Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I. Licensed to ill

Or at least to dress someone in kimono.

It's been a couple weeks since my test but I will be feeling the financial strain of it probably until the fall. I ended up having another jaw-dropping experience shortly after being told that I needed to buy a formal kimono, which entailed me buying an extremely expensive piece of wood. 60,000 yen expensive to be exact.

On the last lesson before my test, my teacher gave me a piece of paper outlining the test day schedule, with instructions to be in formal kimono, with hair and make-up done. And to bring the test fee - 60,000 yen. I just about choked up my tea that they put out at the end of every lesson when I saw that figure. I take my kimono dressing seriously but what on earth could justify a $600 test fee? You can probably take a test to pilot a plane for less than that and with kimono we are only dealing with fabric, not heavy machinery. I stewed on this for a few days, trying to decide whether to push back my test date, or at least let my teacher know that I would have liked to be informed of the fee a bit earlier because surprise! I don't have 6 Gs sitting in the bank, nor does my nonexistent filthy rich husband.

A delicate issue to say the least. Do I just put up and shut up? The real me wanted to call my teacher and ask her to explain the fee, after telling her that I hadn't been expecting such a sum of money and why didn't they tell me sooner?! but the foreigner undercover in Japan wanted to just say shou ga nai (it can't be helped) and pay the damn money. For the first few days I began to harbor a lot of resentment towards my teachers whom I had previously had nothing but the utmost respect for. I felt cornered and uninformed - why had they not told me months before the test that I would need a nice kimono (and 60,000 yen test fee)? Surely they have met with surprise before from students caught kimono-less and unaware, and especially being non-Japanese I don't have any kimono hand-me-downs from female relatives. I love that they treat me like all of the other students, not dumbing down anything or trying to simplify the verbal explanations during my lessons. On the other hand, there was a small part of me that wished they had thought a few steps ahead, which may have raised flags as to whether I a) would actually have a formal kimono (not a far stretch as they have seen my casual off-the-rack kimono) and b) knew about the test fee (not having lived in Japan my whole life, I am not acquainted with how expensive seriously pursuing a stream of learning is here).

So there I was, feeling left in the dark, and wondering whether I would have guessed my fate in advance had I been Japanese. There were tears of frustration shed. I tried to imagine what senpai before me had done when suddenly faced with lifestyle-interrupting expenses. I refuse to believe that not more than a few women were unpleasantly surprised to learn they would need to purchase a kimono for their test. This went on and on for a few days until I finally called my teacher and simply asked. I told her that I hadn't known about the fee and was a bit surprised at how high it was and she explained that it had been written on a piece of paper I'd once been casually handed before even beginning the course. Perhaps in an effort to make me feel better about it, she told me I would be getting a plank of wood with my name on it bearing the national certification. Well if I'm getting a plank of wood out of the deal...

This is definitely a rich woman's pursuit.


RMilner said...

I suggest if you normally write your name in katakana, get someone to find a set of beautiful kanji which can represent it.

My father-in-law did this for me when he gave me an inkan.

It won't help you with the money but at least you will get a fine looking wood certificate!

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

That is a great idea but I already have the wood in my hot little hands! No matter though, I think another piece of wood is involved after my next certification so I will look into it before then. Thanks for the idea!!