こんにちわ！ひさしぶりですね。Or, hello it’s been a while! I missed last weeks installation of this blog due to an influx of testing and field trips. We did a lot these recent weeks but I have fewer pictures than I would have liked this time around. Because of that, this entry will focus on a little bit more of the way of life in Japan as opposed to what we’ve been up to near the end.
Although it pains me a bit to say, during our fourth week I took few pictures. This was mostly because around 80% of what we did was studying and going to school, which left little time to consider what would make good blogging material. However, last Saturday we spent the day in Kyoto on a field trip for our Traditional Japanese Beauty class!
We started the day early with a class on Shibori, a technique of dying cloth in Japan.
The first step in Shibori is folding your cloth, there are many ways to do it but most of us chose to fold our cloth like a sandwich, believing that it would make the coolest pattern.
Next, you need to form a pattern with clamps. Shibori rather like tie dye except instead of tying a cloth with rubber bands you clamp it with wood and a vice. Bianca used a cat shaped clamp, and I used a sort of hourglass shape.
Next, you want to dye your cloth by dunking it in a hot vat of dye. Depicted below is the very nice instructor that was teaching us Shibori dunking someone’s clamped cloth.
After that, you can remove the clamps and change their position. The idea behind this is that before you submerge your cloth in dye a second time (to make a non-primary color such as green or purple) changing the orientation and position of the clamp will leave the initial color in some areas and not in others, further increasing the complexity of your design.
Shibori seems like a simple process, but it produces surprisingly beautiful designs! It was really fun to see everyone reveal their designs. The instructor who was teaching us made each reveal an event with a count down (一、二、三、それ！）!
And here’s Bianca’s:
That wasn’t the end of our time in that building though, the rest of the rooms were filled with a museum of Japanese cloth-styling techniques. There was a particular type of cloth dying technique that involves tying thousands of knots the size of a tenth of a pea, and then unravelling the knots after dying. The process can take days for simple designs and really makes one understand why Kimonos are so expensive. They also mentioned that the craft is dying, as it takes a lot of skill and time to produce the tied cloth, and the younger generation wants nothing to do with it.
Speaking of Kimonos, while in the museum Bianca was offered a chance to wear a Kimono. It was a lot of fun, and she looked quite the Japanese beauty!
Everyone had a really good time, but it was time to leave! We ate lunch, and moved on to the last event of the evening: Japanese print-making. Unfortunately my camera broke so no pictures here, but the process involves using stencils and a paint-like dye to create patterns on pieces of cloth. Personally, I didn’t find it too fun, but Bianca loved it! It’s almost like a coloring book with more freedom.
Clubs and Circles
Recently, me and our friend Jay wanted to join a club, but we soon found out that clubs are much more serious in Japan than in the US. By this time, most of the members are veterans of their craft. They most likely practiced all throughout high school: music club members have been playing for a long time and are expected to play shows with the club, and sports members are expected to try and carry their club through national competitions.
We really weren’t looking for that, and besides that we aren’t good enough at Japanese to do it, so we joined a circle. Circles are basically like clubs in the US, where members show up as they please and don’t really spend all their time thinking about what they’re doing there–it’s just for fun.
The circle we joined was called “JACK.” I don’t know why it’s called that, but the club is a solo-guitar circle. Everyone was really nice, and me and a guy named “hama-chan” managed to make a cool tune together.
Buying Instruments in Japan
If you’ve ever thought, “maybe it’s cheaper in Japan” you were probably wrong. I’ve found that most things in Japan are a far bit more expensive than the United States, with the exception of food. Most clothing is marked up around 20% more than the same or similar clothing in the US, and music shops sell Guitars and other instruments at severely marked up prices. I’m talking 2 to 3 times the price for a Guitar if you are in the wrong store.
As I mentioned, I recently joined a solo-guitar circle. If you know me well enough, you’d know that I didn’t bring a Guitar to Japan. I’m also not a big Guitar guy, but I am a big Ukulele guy! Since I neglected to bring my own Ukulele, I decided purchasing my own would be a good way to involve myself in Japan a bit more.
A cursory look at music stores near my home showed me that there was a surplus of overpriced items. It took a lot of talking before someone managed to tell me a store that sold instruments at good prices. If you are ever in the Kansai area, いっしばしがっき(isshibashi gakki) is the way to go! If you are just in Japan shopping for instruments, Google Maps the word がっき. It means instrument and it will show you mostly music stores around you, and the occasional concert hall.
Thankfully, Isshibashi had a cheap 40 dollar Ukulele. I’m quite happy with it, and I’ve already met a few Japanese people thanks to it!
That’s all for now,
(see you next week).