Thursday, November 11, 2010

Osaka Castle - 2010

One of the sights I went to visit in Osaka was Osaka Castle. I didn't get to appreciate all the historical displays within the building because everything was written and explained in Japanese (and I don't understand a word of it.). However I found the castle's grounds enchanting. The sights and sounds around the castle's compound was bursting with life. I had so much fun interacting with the locals, taking in the scenery and sampling the street foods.

The canopied walk in the park, leading to the Castle was a peaceful and soothing experience. As I walked through the beautiful park, I thought to myself, how lucky the Japanese are to have this at their doorstep. It served as a wonderful retreat from the heat. If I had more time, I would have spent an entire day there, meditating.

The views from the top of the castle show the Business District of Osaka very clearly. When I was there, I was blessed with a perfectly blue and clear, sunny sky.

As I strolled the grounds, I came across this man who had 3 very large and very colorful dragons. I had fun chatting with him and taking photos of his pets. Around the grounds, several food stalls can be found where delicious local fares are being sold.

The shaved ice were everywhere. And I finally got tempted into buying one. It served as a blessed relief from walking in the heat the whole day.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Dressing Up as a Geisha

Before I left for my Japanese trip, I read up on the places I wanted to see. One of the must-see places in Japan is Kyoto City. As I flipped through the pages of my Lonely Planet book, I saw there are studios that specialize on dressing tourists up as Geishas. It also indicated that it was pricey. So I tethered between going for it or not. On my 2nd day in Kyoto, it was miserably grey and wet. My umbrella was too small. The rain drops dripped from my umbrella into the back of my shirt. My Fendi bag got wet (thank God it was canvas and not leather!) and I was just plain miserable walking with pained feet around Kyoto. But I wasn't ready to give up and go home. I trudged on until I stumbled upon this small sign that had Geisha photos on it. I didn't understand a word it said because it was written in Japanese. But the arrow that pointed toward a set of stairs that led down into a basement was filled with hundreds of "geisha" photographs. As I descended the stairs, I was still unsure of whether to push through with it or not. When I entered the studio, there were 4 women ahead of me. So I decided to simply sit, observe and contemplate if I really wanted to blow Y10,500 to put on some odd make-up and constricting clothes. But as I sat there, and truly thought about it, I decided that I was going to push through with it. And the reason behind it is because I wanted to have a unique and special experience to remember my trip to Japan. So I decided to throw my budget to the wind, and just do it!

Upon being ushered into the make-up room, we were asked to remove our clothes and were given a clean robe. We were instructed to wash our faces and necks before we were showed to our seats. I couldn't see much of what happened while they applied the white paste on my face and neck because we were told to keep our eyes shut while the paint dried. When I opened my eyes, I took a quick snapshot to document the experience.

Next step was choosing the Kimono and all the trappings that came with it. It was actually harder than I expected. There were so many factors that went into Kimono dressing. It was layer upon layer of beautifully designed cloths.

After being dressed in impressive Kimonos, I was showed into the studio where I sat and waited for a few minutes before being called in for the photo shoot. And below are the results.

Taking the Kimono and make-up off proved to be a lot easier than putting them on. But I was very happy I did it. As I look back, I don't regret blowing a chunk of my budget because I got to experience something unique.