We’ve had so many experiences here in Japan. Our guide, Chiaki, seems to say everyday, “Today, you have another highlight!” And it’s true! Everyday seems to bring on another grand adventure and unique experience. One of our highlights was the afternoon we went to Gion, the geisha and entertainment district in Kyoto, to dress up in kimono!
We went to a Kimono Rental. First we were told to choose a silk kimono. Next, the attendant chose a slip to match the kimono and helped us choose an obi (silk sash). I was also told to choose a silk purse. While the women in my group were choosing their silk kimono, the men where choosing theirs. From there, the women were led into one room and the men led into another.
Once in the women’s room, each of us had a professional attendant helping us with the whole process. I was helped into a white robe/undergarment. A few of us had chosen to pay the extra 580 yen ($5.80) to have our hair done in a traditional style to go with the kimono wearing. I was led to the hair dressing department in my white robe where a women commenced to tease my hair. I would rather describe the hair styling action as “ratting” but I know the proper word is “teasing”. Rat-Tease-Spray-add a hair ornament shaped like a fan, and voila, before I knew it, I had an Audrey Hepburn-like hairdo. It took about 10 minutes for the hair transformation.
Then back to the dressing room, where the completion of the kimono wearing took place. Layer after layer pulled tightly over my midsection, the kimono began to come together. Then we were given tabi, socks with a separation for the big toe so we can wear our special geta shoes.
It was so fun to see everyone in our group so completely transformed. We then walked to a temple and park and took thousands of photos.
Having a kimono on is like being hugged tightly. You cannot slouch so your posture looks fabulous. You feel regal because, of course, you have a regal bearing to your stance. You cannot, however, do yoga. When you walk, you have a mincing step…and below is Karin and me trying to do Warrior I. Impossible!
We wore our outfits to dinner, too. We went to Ganko Takasegawa-Nijoen for a multi-course Kaiseki dinner. Kaiseki is a meal at one with nature. Every food that is served is in season. When guests eat kaiseki dinner, they will often find things from nature such as flowers and leaves adorning the food.
Ganko Takasegawa-Nijoen is more than a restaurant. It is a villa-turned restaurant with an exquisite garden that has a river and waterfalls running through it. It was originally the villa of the Edo-period business magnate Suminokura Ryoi and later that of Yamagata Aritomo, the Prime Minister during the Meiji period. The historic home has occupied the same location for 300 yeas. The restaurant has a spacious Japanese garden that hardly anyone would expect to find in the middle of Kyoto. The food is refined and the overall experience was one of a kind.
We wore our kimonos back to the hotel and returned them to the front desk that evening. It took me about 15 minutes to untie the obi and to undress. Someone counted 19 pieces of garments to undo and take off. It was a great relief to have it off, but also I felt sad because I suddenly no longer felt the postural support I felt all evening. I also felt like Cinderella at curfew time. All the magic was over. I was just plain me again. We asked Chiaki if there is a special word for the feeling one has when the kimono is taken off. She promptly replied, “We just say Ahhh!”