Monday, October 31, 2011

Tokyo Kimono Week

Here's a lovely video from this past week, October 26th, at "Tokyo Kimono Week", featuring a variety of traditional kimono looks. :)

Notice how the models' silhouettes are a cylinder around the body area: in the modern "proper" approach to kimono, the ideal shape is one without curves, so wearers are usually padded with handtowels around places like the small of the back, the waist, and even above the bust at times.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Rakuten and Buyo Techniques

If you've never used Rakuten (I have friends who swear by it), it's a collection of online Japanese stores that (usually) speak simple English and ship internationally. I placed my first order through the site yesterday, for a super-tall-size yukata wide enough wrist to wrist to accommodate the sleeve moves in my dance class and my extra-long reach. Apparently I missed my calling as a boxer...^_^;

I'll let y'all know how the purchase works out and recommend the shop if I have a good experience with them!

I had my third lesson yesterday, working through what I've learned so far and adding more steps to the dance I'm learning (in theory... I'm pretty bad at this!). So far, though I'm sure there are more, I've learned at least three ways to hold a kimono sleeve in your hand.

The first is basically making a "come here, baby" curl with your index finger landing over your thumb (pinching the edge of your sleeve) with your other fingers curled into a loose fist. Only the tip of your index finger shows.

The second is the same positioning, but your ring and pinky finger catch and pinch the edge of the sleeve against your palm and your entire hand is exposed.

The final one is where your fingers all extend straight, but while your other fingers are inside the sleeve, the index finger is outside, the sleeve lying between your index and middle finger. The kimono sleeve naturally drapes atop your index finger again, hiding it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

10,000 Free Flights to Japan?

The Internet is abuzz with news the Japanese tourism board is hoping to offer 10,000 free flights to Japan in 2012 in an effort to boost the ailing tourism industry greatly affected by the March 11 disaster and nuclear-plant issues.

While I'm as excited as the next person, please remember that this is all pending budgetary approval by the government. Several sites I've seen are stating this as fact when it's still up in the air.

I'll post again if the plan does get approved and include links on where to apply. If they do go through with it, please let me know if you get one: I'd love to share your travel story here on my blog! :)

(I've already been told I should apply, but having lived there as long as I did I don't think I'm the "new blood" they're after. ;) )

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Nihon Buyo Lessons!

After months of wanting to learn Nihon buyo 日本舞踊(traditional Japanese dance), I was lucky enough to find a teacher, the dancer at the taiko concert I recently attended. :) I'll be posting tips and basic steps here as I learn them myself, for those of you out there who are interested.

My first day was hard work and a lot of fun. I learned proper sitting, standing, entering a stage area, basic moves, and began learning a dance for "Ume ni mo haru" 梅にも春, a traditional New Year's/early spring song that starts with the promise of spring coming in the form of ume (plum) blossoms, which bloom in Japan in January/February.

Starting a Dance

For total beginners, here's how to properly sit, bow, and stand at the beginning of an entrance (at this point you are standing, feet together facing the audience).

1. Slide one foot slightly behind you.
2. Kneel so that your toes only are on the floor behind you. As you kneel the knee of the foot remaining in front will rise higher naturally than the other knee, which is normal. Just slide it back down into place so that both feet are even with each other and bent with only your toes on the floor.
3. Flatten your feet.
4. While this is going on, your left hand should be on your thigh and your right hand placing your fan in front of you parallel to your knees. Slide your right hand back onto your right thigh.
5. You are now seated. Slide both hands down along your legs to make a triangle on the floor, thumbs and index fingers touching. Keep your elbows tucked in, where your wrists are basically tucked just to the outside of your knees.
6. Bow, keeping your back and neck straight, eyes lowering with the movement of your head.
7. As you come back up, the left hand goes back up to the thigh, and pick up the fan with your right hand.
8. Slide the left foot forward slightly, bringing your left foot up back so that only your toes are touching the floor.
9. Bring your right foot back up on its toes too.
10. Stand, and then slide your right foot up so it's even next to your left.
11. Begin your dance!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Saotome Taichi: Hakuouki's Prettiest Boy of All

While wandering around the Internet, I ran across this clip from a popular TV show back in 2008 showing a 16-year-old Saotome Taichi 早乙女太一 . Taichi is an "onnagata", a traditional/Kabuki type of male actor who plays female roles. His type of performances, though, are not strictly Kabuki.

This idea of men playing women comes from the fact the first Kabuki female roles way back when were played by women, but their male fans had a nasty habit of starting fights and killing each other over who was the actress's biggest fan. So the government banned women from the stage. (As homosexual behavior was seen as completely normal for centuries, this plan didn't quite work out: fanboys continued to freak out over their male favorites, and the government finally changed the ban from just women to women and adult men.)

Famed SMAP singer Kimutaku, one of the hosts of the TV show, says in a funny moment after the performance, "Wow, I feel a little gay... if this were the Edo period I'd have fallen for you!" I can't blame him, so I went poking around the Internet for other performances and information on Taichi.

It turns out he also takes on more contemporary male roles, and he played Hijikata Toshizo (seen above) in Hakuouki's live stage version back in October 2010.

I know a few of you are Hakuouki fans, so if you haven't seen this clip reel yet, enjoy! (If you're not familiar with the series, Hakuouki started as a girls' dating video game set around 100 years ago, featuring the real-life Shinsengumi group.)

Taichi is the first actor they show individually, wearing a deep purple kimono.