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Mandy Mand in Japan
I realised that wearing a black and white polka dot lace thong was not the best move!

Yosakur: Cherry Trees at Night

Dear All, Hope you are all ok and groovytastic! Things are going well job wise - I am now a kids teacher and get to sing lots of`blue triangle and red circle` songs, play games, colour in and generally run around like a five year old - its great! The kids are really cute and very hello kitty tastic - feel as though we have lots in common!

I've finished my probation and got an 'excellent' in my observational training assessment - hurray! The students still think I`m mad and I've even got the Japanese staff whooping 'hurray'! One little old granny spends the whole lesson laughing and hitting me! she even brought in her camera (well she is Japanese!) and we spent the lesson taking photos of each other without my boss seeing - felt very naughty! Life in Japan is starting to get easier - I now know that octopus is completely different to chicken. I've been taking japanese lessons and can now say `this is my pen` - wahey! just you wait - in six months time I`ll be fluent! We had cherry blossom week a while back. The trees are filled with pretty pink flowers and it only lasts a week so you have to be quick! The Japanese get very excited about cherry blossom and throw big festivals and parties.

I went to a temple in Nara which is the home of a big, big and I mean big buddha!! (no not a real one!!) It's pretty spectacular! The trees were covered in cherry blossom and the parks full of deer. I bought a packet of cute japanese biscuits whilst there which had a bit of a funny taste - it wasn`t until someone pointed out that they were meant for the deer that I understood why! also got told off for drinking the sacred water at the temple. You get a mini saucepan and are supposed to wash your hands with the water - didn't realise this and so starting glugging it back to wash out the taste from the deer biccies.

A little Japanese dude came over and started rambling on in Japanese to me. I thought he was just being friendly until he pointed out the sign behind saying 'no drinking!' - doh! at least I've got a good excuse - well two actually..I'm English and blonde! Also went to Himeji castle for cherry blossom. By this time the petals were beginning to fall so we sat under the trees, drinking saki, eating doughnuts with petals dropping everywhere like confetti and watched the cherry blossom parties which were taking place. Everywhere you looked there were businessmen dressed in their suits with jackets and shoes neatly folded, chopsticks in one hand and saki in the other - it was mad!

Before cherry blossom we had Easter. For all you chocaholics - Japan isn`t the best place to celebrate Easter - trust me for picking a buddhist country! Not a choccy egg in sight! However, our group of friends decided we weren`t gonna let it slip by without some sort of celebration and so an 'Easter Bonnet party' was held. My two flatmates and I made our noses, ears and tails one evening Blue Peter styley and had a most bunny tastic time. Don't think the japs knew quite was going on - three geigins in bunny clothes walking down the street with tails bobbing must have looked just a little strange! The most memorable day so far, however, was last weekend when my two flatmates (Jill & Michelle) and I went Geisha spotting in Kyoto.

Jill is leaving to go home to England soon so we all travelled up to Kyoto and headed for the Ginkakuji Temple - otherwise known as the Silver Temple. The temple isn`t actually silver - in fact - I didn't see anything silver so not really sure about that one. I wasn't really completely convinced by the whole silver thing but the gardens were extremely beautiful and it was there that we spotted our first Geisha. Hurray! They were really sweet and posed for a photo with us - tourist tastic! They even asked where we were from.

The poor girls were being pursued by fascinated tourists wherever they went - maybe they shouldn't have worn so much make up! We had decided to book ourselves into a photo studio where we were going to be dressed up as maikos (trainee geishas) and although Jill was a little reluctant to begin with - we managed to sweet talk her around with the promise of a stiff drink beforehand. The drink never happened however as we were late for our appointment. Had to grab a cab to the studio where the taxi man got very excited about three geigin being dressed up true Japanese styley and drove like a maniac to get us there. The whole maiko experience was in a word 'wierd' We were ushered into a very small dressing room full of japanese girls scrubbing off white make up. We were made to change into a very thin white and extremely see thru hospital gown with odd looking socks - only two holes for your toes!! This was probably when I realised that wearing a black and white polka dot lace thong was not the best move! Fortunately the Japanese are very modest creatures and gave me a towel to cover my modesty - bless!

Photo: Frantisek Straud
Next stop - make up!!
They put my hair into - yes you`ve guessed it - a big fish net stocking and wrapped my head in a blue cloth - looked extremely nun-like!! White clay was then slapped all over my face and neck and I felt like a garden fence being painted. They painted my shoulders and neck which almost felt like a massage in a strange sort of way. You could feel the cold thick slimy clay being pounded on and I knew that I would get a thousands spots the next day! Jill was doing her Jean Marcel impression and kept making me laugh. Thank goodness my make up lady had a lot of patience. She kept letting me have a giggle before continuing to try to paint my lips. It must be pretty difficult to keep a straight line when someone is constantly sniggering! My eyes were painted wacky red and I had thick black eyeliner topped off with lashings of thick black mascara - the result was pretty terrifying! worse then a me first thing in the morning look and that's pretty terrifying too!! After make up it was kimono choosing time. I chose a dark blue one with flowers and a red lining. The reason for blue was purely for simple vanity reasons only - figured it would look more slimming.

You begin with a red underskirt and a white muslim top. Your breasts are bound with rope both above and below. A towel is place over your breasts and bound on (this is to get rid of the western shape apparently!!) Next is the Kimono which is once again bounded on. My dresser said to me before hand `this may hurt 'no kidding! I felt as though my whole ribcage had been crushed. A plastic padded rectangle was then added infront and bound on. I chose a green sash for the waist bit and they made a pretty bow at the back which was all fixed together with more binding and a rainbow coloured belt.

It didn't really help that my dresser came up to my waist as all I could see were these little hands appear under my armpits as she fiercely wrapped around more and more rope! Hardly able to stand, breathe, sit or fart even I was shuffled over to the wig department where they plonked one of those strange looking wigs on my head complete with blue butterflies, green flowers and a cross between windchimes and a tv aerial sticking out. Finally I was led into the photo studio to have my picture taken with the girls who were also finding it pretty impossible to move! We had one photo taken together and three on our own with various props such as fans, balls and parasols. With the help from my dresser - as at this point I couldn't move - we put on these mad wooden shoes and were allowed to step outside for five minutes to take our photos. If you paid extra you could enjoy a 60 minute walk around the town - people were laughing at us as it were - we certainly didn`t need any more additional torment.

Plus - it would probably have taken us 60 minutes to get down the stairs. The relief that came when they took off my head piece and kimono was indescribable. It felt so light! and slowly - as each piece of clothing and rope came off - my breathing slowly came back to me.

An hour later we were still scrubbing off the white paint which had set firmly onto our faces. Looking slightly more rosy and with a little bit more colour in our cheeks we waited for our photos and then pegged it to the nearest pub! The photos turned out pretty good but I don't think the Maiko look is something I'd like to follow on a day to day basis. You can`t smile for one as the white face makes your teeth look ghastly yellow - not an attractive sight. You kind of feel like Queen Elizabeth in the olden days and how you could ever breathe, eat or go to the toilet is completely beyound me. I respect them for going through all that torture and wearing that amount of clothing and rope on such a hot day. No wonder the Japanese women are so quiet and nod their head lots - with a wig that digs into your head so hard its practically impossible to smile, talk or even jump around shouting 'hurray' - its definitely not very pink and fluffy tastic. Can you believe I was actually quiet for two hours!!!.. ...thats just not normal!... I think I`m hapy sticking to my logo t-shirts and sneakers.

Next month I think I'm gonna experiment with the 'monk look' i.e. black robe and a brown wicker lampshade stuck on me head - will see how that goes and keep you informed! hope your all having fun love and cuddles Mandy Mand xxxxxx


you MUST have at least one Louis Vuitton bag, a Tiffany's necklace
and of course that essential pink sparkly phone!

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