For a year starting in 1980, I lived in Japan, spending the majority of my time in Kyoto. Everyday I would pass the Golden Temple, Kinkaku-ji, a Zen Buddhist shrine, on my way home to my home-stay family at the bottom of a mountain, where a stream ran out back through the garden. The same stream that goes through the Golden Temple. For months I had been promising myself that’d I’d spend time in the gardens of Kinkaku-ji, but never seemed to find the time.
Before I knew it New Year’s eve was upon us. My home-stay family adorned me in a traditional family kimono, and side by side with my home-stay sister, Yukika, we marched in a parade to a Shinto Shrine to celebrate our birthdays. You see, we both would turn 21 during the upcoming year, and by shinto tradition that is the year women come of age.
My obachan, home-stay grandmother, helped me put on the kimono. In Japanese she kept saying my breasts and hips were to large for the dress but with determination she’d make sure I could wear it. As she stretched the waist band around me I cringed, and I wondered how women ever tolerated corsets. At first I stumbled trying to maneuver in the sandals for the kimono restricted leg movement. After learning the correct way to walk, we set out on our journey. Yukika looked so graceful as she moved like the river’s flow. On the other hand I waddled like a penguin. Continue reading