ON THIS DAY.
Seven years ago, I found my self wandering around Ueno in a dream like fashion. Flowers seem to be following me in every step; billowing at my feet. I have been keeping my head down ever since we came out of Ueno Station. Harboring a secret, scared to be made known. A chorus of women’s laughter brought me back to reality.
I grinned mischievously.
I was walking around in full drag just a little bit after noon, on that sweltering Japanese summer day. And I am enjoying it.
August 12, 2011
Kimono Tansu Ya, Shin Nakamise- dori
Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan
Cholo and I found ourselves in a Kimono-ya San* in Asakusa. Tita Petite along with her friend, Grace, were talking to two older Japanese women who run the place. Lets call them Oka-san one and Oka-san two. While Tita Petite was having a conversation with the owners, Cholo decided to go around the area where we were. He thought we might need some time to dress up and he wanted to take photos instead of waiting.
At the inner left corner of the store, I see curtains.
“That must be where patrons would change”, I surmised.
I was surrounded by beautiful Kimono! All made of vivid colors with amazing design details in silk. In front of me was a mirror, so I decided to check my makeup. It was still holding up.
A bell rings.
I turn around. The door slides open and two girls wearing their Yukata entered and went to one side of the store. They are buying accessories.
I look back to Tita Petite sensing that she was telling the women that I would be the one wearing the black Yukata with pink, yellow, white and purple flowers. I could see the look of confusion in their faces and I could tell what was running through their minds.
This was confirmed when I saw Tita Petite turn and said, “Tor, please wear your wig.”
As soon as I put on (styled accordingly with Tita Petite’s help), I turned to the two old women and asked; “Oka-san, atashi daijobu?” (Mother, I okay?) in barbaric Japanese.
And they swooned!
They started saying things in Japanese that I couldn’t understand but I felt that they approved of my immediate transformation.
“They say you look pretty!” offers Tita Petite. I bow and gave them my thanks.
I wore a shirt and shorts so that I could have something under the Yukata. The women wouldn’t allow it. So with their help, I removed my shirt and I stripped down to my Calvins.
Oka-san one started to dress me, she first gave me a white robe which would serve as an inner lining. She tied it around my waist and stopped. She went behind the curtain and came back a few seconds later with a face towel.
”A face towel? What for?” I wondered.
She placed the towel on my waist and tied it with the strings of my inner robe and secured it in place. I later found out that the white inner robe would keep my sweat from seeping into theYukata. The face towel was used to add some meat on me because I have a very small waist. A Obi sash sits better on a thicker waist. When aYukata / Kimono is worn, there are no curves. It’s quite “linear.”
Oka-san one asks me if I’m okay. I nod my head. It’s a little bit tight but I could still breathe.
Oka-san two comes along and starts to dress me in my Yukata. She drapes it left over right. She goes behind me and spreads the reminder of the cloth on the floor nicely. She then disappears behind the curtain.
Oka-san one appears and kneels in front of me. She holds the Yukata from the waist and gently adjust the hem. I look down and realize that the Yukata has to be at a certain length. It brushes by my ankles.
Both women are now attaching my Obi sash. Oka-san one wraps the pink Obi sash around my waist. Before securing my Obi, she instructs Oka-san two to put an Obi-ita in between the layers of my Obi sash. I can feel my Obi sash getting tighter and tighter as she ties it. Oka-san two gently pulls in one area to adjust it, making sure my Obi sits nicely around my waist. My Obi sash is called a Tsuke Obi, this is an informal / pre-tied Obi that is usually used for securing a Yukata. It comes with a “Sailor Moon” ribbon too.
Oka-san one asks me once again if I’m okay. I nod my head. Though it’s tighter now, I can still breathe comfortably.
Through the mirror, I could see Oka-san two hand my “Sailor Moon-like” ribbon to Oka-san one. Once more I could feel my Obi getting tighter. Oka-san one secures my “Sailor Moon” ribbon that perches at the edge of my Obi.
Oka-san one disappears behind the curtain and I thought we were through but, no! She comes back with a white lace. She folds it and ties it around my Obi sash. I turn to look at the mirror. I could see the white lace was tied like a ribbon and was placed just above my pink “Sailor Moon” ribbon. She once again disappears behind the curtain and comes back holding a long string colored in variations of red and pink with tassels dangling at the end. This is called an Obijime, a string that is tied around the Obi sash that serves mainly as a decoration.
She stands back and observes her work and nods in approval.
I look at myself in the mirror with such amazement that I couldn’t stop giggling. I turned around and look at the ribbons behind me. I continued giggling.
I gathered my bearings and faced the two Japanese women. I bowed and thanked them for dressing me. It was now Tita Petite’s turn to be dressed. When she was done, Rudee arrived and got dressed in 15 minutes.
After arranging the necessary things I need in my bamboo purse and having some last-minute adjustment from the two Oka-san, we were ready to hit the temples of Asakusa.
THE DAY BEFORE.
August 11, 2011
3rd floor AbAb Store
Ueno, Tokyo, Japan
I see Tita Petite and her Thai friend, Rudee, go through a stack of Yukata.
Tita Petite then lifts one from the rack and holds it up in front of me.
She starts to asses the how the Yukata would look on me.
Tita Petite and Rudee then starts to discuss something in what I hear is a mix of Thai and Japanese.
And I begin to wonder.
My mind floats back to when Cholo and I had first arrived in Tokyo and I pointed out to Tita Petite how pretty the Yukata girls look. When she asked me if I wanted to wear one. I said “Yes!” I didn’t think she would take me seriously.
I was snapped back to reality when Tita Gina started to explain to me that the Yukata I would be wearing tomorrow would compliment the Yukata that she, along with Rudee and her other friend Grace, would be wearing.
I thought we were done, but no! Rudee then held my arm and pointed out to me that we are to go to the accessories department.
“Oh My God! I couldn’t believe this is happening!” was all I could say to myself.
There I was standing by the accessories counter, my face with a 4 day old beard, with two lovely ladies clipping flowers on my hair.
We just emerged from the basement of a building where we had dinner. It was only a short distance from AbAb Department store.
Before going our separate ways, Tita Petite gave Cholo and I instructions on when and where to meet her the following day. After bidding good bye to Tito Ken, Tita Gina and Rudee, I rushed to the nearest Lawson and bought makeup. All I had were some Daiso liquid eyeliners, Daiso eyebrow pencils, some geisha makeup and traditional brushes I bought the day before in a local store that has supplied kabuki actors and geisha with cosmetics.
Lawson had a variety of consumer makeup products available. I settled on purchasing products from the brand named InteGrate. InteGrate is a consumer line by Shiseido.
I purchased 4 bottles of their mineral based liquid foundation and their powder compact counter parts. It sounds like a lot, but most of them were destined for my kit. I remembered to have spent Ten Thousand Yen that evening. I currently do not have any of these. They have been used up a long time ago.
This particular range is currently discontinued. They must have been reformulated/repackaged and sold as a new makeup range.
I have managed to find some photos on-line. The four bottles shown here (left) were labeled as 00 being the lightest, and 30 as the darkest. It was fortunate that I was not sporting a tan at this time or else the color would not match my skin. Based on my observation, most Japanese cosmetics are very light in color with beige tones. These makeup products had high SPF ratings, that’s why I looked very dewy in all of my pictures with tons of flash back.
These liquid foundations had water like consistency, it was very easy to blend, but I had trouble building up coverage. The closest match to my skin was the 30 shade.
I used this all over my face and applied most of the product on the areas of my beard for more coverage. Unfortunately, it was not able to fully cover it. Hence in some close up photos, you can see the color of my beard coming through.
I then used the shade in 10 as my highlight shade, applying the product in the center of my face, under my eye, on my cheek bone area and on the top of my lip. I set the liquid foundations with their specific powder counter parts for additional coverage. These powders were quite great actually, they held up the entire time I was walking around Tokyo. The compact was very easy to handle and easy to store.
Fortunately, the mineral ingredients of these products helped create a “soft focus look”. The minerals bounced back the light and created an optical illusion. Making some aspects of my manliness less obvious.
For my cheeks, I applied a gentle amount of pink blush. I bought this To No Ko at the store that supplies kabuki actors and geisha with their cosmetics. This pink blush is made by Mitsuyoshi, a premier skin care and makeup company in Japan.
For my eyes, I swept the same mineral powder on my crease that I used on my face. I applied the 00 mineral powder (the lightest shade) on my entire lid. I then applied a very thin layer of black liquid eyeliner on my eyes, with a very tiny flick at the outer edge. I wanted my eye look to be defined but soft. I finished it off with some mascara that Cholo brought with him. He used to enhance his brows this way that year.
To complete my look, I wore a very sheer delicate pink lipstick with gold flecks that Tita Petite gave me.
And that is how I came up with my Sayuri look. Given the time and financial constraints, I worked with what I had . It just comes to show that you don’t have to use a ton of different products to achieve a look.
Cholo and I went to Japan to celebrate our 5th year together as partners.
On this particular day, Tita Petite decided that we were to experience “getting married” in a traditional Japanese manner. She made sure we had a rickshaw tour around Asakusa. We had to pay homage to the gods at the oldest temple in Tokyo, Senso-ji.. We touched the dragon under the big red lantern of the Kaminarimon. Before entering, Cholo and I had to do the Misogi Harai, the ritual of purifying our hands and mouth with water from the water basin. We had to smoke ourselves for further purification. At the Hondo of the Senso-ji, we threw our offering into the box, clapped twice, said our thanks and asked the deities for blessings!
We had some refreshments at a quaint cafe near the lotus fields of Ueno Koen. Under a huge red wagasa (Japanese umbrella), we cooled ourselves with some iced matcha and had some rice cakes for energy.
We ended the day by having the wedding dinner in a traditional Japanese restaurant. We were brought to the second floor and lead to the corner table by the window. The swaying cherry tree kept us company as we dined on authentic Japanese cuisine while sitting the Japanese way on tatami floors.
Tita Petite choreographed everything to give meaning to our excursion for this day. It is not only about going around Asakusa in drag, but it is a celebration. A celebration of new experiences, a celebration of love, a celebration of friendship and a celebration of LIFE.
This wonderful experience wouldn’t have been a blast if it was not Tita Petite. Bless her sweet heart! Never in my life have I ever dreamt that I would ever walk around Japan in a Yukata. I will forever cherish this experience.
Thank you Tita Petite! Thank you Rudee! Your memory lives on in my heart. Thank you Grace! Our visit to Tokyo is truly an affair to remember!
*A Kimono-ya San is a store that sells new or second-hand Kimono, Yukata, and all the accessories that comes along with it. In some Kimono-ya stores, they offer to dress you and to have your picture taken for a fee. It ranges from 3000 Yen to 6000 Yen.
Tita Petite brought us to the Kimono-ya San she usually frequents in Asakusa. It is Called Kimono Tansu Ya.
To get there, you have to get to Asakusa station and make it your starting point. From there, make your way to the Kaminarimon. When you face the great red lantern of the Kaminarimon, go through the gate. You will find yourself at the main starting point of Nakamise-dori (If you walk straight this will bring you straight to the Hozomon of the Senso-ji). You will be flanked by kiosks on the left and the right. Start walking until you reach the end of the second block of stores. This is the first corner. Turn right and you will find yourself at Shin Nakamise-dori. Continue walking until you see the Kimono-ya San situated on the left. See the photo on the left for reference.