Kaycee's Keitai

This started as pictures taken from my cell phone (keitai) in Japan, but now that we're back in the U.S. it has evolved into a running commentary on all things Japanese. Look for more pictures each week of stuff from Japan through the eyes of a gaijin (foreigner).

Sunday, July 1, 2007

That's one tall maiko

Maiko are apprentice geisha and one of the few places in the world you can see them is Kyoto. Unfortunately, there are very few Maiko left in Japan because it takes a lot of study over many years to become a geisha and the demand for them is not high these days. However, when a Japanese girl makes a sightseeing trip to Kyoto, she can recapture the romantic past by dressing up as a Maiko and walking around the picturesque city. Nabbed this picture of two girls reliving the past when we were shopping in Kyoto. What clued me in to the fact they weren't real Maiko?
  • they were in full regalia in the early afternoon and Maiko work at night. During the day, they may have their hair up (they usually don't wear wigs) but wouldn't be in this type of kimono and make-up
  • there wasn't anyone with them carrying their tools of the trade: shamisen, make-up box, etc.
  • the girl on the right is way too tall

Although I was a bit put off with the "fake" Maiko populating Kyoto, it did make for a more interesting trip to look up and see someone stepping out of the past while I was shopping for souvenirs. For those interested in a little Maiko cosplay, the privelege will cost from $100 to $200, depending on how long you wear the kimono and how many portraits you have taken.

expensive apple

Gotta love the way they treat apples in Japan. Snapped this picture of a regular apple in the grocery store, cradled in it's own protective wrapping, polished but not waxed, with the individual price tag stuck to it. This is about $2 for a medium-sized apple. My personal theory about the expense is that growing fruit is labor-intensive. When they appear on the tree, each piece of fruit is individually wrapped in brown paper and tied with a string by hand. This is done in the place of insecticide, I'm told. I'm sure it's healthier, but it makes for one expensive apple.

Baby on Board

Only in Japan will you find this notice, sent in by alert reader, Sunny, who is an English teacher in Okayama prefecture. What I like even better than the Samurai sign, is the reflection of Sunny taking the picture. OK, so she didn't use a cell phone, but this was too good to pass up! Thanks, Sunny.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

red shoes

Was at a party the other day with a bunch of college students and I thought my fashionista friends back home would appreciate some of the outfits represented among the youth of Japan today.

Last time I lived here no one of any age would have been caught dead wearing red, and it's not exactly a color you see splashed all over clothing now, but I did catch this daring glimpse of a red shoe at the party.

But even more interesting is the current fasion of wearing dresses or skirts with pants. This fashion trendsetter had her own take on the fad with nylon, lace-trimmed leggings and a very long tunic top. I just don't "get" the attraction of wearing jeans with dresses or skirts, but this look is something I could get into.
If only I were a about 30+ years younger.
And had a Japanese body.


Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Kyoto -- cultural icon of Nippon

During the spring"Golden Week" -- so called because there are three national holidays in the same week -- we visited Kyoto. OF COURSE! I had been there many times before when I lived in Japan for six years in the late 1990s, but I couldn't imagine leaving Japan without my seven-year-old daughter seeing this icon of culture. And besides my friend from America was visiting and a trip to Kyoto is de rigeur (I know that is French, but I don't know how to say it in Japanese and even if I did, would you understand it? I didn't think so!). Anyway, among the obvious stuff -- girls dressed in kimono, a shinto wedding at a shrine, Buddhist priests begging in the streets, charming pools of Japanese koi (gold fish), gardens overflowing with spring blooms, I snapped a picture of something you could only see in Kyoto, Japan. The no bicycle sign (in itself, something you wouldn't see in most major cities in North America) with the silhouetted geisha under it. And to make it even more interesting -- if you could read the Japanese, you would see that the warning is written in the local Kyoto dialect rather than standard Japanese. Gotta love this city.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Concrete Grace

Man, I wish I didn't have that rule about having to use my cell phone for these pix! Oh well. This is a water basin in Korakuen Garden, officially known as "one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan." I don't know who comes up with these official designations, but there are three most beautiful gardens in Japan -- everyone knows that! And Korakuen is one of them. I'm lucky because this famous garden is located right in downtown Okayama, the prefecture I live in. In fact, without Korakuen, I doubt if Okayama would be more than a stop on the shinkansen line for people going from Osaka to Hiroshima. But I digress . . . On our visit to this garden, we saw quaint water basins like this everywhere. This one was about the size of a doggie bathtub with the esthetic bamboo laid "casually" across the top and the curving water cup placed at an angle on top of it. The cup is made of bamboo and this picture really doesn't do it justice. The handle arcs back like a ballerina's arm -- delicate grace combined with sturdy rock. It's such a quintessential Japanese picture, I just had to snap it with my cell phone and share it with you.

Wish Me Luck

In Japan, people don't carry four-leaf clovers or rabbits' feet. They don't cross their fingers and they seem unafraid of ladders. They do, however, throw stones to the top of tori gates for good luck. Snapped this picture at an ancient gate in Kyoto when were were there last weekend. If you look closely, you can see the stones that have been tossed up for good luck. The trick is that you can't simply place the stones on the tori, but you have to skillfully toss them so they land on the narrow cross piece. This is easier said than done, considering how high these tori gates can be. Also, remember that you have to toss it so it flies slightly above the desired target before gently settling down, not hitting the stone on top or dislodging anyone else's lucky tosses. In my opinion, if you can do all of this, you already ARE a lucky person -- but there's no such thing as too much good fortune, I guess.