Tokyo BL Diary: Month 10

4

Wednesday 10th

I’ve come to realise that reading manga only gives you a very limited — and sometimes even misleading — window into Japanese culture. This probably shouldn’t have surprised me, given that mass-produced fiction (and maybe comics especially) are often written for audiences seeking something very different from their own reality.

One thing that does crop up a fair bit in both manga and real life in Japan, though, is traditional clothing like kimono and yukata. I first learnt about yukata (summer robes) from the charming BL series Tenki Youhou no Koibito/ 天気予報ノ恋人 (The Weatherman is My Lover).

yukata

Or to be more exact, I learnt what they were from Liquid Eros’ translator’s note.

These days, traditional Japanese clothes are usually only worn by people on special occasions, such as coming-of-age ceremonies and during summer festivals. (Though you can occasionally see older ladies in beautiful kimono walking around upscale shopping areas like Ginza).

Since living in Japan, I’ve been ranted to about the superiority of kimono and other traditional Japanese attire quite a bit: they’re cut from whole cloth, involve draping and therefore suit most figures, allow free movement and are therefore practical in daily life etc etc.

But when the opportunity recently came up for me to buy and wear a yukata to a boat cruise party around Tokyo Bay, I was a tad skeptical. I’ve always thought traditional Asian clothes (from qipao to cheongsam to kimono) look faintly ridiculous on Caucasians like me; like a sort of wannabe Asian cosplay.

pikachu costume

Though you’ll notice my reservations regarding cosplay do not extend to wearing Pikachu jumpsuits.

But I was eventually talked around by some friends, especially when one’s grandmother offered to get her friend — a professional yukata dresser — to come around and help us put ours on. (A terrifyingly complex process for we, the uninitiated).

So I capitulated. But it turns out buying a yukata is not as easy as walking into Uni Qlo and buying a pair of inexplicable satin culottes.

uni qlo shorts

Why Uni Qlo why???

You can buy yukata separately or in a set, which usually comes with a (supposedly) matching obi (belt) and geta (sandals). I went ahead and ordered a set online, though when it arrived the geta didn’t fit my giant gaijin flipper feet, so I settled for a pair of all-black flip-flops instead.

thongs

And yes, I felt the Australian-ness surging back into me as soon as I put them on.

And then I found out that it’s not enough to buy the clothes, you have to buy a 5-piece dressing kit in order to actually wear them.

yukata dressing kit

Basically, I was relieved when the day of the boat cruise finally arrived so I could actually do something with all these robes and collected accoutrements clogging up one whole drawer of my wardrobe.

We rented out a local hall to do our group’s yukata fitting, which was to take about 10-15 minutes per person. What followed was mostly a blur of holding up my arms and letting myself be wrestled and squished into the obi, which was holding everything up and in place.

photo1 small

It wasn’t long before I discovered a fact about yukata and kimono that had been withheld from me all along:

obi = corset

I could breathe, but only shallowly. Add to that walking/standing around for about 10 hours in the humidity of a Japanese summer day/night, and you can imagine that I finally found out the true meaning of “beauty is pain”.

Still, I’m going to take my yukata and its entourage of bits and bobs back home with me in a few weeks, even if it’ll take hours of Youtube tutorials to figure out how to put it on again.

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4 comments on “Tokyo BL Diary: Month 10

  1. Pamela says:

    I have 3 yukata, and I live in Michigan. Had bought them online years ago from a Japanese private company. The owner also sold -made to order- geta. I’m African-American. I’ve worn them mainly to cons. By, the way, how bad is the humidity during the summer months? I’ve heard it’s really bad. That’s why I’ve never visited Japan during this time. I know I would be miserable.

    • Ramona says:

      Being Australian, I’m used to high temperatures, but not humidity, so for me it feels really oppressive (even though it’s still July and apparently only gets *really* bad in August). And re geta, most of my friends wore theirs but later complained about sore feet (even wearing some extra plastic protection thing over the soles) so in the end I’m glad I went for flip-flops instead ;)

      • Mike says:

        I’ve been to Japan in both July and August and beleive me it’s hideous! It never gets any colder either, I went barefoot into my ex-girlfriends tiled shower room, with the window wide open, at 3 in the morning, and it could have been 1 in the afternoon, not a degree cooler!
        Late august going into September is a bit nicer, it’s still humid but not quite as hot (you may even shiver if the wind catches you late at night), There’s a risk of rain, though, rain in July is super heavy but usually lasts only minutes.

        • Ramona says:

          I don’t know if it’s climate change, but the heaviest rain we had this July always lasted longer than the light (or “soft”) rain, which was thankfully brief if more frequent. But I’m definitely over the humidity ^^; <– actual sweat, not nervous sweat.

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