Christmas Vacation-part 2

I apologize for the long lapse in time in this saga. We have been especially busy getting back into the groove of things at school. Plus, our school-wide play performance is just around the corner so all our extra time at school is being used. But the story must go on….

We left Busan at the International Ferry Terminal at 8pm. There are a few options for ferries to Japan but we chose to go on the longest one because we would be able to sleep on the boat, hence, saving us a night in a hotel. We boarded the boat and were led to a carpeted room with no furniture that held maybe 12 people. There was a little shelf to put your luggage and then just carpet. Each person got a bed roll, blanket, and pillow to sleep with, allof which was neatly at our sleeping “spot”. In true Korean fashion, you just layed on the floor and went to sleep. The boat took off around 9pm and it was smooth sailing. The boat wasn’t full at all so we had the run of the place. It could be compared to a mini-cruise ship complete with a bar, gift shop and slot machine room. We rented a karaoke room for an hour and sang the night away. When we woke up at 7:35am, we were at Japan!

We disembarked off the ship and flew through customs with no problems. We then just walked down a ramp right into the train station. I was not concerned about the language barrier in Japan because we had our phrasebook and even better, Kevin knew how to read Japanese from high school. We were quick to find everything we needed including the bank for money exchanging, the train station, and we discovered that we didn’t leave the sweet bakeries of Korea behind. They were all over in Japan too! We purchased the Japan Rail Pass so we could ride all the bullet trains for once price for 7 days. If not, our train costs would have been over $1000 dollars each! So after getting our passes in order, we were off on our first bullet ride to Osaka where we would stay for the night.

This story must be told. As you know, we were traveling with our family, adding 4 extra people onto our usual 2. It has been awhile since I personally traveled with 6 people, let alone my family. Nevertheless, we were confident that we would be able to stick together. We mostly worried about losing Deb, who is directionally challenged sometimes. So, we were really keeping a close eye on her. She did a great job the entire trip and didn’t get too lost (at least she would let us know when she might get lost!) Well, we were standing at the train station in Shimosheki, tickets in hand. Our cousin Cody (age 20) needed to go to the bathroom. We told him to hurry, the train would be there in 10 min. He took off down the stairs into a huge, busy, underground area that connects all 5 million tracks at the station. Well, he didn’t come back. Our Aunt Deb was calm on the outside, but you could see the panic starting to set it. Jason and I took one look at each other and secretly communicated in our special married language “we must find Cody NOW!” while still smiling and then set out to find Cody. We are used to getting lost and it happens to the best of us, so, we weren’t that worried, but you don’t tell a mother not to worry about her baby. After a few moments, out train came and went without us. So, now we weren’t really in a hurry to find him, we had another 30 min. until the next train. Finally, we recovered Cody who had gotten turned around after coming out the bathroom. He was a good sport about it and was able to laugh about it (ok, more like forced to laugh about it).

But we did make it to Osaka to our lovely hotel later in the day. We hit the town running, going out to “Geisha hunt” in the Gion district. If you have ever heard of a geisha, you have heard of Oskaka, which is the geisha capital of the world. Geisha’s are not prosititues, but highly trained musicians, singers and conversationalists. Although we could not afford to hire one for a night of entertainment (can be around $3000 for a few hours over dinner), Jessica and I had the unique opportunity to dress up in full geisha gear the next morning.

For only $65 bucks, we were taken away into a beauty parlor for geisha’s. They had the process down, similar to an assembly line but with more pampering. You were given white robes to put on and special geisha socks. Did you ever wonder why Asian people wear socks with their sandals? Well, their socks have a slit between the big toe and the other piggies that allows the sandal to comfortably slip right in. Go figure.

After we were in our robes, we were whisked upstairs to have our make-up put on. I say put-on because they literally paint it on you. The white is supposed to represent the geisha’s pureness. They have a huge brush and everything is covered, including your neck and clavicles. They leave the back of your neck exposed in the shape of a “W” to remind the men of something I can’t mention in this G-rated blog, but it’s refered to as your “peach”. After the white paint they set it with white powder. You could have touched my face and the white would have stayed. Then they expertly paint your new eyebrows on along with some almond shaped eye makeup. I was in love. The red lipstick and fake eyelashes complete the look. Well, I wasn’t looking too Geisha because as many of you know, I’m neither Asian or dark-haired. My geisha masters had thought of that. They had 30 full wigs (decorations included) that are so realistic it was kinda scary. So after I was transformed by the wig, I was able to pick out my own kimono. I chose a beautiful blue and red one. It seemed simple but again, I had no idea what I was in for. For the next 15 min. two girls worked to tie me into the kimono! Layer after layer was applied, tied, and tucked until there wasn’t much of a body shape left. In traditional geisha wear, there can be up to 15 layers!Then, to top of it off, they added to myback what is called an obi, which is really heavy and forces your shoulders back. If I had to go to the bathroom I would have held it till I passed out because there was NO way I would even fit in a stall let along get anywhere near my underwear at this point. I heard that once you wear a kimono, you would understand that a geisha couldn’t be a prostitute even if she wanted to. I stand by that statement.

So our geisha experience came with 3 professional pictures and a bunch taken outside by our own cameras. Deb had a great time shooting Jessica and I out in the streets. People were stopping to take our pictures and staring! You couldn’t have picked me out of a line-up because I looked so different with the whole thing on. After a little while, we were forced to come inside and start the hour process of taking everything off and using baby oil to remove our geisha face. Overall, I would say it was one of the best experiences I have had so far on our trip. If you really want to understand someone and their culture, you can just walk a mile in their shoes….but there is no WAY I could have walked a mile in the 6 inch platform sandals they gave us to waddle around in! My geisha wig is off to the real geisha women who do that everyday.

I am going to leave it there for Jason to add his experience in Japan……to be continued with Part 3!

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