Asakusa, an essential sightseeing spot on any tourist in Tokyo's trip. With the tall, red lamps of Kaminarimon, Asakusa Temple to pray at, Ueno's museums and zoo next door, as well as Ameya, there's more to see in Asakusa than anyone can hope to go through in a day. There is, however, another interesting spot hidden inside that we'll be exploring today.
JAPAN CULTURE EXPERIENCE TOURS -YUMENOYA- is a store where customers can easily experience wearing traditional Japanese clothing. Convenience is the name of the game of this highly popular store, being only a minute’s walk from Asakusa Temple and having kimonos that you can wear on top of your clothes. On top of that, they'll do your hair for you, take your pictures, and give you the photos all in the same day. It takes about twenty minutes for a single person to go through the process, so if you're hurting for time, this is where you want to go.
Today, four students currently studying Japanese at a university in Canton who are on summer vacation in Japan stopped by the store on their way back from a trip to Asakusa and transformed into kimono-clad beauties! This is what happened.
From Shopping to Fully Dressed in a Flash
The four pass by the shoes shop on the first floor of the building to get to JAPAN CULTURE EXPERIENCE TOURS -YUMENOYA-, which sits on the second floor. They immediately start choosing which kimono they'd like to wear from the ones hung up on the rails. Here, you can choose a kimono by its tone, its color, or its pattern! No matter how tall or short you are, you don't need to worry about its size, because the professional will adjust it when she's putting it on you.
"Wow, which one should I go with?"
For patterns, there's fans, flowers, and other Japanese motifs, and the colors range from blues to reds. Once you pick your kimono, the fitting process immediately begins.
The length of the kimono is adjusted at the waist, so the professional will tighten the waist string to adjust the length of the garment, then tie the obi sash around it. Now, you need to apply taste to your choice of obi as much as you did to your kimono. The fun is in the coordination -- making a unique combination of different colors, aiming for a refined look by picking the same colors for your obi and kimono... There's all sorts of possibilities.
The obi isn't the only thing that decorates your waist, either. The obi-age decorates the upper part of the stiff cloth belt, and the obi-shime keeps the obi in place with tied string -- and all of these pieces are other parts to consider when thinking of your color combination. There are more kimono parts than just those named here, but you don't need to worry -- the staff will put it on you quickly and skillfully.
A New Hairstyle for Your Kimono
Once they've tied the obi, next comes making your hair match your kimono. Whether your hair's long or short, they'll balance it out to make it match.
After their transformations, everyone seems to speak a lot less. Are the obis tight, or something?
"No, not at all! I'm just so happy to get to wear such a beautiful kimono..."
Now that they've finished putting on their kimonos, it's time to go to the small studio in the next room and take pictures. What kind of pictures will they take...?
A Photoshoot Before a Golden Folding Screen
The first thing we see in the studio is a golden folding screen! Customers pose in front of it and have their pictures taken. Luckily, the same staff that helped put the kimonos on also show you how to make the best looking poses. All of Yumenoya's staff is part of the nearly 100-year-old Japanese Creative Dance group, Takafuji Dance Company, which is where they picked up their kimono dressing and hairstyling skills. They're excellent at coaching poses, as well. Now, our model stands before the golden screen! The first picture is one in the standing position with the hands together.
The next pose is one with the arms out, to show the sleeves' pattern. You pinch the edge of the sleeve to gracefully show it off. Now, it's best to pick the kimono you want, but if you're not sure what to go with, they recommend this: go with a flashy design that you can see in its entirety if you're tall, and if you're shorter, try going with a pattern that won't break up after its been shortened at the waist.
Next come shots with props, such as fans. You're supposed to hold the fan backwards with the back of your wrist facing forwards, leaning over and making sure not to hide your face... It's a little complicated to explain, but the cameraman sets up a beautiful pose right then and there.
The last pose is sitting on the knees and bowing with the hands together. Though everyone was shaky making their poses at first, they seem to be used to moving around in kimono now, wearing faint smiles that perfectly match their outfits.
Last, everyone poses together. Just lining up makes the scene seem brighter and more beautiful.
As if remembering that they'd want to take their own pictures since they're in kimono, everyone takes out their phones and starts snapping away.
"I want to show my friends and family!"
The group takes selfies and group photos, cheering all the while.
The staff tells me that most of the kimono here are genuine, high-quality silk pieces. Oh, and they also have traditional wear for men, as well, and that there are foreign guests who dress up as samurai or comic characters. Besides the kimono experience and photoshoot we went over today, JAPAN CULTURE EXPERIENCE TOURS -YUMENOYA- also offers a kimono-clad tour of Asakusa, a samurai experience, a courtesan experience, and more. If you've ever wanted to try that, give this place a try if you find yourself in Japan.
So, how did everyone feel about wearing kimono today?
"I've worn a yutaka at a school event before, but I've never worn a beautiful kimono like this. It was a really valuable experience."
"It happened so fast so it doesn't really feel like I wore it, but I was surprised at how skilled the staff were in putting it on me."
"Well, I'm a woman, so I love beautiful clothes. I want to wear a kimono and walk around town in the Edo era -- that's the feel it gave me."
"We've been to a lot of places, like to a tea ceremony and the museum, and it's all been fun, but wearing a kimono was one of the most fun things we've done here. I'll never forget it."
They reluctantly take off their kimonos and return to their regular clothes. After leaving Yumenoya, they look back a few times, with the magic still on their faces leaving a deep impression
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