Monday, February 27, 2006

One for our Families

On her visits to one of Muroran's high schools, Maureen often teaches with Usami-Sensei. Usami-Sensei is a tiny woman and a big pillar of internationalization in Muroran. She runs the International Center and eagerly opens her home to dinners with foreign residents and students. I've already visited her twice. When we told her we were getting married here, her eyes lit up with a forming plan.

"In Februry," she told us, "there is a kimono party in Muroran. You can come, try on kimonos and get your pictures taken.

And that's just what we did on Saturday. It was the first time for both of us to have three people helping us get dressed. It was necessary for Maureen's traditional women's kimono. In my case, wearing a men's samurai-style kimono, I could have probably gotten by with just the help of one person, but it took three to adequately express their collective amazement at just how much "too big" I was for anything they had. The largest toe socks were two sizes too small, but I squeezed into them, anyway. The skirts were supposed to extend to the floor, but hung several centimeters too short.

In the front, around my waist, one of the women tied a traditional, very symbolic knot in the shape of the number 10, a cross with arms of equal length. It took her three times to get it right, with many apologies for not having done it since last year. In between, she tried to explain its symbolism, but always stopped short of out-right saying it stands for male virality, which is certainly my guess given its placement, her vagueness, and 10's being a traditional representative for large numbers.

We took lots of photos, then de-robed and watched as international students from Muroran Institute of Technology followed suite (or is that suit?). Afterwards, we spread low tables on the tatami floor and stuffed ourselves on Japanese rice balls, Chinese dumplings, Sri Lanka curry and American pizza.

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