Last week my friend, Julie, helped me arrange an amazing opportunity. I had found out that one of her friends dresses people in gorgeous kimonos. I asked Julie if she could ask her friend would let me take pictures next time she was dressing someone. Julie messaged me back saying that her friend, Kazue, was going to be dressing some people for a performance that weekend and that I was invited to come take pictures.
Early Sunday morning, I met Kazue’s husband, Naoki, by the West Gate and followed him to the Children’s museum about 30 mins from base. I had never been to this museum before but it was easy to find. It was mostly a big theatre. In a large room in the back was where everyone getting ready for the performance. I met Kazue back there. She was really sweet and showed me where to sit. She asked that I only photograph the women she was getting ready which I agreed to.
I don’t understand much of what Kazue was doing because she speaks only a little bit of English and I am very limited with my Japanese but I quite intrigued by what she was doing. She started by doing each of the women’s face make up. They sat in pairs as she painted their faces white and lined their eyes in black and red.
After she finished their make up, she would paint their necks and chest white. I know it was probably inappropriate but it reminded me of a scene in Memoirs Of A Geisha where Chiyo described how Auntie painted Hatsumomo’s neck. I love when I get to experience something I have read in book. Makes the story seem more real.
Once Kazue finished with each of the women’s makeup, the women would start getting dressed in their kimono. Kazue helped with the outer layers to make sure the kimono were shaped correctly and hung in the right way. It was fascinating to watch her work. She had different clips to make the collar of the kimono to sit in the right place while she tied the obis and whatnot.
As she finished with the women, the women would put on their hair pieces and headbands for their performances. They tried to tell me a bit of their characters. Two were suppose to samurai. I’m not sure what the others were suppose to because of the language barrier.
Once everyone was dressed, Kazue painted their lips red and painted their arms white. It was neat to see how they used a long ribbon to tie back both of their kimono sleeves so they wouldn’t be in the way.
Once everyone was ready, Kazue showed me to the theatre. The program had already started but I had only missed one dance. There were quite a few different dances being preformed by all the different dancers. Most were women but I did see two men performing a different times. It was absolutely beautiful to watch everyone dance. Even though I had never seen this type of performance before, I kind of understood some of the stories being told through dance. The dancers would use their props in interesting ways to express the story. A fan could be a tea cup in which the dancer would drink out of or an umbrella twirled in a way to show that the performer was riding in a cart.
I was blown away by how amazing everything was. Seeing a performance like this was something I wanted to do ever since I had read Memoirs Of A Geisha, even before I had known we were going to Japan. To be able to go behind the scenes and see the women get ready, was amazing. I loved this adventure and was so happy I could experience.