Ena's Grand Kabuki Festival.
Sunday I made my grand debut as Osato-san in Ena's not-so-famous Kabuki Festival. For the past month I have been practicing how to walk, talk and swing the sleeves of my kimono, kabuki style, just for the chance to to get all done up in white make-up, Katsura (Japanese wig) and kimono. I was, however, slightly less enthused about getting up in front of a bunch of Japanese people and trying to speak Japanese. Especially after our on stage rehersal Saturday. It was the first time I had been in the theatre, and it was a lot bigger than I had imgined. When I asked how many people would come, the leader of the Kabuki club told me the theatre could seat 800, but not to worry, because people would be standing to watch as well.
Yeah. That made me feel a lot better, considering the fact that Japanese audiences are not exactly quiet observers. Infact they are the exact opposite, often shouting out in anticipation of the moment of highest tension to encourage their favorite actors. They also throw ohinari, gifts of money wrapped in tissue, in appreciation of an excellent performance. The idea of standing infront of a bunch of people yelling and throwing things at me was a little intimidating, but being hid behind a mask of makeup helped calm my fears!
It took about an hour to go from Melissa to Sato-san--kimono, katsura and all. First, my hair was pulled back and capped as the makeup assitant applied wax to my eyebrows and slathered oil all over my face and neck to help the make-up stick. Oshiroi, or white face cream, was painted onto my face, providing a fresh canvas for the artist to work with. The shade of white depends on the role to be played: young or old, princess or commoner. Osato-san is a young princess, so as the artist brushed layers over snow-white liquid over my face he told me "Now you really are a white person (in Japanese of course)" and chuckled to himself.
Mehari, red lines added to accent my eyes, brought a spash of color to to my ghostly pale face as my whited out eyebrows were drawn back in with a black oil crayon. Lipstick was added only to accent a small portion of my lips, and then I was rushed to the wordrobe, where I was bound in towels until the curves of my body had been transformed into a straight and shapless column. The long sleeved kimono was draped over my shoulders, heavy with thick silk. Tightly wound around where my waist should have been,two professional dressers pulled at the obi to tighten and tie it, throwning me off balance and almost bringing me down onto my bum, each time with a polite, ah, sumimasen (sorry)!
With my kimono and makeup done, all that was left was the katusra, a tradtional Japanese wig in the style characteristic of geisha and Maiko, complete with hanazashii, flowery hair ornaments. It clung tightly to my head like a suction cup, and was anchored down by a strap hidden beneath a mass of stark black hair. I stole a sideways glance into a mirror as they pushed me out toward the stage, and could barely recognize myself. Peaking out from below the gently rolling hills of hair that swam above my head, my snowy complection reflected light like the brightly shining moon, surrounded by a midnight sky on a starless night.
Before I knew it we were being rushed side stage to make our etrance on the hanamachi, or flower path, a kabuki stage convention that runs thru the audience, allowing for dramatic entrances and exits.
I was second to make my entrance, and as I pushed through the Noren (japanese curtain) the crowed gasped in an ooo and aaa fashion, and people began to shout out KAWAII! MECCHA KAWAII! MELISSA! It was nice to know that so many people had come to see me, and made me feel a little bit more at ease. When I actually got a chance to look out at the audience, I saw many familiar faces, friends and students, all smiling back at me! It was awesome!
But the hardest part was yet to come! Although I had to stand on stage and often strike a dramatic pose, my speaking part was next to last. I tried to listen to everyone before me, but I couldn't drown out the sound of my heart trying desperately to beat its way out of the layers of kimono, which may have been the only thing keeping it in!
Waxing elegent in Enaben....Asobomaika?
As I stepped forward to speak I could see in the front row one of my junior high students, Tomoaki. He is such a cutie! Him and his mother had come, and they were both smiling at me, and cheering for me...Thanks to them I had the confidence to go on! Everyone laughed at my jokes and kept screaming out KAWAII! By the end of my performance it was raining ohinari! After the performance, my friend Jen, the ALT at Ena High, and a few students from Higashi Junior High came up on stage to give me beautiful boquets of flowers!
This was such an amazing experience, even though in the white makeup I look a bit more fit to play a role in Interview with a Vampire! Watch out! I'm going for the jugular!