A 10- or 15-minute walk from our apartment is a big park called Yomiya Park. It has the usual park things, including trees, walking paths, large open areas, assorted playgrounds. As well as a kyudo—traditional Japanese archery— range, and a couple of ponds filled with irises. The irises are in bloom, and this weekend was the annual Tobata Iris Festival.
What does this have to do with kimono and unsavoury-sounding exchanges? Part of the festival was a sort of bazaar or flea market. People were set up with stalls hawking pottery, used clothing, knickknacks—zakka in the local parlance, food and drink, and so on. I noticed a vendor with tables of kimono and pointed it out to Lia, who has used-kimono shopping down to an art, so we wandered over.
The man in charge of the booth started to chat up Lia, and made a big deal out of Lia’s claim of “Just looking.” This eventually led to him telling Lia to wait a moment, and that he was going to find a gift for her. So we waited. And sort of eavesdropped as he directed one of his minions to find something appropriate. The minion dug out a bright orange—and by bright I mean safety orange—obi, or kimono belt. The owner looked displeased and eventually came back with a kimono jacket that perfectly matched Lia’s black-and-burgundy ensemble.
He then got Lia to put on the jacket and pointed out that it was pure silk, and that it would be easy to clean of some of the mildew spots, which were minor. This was a used jacket, and this is hot, muggy, mildewy Japan, after all. All the while he kept muttering “Kokusaika, kokusaika. International… International… intercourse.” and didn’t seem to think that his translation was quite right. As JET Programme participants, we’ve got it drilled into our heads that “Kokusaika” is internationalization. The concept refers to international cultural exchange. But the kimono vendor kept calling it international intercourse. Which, in the context of the old man who’d been stalking Lia with his camera since we had arrived at the park, made us wonder if the second word in his expression was open to misinterpretation. Perhaps the kimono man will look it up in his dictionary and realize his faux pas. For the record, one of my original title ideas for this post was “Kimono Slut Pressured into International Intercourse,” but I figured it was a bit too over-the-top.
Regardless, the kimono man was very happy to talk to us briefly to the best of his ability, and happy to give Lia a small token of his appreciation that a foreigner would come to this neighbourhood festival. He wasn’t so thrilled that his daughter—I’d guess she was ten or eleven—didn’t want to try a little bit of innocent “kokusaika” but there wasn’t a whole lot anyone could do about that.
The stalker with the camera? He followed us from the entrance to the park up through various festival stalls and kept trying to discreetly take pictures of Lia. At least I assume he was, because every time I’d turn around and look at him, he’d lower his camera, which had just been pointing in our direction. I made a bit of a game of trying to keep my ugly, bearded, halfbreed face between his camera and Lia, which was a bit of a challenge as the old man tried all sorts of camera angles. He tried an end run a round us, and when that didn’t work tried from some stairs above us. I guess me turning around and blatantly taking pictures of him wasn’t a big enough hint, but he eventually stomped off, probably when he finally realized that I was interfering on purpose.
Taking candid shots of interesting people is something I do a lot of, but if someone sees me take a photo of them and is obviously not impressed, I stop. Not this guy. Later on he reappeared and resumed following us. I think he got a satisfactory shot because I saw him wander off shortly after I rejoined Lia and Jarrod after buying a snack.
We also found the perfect zakka, but since it’s a wedding present, I going to decree a publication ban until after the July nuptials. I’ll try to remember to post some photos of the irises, as well as of the festival and our photo stalker.