Thursday, April 16, 2009

Rinse and repeat

It was time for The Warden to get her hair done. It was starting to look like a giant mushroom cloud. You see readers, I have thick hair, thick as in prison-quality oatmeal, thick. And my hair multiplies the more you touch it, sort of like spinning cotton candy.

I knew before moving here that the chances of going to the on base salon were as much as WTF Husband agreeing to a third Kawaii Girl, so I did a bit of research and settled on Kenje Salon just down the street from the gates of the base.

I forgot to bring along my camera. It was the hair's fault. On my next visit, I will be sure to take pictures. If of nothing else, the stylish people running around. Stylish in that way that I could never be. Overly-processed-a-little-dirty-way-too-much-product kind of style that looks totally hip and urban. I have hips...I am not hip.

And I do mean running. I was attended to by no less than 4 people, as were the other 5 ladies on the floor. Watching everyone move was like watching ants bounce off each other when their marching is disturbed. Zigging, zagging, bounding up the stairs, taking two or three at a time, twirling around each other so as to never bump into them or knock product out of their hand. Dare I say I even saw a stylist leap frog over someone who was tucking away an electric cord.

The salon was minimalistic and clean and was full of neat little things, like the wash basin that moved over to me, instead of getting up and walking to it. And a big pulsating wand that misted water or air or product-I don't know what on people's head. I wasn't lucky enough to get that, maybe it was for treated hair. I don't know what it was but dang it, I want to try it.

There was the man who washed my hair, and I was convinced at that time was heaven personified, a blissful 10 minutes where my hair sung in joy. The man who cut my hair, a Japanese champion stylist, who quizzically studied the photo I brought him. He was tall and thin, and sort of looked like the Asian version of Dr. Patrick Drake from General Hospital. Yes, I've been known to watch a soap opera or two on occasion, stop snickering. He wore a holster that contained an assortment of blades and shears. Watching him thin out my hair was a little like watching Edward Scissorhands. He was precise and fast shaping my massive hair.

Then the man who gave me a deep conditioning treatment and later the best orgasm of my life (sorry Daddy if you're ready this). Okay, well not the BEST orgasm of my life but his hands on my scalp...well, it was a magical 30 minutes and I needed a cigarette after he was done.
He deserves his own paragraph he was so amazing. Just when I thought he was done, he started to give me a shoulder massage and that is when I completely lost it. My eyes rolled back into my head and I melted into my chair. I may have even let a moan slip through my lips. I couldn't help it people. IT. WAS. GOOD. REAL. GOOD!

Time for another hair wash and dry, then my holster wearing stylist was back refining the cut and doing it dry. This is the mark of a great stylist in my opinion. The great ones are never afraid to cut dry hair. Some amazing product later that left my hair feeling like silk (yes I dropped a pretty yen for the take-home stuff) and I thought surely I was done.

Oh comes a man to massage my hands and arms. It was his first day, a stylist in training. He told me his name but in a million years of practicing Japanese I could never repeat it. He proudly showed me his training badge, like being an apprentice in this salon was a big bag of peanuts, with his name on it but of course it was written in kanji. He was so sweet and visibly nervous. He understood more English than he could speak and I can speak more Japanese than I can understand so our conversation kept us giggling. He kept looking up at me while he massaged my hands from under the shelf of bangs covering his forehead, sort of like he was mesmerized by the American sitting in front of him.

Another stylist came over and helped translate for us. She told me how excited the whole salon was that I was coming in and was very impressed that for the short amount of time that I've been in Japan that I wasn't nervous or afraid to get out and explore, let alone have my hair done.

The experience was all very foreign and completely normal at the same time. One that I hope to repeat again...and again...and again while I live here. I need another cigarette just thinking about.

Monday, April 6, 2009

3:10 to Tokyo - part three

Am I the only one who misses Paul Harvey? And now for the rest of the story...

The last stop on the 3:10 to Tokyo took us to Asakusa, a district in Tokyo, most famous for the Senso-ji temple and neighboring Asakusa Shrine. There is a whole lotta holiness happening on these grounds. Shrines and temples and pagodas oh my!

I'm going to keep this post short because while there is so much history and significance to these grounds, I barely experienced it because of the throngs of people loping around.

Nakamise-dōri is a street on the approach to the temple. Shop owners were allowed to come in to the area in the 18th century. The length of the street is approximately 250 meters and contains around 89 shops and on a weekend, such as our trip, good luck seeing anything. I saw a woping 2 of those shops. This is not a street for strolling, at least not for gaijins holding on to little hands for dear life.

Nisonbutsu (A pair of Buddha). The figure on the right is said to bring mercy on worshipers and the figure on the left, wisdom.

Hōzōmon 宝蔵門 is the inner of two large entrance gates that lead to the Senso-ji. The gate features three large lanterns. The largest and most prominent lantern is a red chōchin 提灯 that hangs under the center of the gate's opening. The lantern displays the name of the town Funamachi 小舟町, who donated it.

The urn contains ashes and is used to burn paper wishes. The wishes are purchased at the temple and then placed in the urn, while praying that the wish many come true.

Tōrō, originally used to mean any lantern, has come to mean a lamp of stone, bronze, iron or wood. They are used to illuminate the grounds of temples, shrines and gardens. Many of these still use oil and candles while others have given way to the lightbulb.

Goju-no-Tu, the Five Story Pagoda, is another center of worship on the site. The pagoda contains the ashes of memorial tablet of the Buddha.

Beautiful architecture and paper lanterns lining the approach to the shrine.