Thursday, July 29, 2010

Under my para para para

It's happening, I am slowly becoming the wayward gaijinette who is falling prey to the native customs. I'm long past using the Sound Princess and carrying my purse in the crook of my arm and this past week I took it to a whole other level: the parasol, or sun umbrella, if you will. Summer after summer I thought that I could avoid the parasol, thinking of it as one of those things I could get away with in Japan but nowhere else (except other Asian countries that place a premium on milky whiteness), but I have succumbed gentle readers. I found myself rustling through the sale racks at oioi (or "Marui" if you must), with determination to walk out of there with either a fabulous wide-brimmed hat a la Hollywood starlets in bygone eras or a parasol.

I will admit to being a bit of a vampire this summer - rarely venturing outdoors on weekdays until twilight - but when I am outside I'd like to avoid sunburn and with my tall nose and all, sometimes sunscreen just doesn't cut it. There's also the grease factor and I'd rather not use sunscreen when I am only going to be exposed for less than 30 minutes. Perhaps you have seen some of the summer fashions of the sun-conscious faction around town these past few weeks. I wouldn't exactly call them fetching with the black arm "warmers" and what I can only call "Asian lady visors." I first encountered the ALV in Vancouver, where the older Chinese ladies like to rock out in the summer wearing these over sized visors that you can pick up at the suburban Asian malls.





Determined not to fall victim to this, uh, trend, I thought a tasteful hat or parasol would shade me from the harsh rays. During my foraging attempt at oioi, I nixed the hat idea after seeing some "young" versions of the ALV. Turning to the assortment of parasols, I discovered that a) they are fucking expensive and b) there is no such thing as a stylish parasol. The last time I owned a parasol I was a little girl: it was candy red and ruffled with a white plastic handle and for some reason I want to say that my uncle picked it up at the horse track. I was the shiznit at five with my ruffled red parasol and pink feather boa. At 26 I still wouldn't mind being the shiz but with a little more grown-up added to the mix. I'm as drawn to sparkle as the next girl and still rock gold bamboo hoops at times, but I was hoping for a modern and stylish parasol that screamed neither "little girl" nor "old Asian lady."

The sale area was a bit overwhelming and I almost talked myself into buying a white ruffly parasol with a purple print that would be more suited to a lolita cosplayer walking around Harajuku than a Kaisha geisha. Everything was either lacy, adorned with rhinestones or printed with ugly flowers. WHY MUST EVERYTHING BE CUTE? And fugly cute that that. I tried to reason that the turquoise parasol with cut-out bow trim fit my bill but in the end settled for an off-white model with only one rhinestone on the whole thing. Stingy of me, I know. Thanks to the sale and some gift certificates, I barely paid anything but the parasol was originally 10,000 yen. $100 for a lousy piece of moving shade!!! Imagine how thrilled I was to discover it raining this morning.

16 comments:

Generic Jen B said...

Yaaaay welcome to the wonderful world of personal shade! I read a few blog posts/articles pondering the significance of the parasol or rejecting it and really, let's break it down: stand in shade = bearable. Stand in sun= distressing. Walk in shade = smart. Refuse to walk in shade = LOL, fools! :-D

selena said...

I've THOUGHT about the parasol secretly, inside, while openly taunting it, but I haven't gone there yet. I too have fallen under the hypnotic sway of some habits that are just not that prevalent in my town (in Portland, much like Vancouver, fleece is king and a black t shirt is perfectly acceptable dress-up attire - and I have more than once been accused of looking "fancy" when wearing something that would be considered downright slobbish here). But you've just about convinced me, with this post, to start wearing a hat. I've seen some cute candidates in the shops but just couldn't get into the hat-wearing mindset but -- I think I can do it. I think I can.

Lisa said...

If I lived in Tokyo I'd carry a parasol. I don't know that I could make it work here, but there are a few Asian researchers at the hospital where I work who use parasols while walking to their cars.

I had one when I was little, also. Mine was pink and ruffly and had my name written on it in paint.

Erin said...

I fully plan on buying one when I'm out there in a few weeks, but that sucks to know that everything (at OIOI, anyway) is frilly/glittery/etc. Right now I'm using an umbrella that looks tres stupid - I'm hoping for a solid colour. Hoping.

kathrynoh said...

It's so weird to know that ppl in other countries don't wear sunscreen. In Australia we've had years of messages saying if you don't wear sunscreen you will DIE! Because I'm lazy, I'm a bit fan of the tinted moisturiser with added sunscreen.

I'm surprised parasols haven't taken off here. Some people use the Chinese(?) style ones -- with the coated paper but it's not common.

ELSN said...

Ohmygod I want a parasol so bad! I just can't get over the mental block. The sight of a white lady carrying a lace parasol in 2010! But as usual, reading your struggles gives me courage and I think I'll just have to get over it.

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

Jen B: Fools indeed! To me the parasol is sooo old skool so I can't help but see it as a fashion statement, while I couldn't care less what my rain umbrella looks like!

selena: You totally can, don't fight it! There are some really cute hats around. Totally know what you mean about PNW style, I feel dressed up in even the lowest heel in Vancouver where lululemon is considered couture.

Lisa: Luckily you can get away with just about anything here but I don't think I have the balls to sport a parasol back in Nth America...

Erin: I'm sure you will find something. Maybe check out Sony Plaza, they have a pretty large selection. I only went to oioi because I had gift certificates but if you're not concerned about getting a parasol with certified UV whatever, then they are all over town...cuteness and all.

kathrynoh: As a kid in NZ we used to have the burn time announced every day in the summer, so I know what you mean. I too am lazy and just caaan't be fucked putting on sunscreen for only a few minutes outside between destinations but in the last couple years I've gotten more concerned with taking care of my skin.

ELSN: Just give in to the urge :) I'll let you know how I get on with mine when I finally get to use it!!

Foggia said...

Funny that "umbrella" is a word mostly used for the rain one, when "umbra" means shade...

Foggia said...

Plus I thought for a second, after reading the title and first line of this post, that you succumbed to the infamous trend of Para-para.

Scary indeed.

melintheglitter said...

Hooray for not burning! :D I actually really like the idea of parasols, and i'm surprised they're not more popular. Sunscreen is gross and hats may produce hat-hair, so what other option is there really?
(I'm too cheap to get a proper parasol, but when walking outside here in USA's sunny Phoenix, Arizona, I often use an umbrella x))

mukuge said...

Wow, wonderful.
By the way James Smith & Sons (a local long-time umbrella shop in London) sells a variety of parasols, some of the super frilly type and others just alright. Not sure if it'll ship to Japan.

But I do wonder whether by some funny twist of fate its summer female customers would consist of Japanese ladies in search of some geographically authentic piece of frou frou.

Yeah, reading your article and thinking about it, I should pop down there, get a 'sol and ride a bike at the same time.

Tokyo Moe said...

Haha. I would love to see your single rhinestone parasol. Personally I wear hats during summer to keep the beak from burning. An LA visitor last month developed a serious fixation on bicycle mama outfits (huge visor plus long long gloves). For anyone who doesn't know what it looks like, check out: http://bit.ly/aYmCW1

Sarahf said...

Embracing the parasol is the best way to cope with Japanese sun. Sunscreen just sweats right off. I also refuse to step into the world of the ALV on account of it making them look like aliens. Scary stuff. Enjoy the shade.

Anonymous said...

We white people just get red or a nice shade of tan. Japanese turn a black/brown and some get skin rashes. Ive seen some Japanese who could easily pass for african, their melanin is different than caucasin. They hate I think. I love the sun, bring it. The winters here are terrible.

karisuma gyaru said...

Haha, i've been thinking about getting a parasol too... it's just too fucking sunny and hot here... eh.

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

Foggia: That would be scary. I did succumb for about 5 minutes once at a club in Shibuya that was frequented by the young, tanned and scarily made-up but that was all I needed to get it out of my system forever.

melintheglitter: I'm surprised too. I see them used by women going for some kind of retro look, but never by fashionistas just trying to stay young.

mukuge: Do it! A parasol on a bicycle and you would fit in here. Thanks for the tip on the store, I will check it out online or whenever I am in London again.

Tokyo Moe: The bicycle mama and Asian lady are members of the same family. Scary!

Sarahf: Agreed. It is so much nicer underneath one in the summer here.

Anon: I think skin cancer rates are lower here too, which makes it hard for someone like me to go and get checked out. Some of the women take it too far, but there is a reason their skin stays younger looking...

karisuma gyaru: You should get one. I'm not as paranoid about sunscreen anymore when I am running errands and like I said above, it's cooler without the sun beating down on you directly.