, I'm going to my cultural practicum. I very much doubt I will have internet access during the practicum so do NOT be alarmed if I fall off the face of the Earth. If I do have net access, it won't be at all regular. I return from my practicum on March 5th at which time I will have many pictures and things to show.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Mary the Party Animal

The semester is nearly over! Today I have a final in my Japanese politics class then Monday I have my last class for both Japanese and Social and International Relations of Japan. That just leaves my Asian Religions class. So basically, I'm almost done! That means...party time!

I started a little early though. Last Wednesday was Asuka's birthday so we had a tabehoudai/nomihoudai (all you can eat/all you can drink). Sadly I couldn't stay too long because I have class Thursday morning and felt that staying out late would have a negative effect on my grammar quiz grade. I have a picture from then though. In it are Kathleen, me, Asuka (the birthday girl), and Rachel. Sorry, I'm not naming the people in the background since you can only see their backs anyway. It was lots of fun and we got to grill our own food (see that stove thing behind us?). I love do it yourself restaurants though they can get pretty toasty.

Friday I went to Harajuku with Lydia and Briana and Rachel joined us after her class. I got three new pairs of pants! Yay! I now have jeans that aren't falling apart. I also bought a really cute coat for only 3000yen. We also explored a wonderful poster shop, got hit on by a half hispanic half Japanese guy, did purikura (instant photo booth), and ate kabobs and crepes. All in all, a wonderfully fun evening.

Saturday, I was a bum. Nothing more to say about that.

Sunday I again went out (bad Mary!) and met up with Lydia, Briana, and a friend of Lydia's. The friend (his name's Juusong--not sure of the spelling here, he's Korean) invited a Japanese friend of his named Etsuya, and we had lots of fun. I stayed out a little to late and thus did worse than usual on my Monday morning kanji quiz (probably a B instead of an A is all). The picture is Etsuya, Lydia, and myself. This is one of the more normal pictures taken that night. We got a bit silly... There were supposed to be more people, but Rachel had a paper to write and Juusong's other friends apparently got into a fight with some yakuza (Japanese gangsters) the night before. Not sure I would want to meet them anyway. They don't seem that smart if the pick fights with yakuza.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Just a couple of tidbits

Sorry about how long it's been since my last post. Nothing much is happening right now. I'm getting back into the swing of classes for a few weeks before heading off to Osaka then my cultural practicum.

I guess the only bit of news I have is for those of you that are at Knox. Keep an eye out for a column I will be writing for TKS concerning study abroad. I'm not sure when the first one will be published...

Other than that, all I have to say is that I bought a shirt in Harajuku that says "Give a Whoop of Joy" on the front and "Up With You" on the back. I'll try to remember to get a picture of it at some point.

I also will have to try and find some pants that fit me here very soon as two of my pairs of jeans have now begun to seriously self-destruct. Wish me luck.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Kyoto Videos

These are just a couple of videos I wanted to put in the earlier post but didn't because Blogger and iPhoto were conspiring against me. iPhoto still hates me, but I've discovered ways around that now that Blogger is cooperating again (at least mostly) ^_^


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This is one of the girls feeding the pigeons and getting mobbed in the process.

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This is a video I took at the monkey park of a baby monkey trying to cling to a tree. Totally adorable really.

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This is me feeding a very eager monkey.

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This is Rachel feeding a very lazy monkey who is secure in the knowledge that the humans will keep feeding him whether he snatches the food or not.

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And this is a cool fountain thing at Kyoto Station. For those who don't know, one of Kyoto's many names was Miyako (though I think only Westerners ever called it that...)