TG Universes & Series:
I gently slid the door open before bowing to those inside.
“Konichi wa,” I half whispered.
Jules and Mand seemed stunned by their sudden silence.
“Konichi wa,” Aoi prompted.
“Konichi wa,” the others added a moment later.
“Plis,” Aoi hammed, beckoning me inside. She knew it was me of course; she’d set it up after all.
I managed to push myself upright, I think pretty gracefully before shuffling into the room.
“Girls,” Aoi started, “this is Ito san, she will join us for tea.”
“Arigato,” I allowed with a bow.
The look on Mand’s face in particular was priceless!
Sai returned with a tray of tea stuff that she placed on the low table that the girls were sat around. Aoi motioned for me to take my place; I carefully knelt on the floor cushion and resumed my impassive persona. The others, Aoi included were of course wearing kimonos too but without my elaborate underpinnings and makeup, the impression of Japan was there but at the Cosplay level.
Our chaperone took charge of pouring tea for each of us.
“I should get some photographs.”
“Gab will be so pee’d off at missing this,” Mand allowed.
I don’t know how I kept a straight face, Aoi acted as interpreter for the girls questions, I answered by way of single words I’d picked up combined with small head movements so for example it went something like, “Do you always wear kimonos?” Aoi then used Japanese, “Anata wa itsumo kimono o kiru nodesu ka?” to which I carefully answered “hai, Buraja.” ”She says yes nearly always,” Aoi ad libbed my reply.
Clearly neither of them had twigged that ‘Ito san’ was yours truly, mind you I did have rather a lot of makeup on and with the hairpiece, I doubt if I could recognise me.
Quite how we got from drinking tea to first walking through Gion then posing for pictures in the gardens of Chion-in I’m still not sure. Of course the others finally saw through my ‘disguise’, we’d actually walked most of the way to Chion before my sister finally twigged. Let’s face it, if Aoi has been charged with looking after the three of us why would she leave one behind?
It was knocking on two o’clock by the time we were done, delayed it seems at every turn by tourist cameras intent on photographing the ‘geisha’. I hardly qualify as a maiko let alone the real thing and it was getting more than a bit uncomfortable to be trussed in the heavy layers of silk and cotton.
“Erm Aoi, can I like get out of this stuff, it’s been fun but I’ve had enough.”
“Why you not say, of course, time for lunch too I think.”
“Ooh yeah,” Mand enthused.
Rather than walk back to the alley Aoi found us a taxi, which, whilst not a lot quicker was easier on my feet, I’m sure the sandals are comfortable enough when you are used to them but the toe post was starting to get a bit uncomfortable. Mrs Onajima and Sai had me undressed in a tenth of the time dressing took, removing the makeup taking longest. I hadn’t really noticed my compressed boobs over the last couple of hours but as the circulation fully returned – well think pins and needles in your most sensitive bits!
“Where’re we eating?” Jules queried as we returned to the streets of Gion.
“Hmm,” Aoi consulted her watch, which much like the rest of her attire would be more at home on a five year old than a mature woman. “I think we get bento now an’ get dinner before you get the Shinkansen.”
“What’s bento?” Mand asked.
“Sort of like a packed lunch,” I offered remembering them from various manga.
“What like sandwiches, crisps and a banana?”
“Not exactly, Amanda,” Aoi told her, “it is considered an art form, the appearance as important as the tastes, come there is a store a couple of streets way, we can eat in Sento Gosho gardens.”
“You want an octopus, Gabs?” the Dark One offered.
My limited amount of Japanese knowledge at least armed me with the fact that the ‘octopus’ was actually a sort of sausage.
“Octopus?” Mand exclaimed, “urgh!”
“Sure,” I replied, “You want a prawn Mand?”
Aoi had selected four pre packed bento with a mixture of different stuff for us to try. Of course the staple of sticky rice was present in all of them along with the aforementioned sausage, prawns, pork balls and an assortment of other stuff I couldn’t directly identify. Aoi happily tucked in using her disposable chopsticks; we quickly resorted to fingers, as it was quicker!
“So what now?” Jules asked our chaperone as we cleared up from our late lunch.
“We can take a look at the Imperial Palace then I have another surprise lined up.”
Apart from a couple of sore toes, Aoi hadn’t done us wrong yet.
The palace, Gosho, was pretty impressive but there again the same can be said about every other building in this city. We made our way out of the park and headed across Marutamachi Dori into Nakagyo-Ku district.
“So where are we going?” I enquired.
Aoi stopped and pointed off the street, “Here!”
‘Here’ according to the name on the side of the building was ’Kyoto Manga Museum’.
“Really?” Jules queried.
“Oh boy, what are we waiting for?”
Aoi chuckled as she and the others followed former geisha Gaby to the museum entrance.
As museums go it’s a bit niche, that however didn’t stop it being reasonably populated by, mostly, males of student age. It’s not that we were the only females, (when did I become female?); just that we were outnumbered ten to one. Of course just about everything is in Japanese, Aoi translating as required.
I might be considered a bit of a manga geek back home but these guys take it to a whole other level. We followed the development of manga all the way from the 1800’s to the present; even Goth Gurl got hooked with some of the stuff.
‘Haubutsukan wa 10-bu deshuryo shimasu.’ A voice announced.
“It’s that time already,” Aoi confirmed with her building brick watch, “the museum closes in ten minutes.”
“Damn,” I allowed, “we got time to hit the shop?”
“If you are quick I think,” Aoi suggested.
A quick dash had us in the well-stocked museum shop, geez, maybe it’s as well we don’t have long. Okay I’m a geekette but really my brain was in overload, I want one of those, that’s cool, oh boy that is so Kawaii!
“Thanks Aoi, that was brill,” I gushed when the doorman let us out at nearly quarter past six.
“I know Miyasuki’s mother from university, maybe I used a favour.”
“I think she saw the yen signs in your eyes,” Jules scoffed.
“I still can’t believe you spent that much,” Mand mentioned.
“Well it’s not like I can pop back is it?” I noted.
I hadn’t gone that daft, not really, some cards, a purse, a set of figurines, two comics in English, a framed original drawing and – well some more stuff. It certainly dented my spending account but not to the point of exhaustion. After a brief stop to repack my assorted bags we returned to the street where Aoi hailed a taxi and we set off into the lights of a fine autumn evening.
Aoi pointed out various stores and buildings of interest on the short drive towards the railway station, not that that was our destination. The car dropped us by the Kyoto Tower and our ‘guardian’ led us to a small eatery a few doors up a side street. I say small, it wasn’t much more than a long counter with stools beyond which was the kitchen.
Clearly our guide knew the guy behind the counter as they proceeded to exchange pleasantries for fully five minutes.
“Girls this reprobate is my cousin Nakagima, Naki takai Gabii, Amanda, Juliette.”
“Konichi wa,” he greeted with a wide grin.
“Konichi wa,” we agreed.
“Sit o, sit o,” he encouraged.
We squeezed onto three vacant stools part way along the counter.
Aoi and her cousin held another short discussion in Japanese, instructions were given to the girl helping in the kitchen and in short order cups of brown tea were deposited in front of us.
“What are we eating?” Mand asked.
“Naki is famous for tempura, at least here in downtown Kyoto.”
“That’s like fried prawns?” Jules suggested.
“Not just prawn, you’ll see,” she grinned.
Our exchange was halted by the sound of something being fed into hot fat, reminiscent of time spent in Hygenic Fisheries back in Warsop.
Our food didn’t take long to arrive, well deep fried is quick after all, Naki placing plates of interesting lumps of batter in front of each of us, the kitchen girl bringing a tray with bowls of sauces and pickles. There was no option this time but to go at the food with the wooden sticks provided, hot food and fingers – not a good idea.
“Yoi shoku,” our host offered.
“Naki says good eating,” Aoi translated.
“Er arigato,” I suggested, to which the chef grinned and nodded.
I’m not the biggest fan of battered food, yeah we do deep-fried at home but in breadcrumbs, batter is for fish or otherwise crepes or Yorkshire pud. But here, on the plate in front of me were vegetables, the obvious prawns of course but also cubes of some sort of smoked fish all fried in a light batter. Not only that but it was crisp, not soggy or done in, Naki has certainly got his timing right!
So okay I lied a little, we did attempt the chopsticks but after watching us struggle for a couple of minutes the kitchen girl produced three forks that certainly made things much easier. The pickles and other dips were interesting and I’m glad it wasn’t me who fell foul of the Wasabi, the look on Jules face! It wasn’t something I would necessarily have picked myself but I think we all enjoyed it, at least there wasn’t much left on the plates.
“Gud bye, gurls,” Naki told us with the customary bow.
“Arigato Nakajima san,” I offered in turn.
“Arigato,” the others added returning the bow.
Aoi made her own goodbyes with her cousin before ushering us towards the door, “Come on, let’s get you to the station, eh.”
It was full on dark outside, not cold but cool enough that the gap between my socks and shorts went into goose bump alert. The station was in sight at the end of the street, we didn’t need to rush it was only seven fifteen, over half an hour before our train leaves.
“We should get some snacks,” Jules suggested.
“There’s a store opposite the station,” Aoi told us.
“Wonder if they have any Haribo?” I mused.
“The bears?” Aoi queried, “I think maybe, they are quite popular with youngsters.”
“Cool, I’m getting withdrawal symptoms.”
Mand just shook her head.
“What? I like gummi bears.”
“Must be some German thing,” she mused, “Roni was munching them at the race last week.”
“Have to take you to the factory,” Jules who is partial to a bear or two herself, suggested.
“Yeah, it’s not far from Roni’s place, there’s a shop where you can buy in bulk, much cheaper than the shops too,” I supplied.
“Germans!” Mand sighed.
The shop supplied biscuits, canned drinks and an expensive bag of jelly bears; we were set for the journey back to Hiroshima. We crossed to the station and made our way to the Shinkansen platform.
“Ot oh, it looks like a problem,” Aoi suggested as we approached the gate.
“What sort of problem?” Jules queried.
“I’ll find out, wait here.”
Aoi went over to the bean counter leaving us to wait.
“Hope it’s nothing too bad,” Mand mentioned.
“Probably running late.”
“What train we on, Gab?” Jules asked.
I pulled out our tickets, “er Nozomi 55, departs19.52.”
“Don’t think so,” Jules proffered, “the board says it’s cancelled.”
“Cancelled?” Mand repeated.
Aoi returned just then, “A big problem, girls, all Shinkansen are cancelled to Hiroshima, there has been an accident earlier today.”
“So how do we get back?” Mand asked, a hint of panic in her voice.
“They expect to be running again in the morning, there will be some extra journeys or they have coaches you can take this evening.”
“That’ll take forever,” I sighed.
“About four hours,” Aoi supplied.
“You could stay at mine and catch the train in the morning,” Aoi offered.
“I’ll ring Dad,” Jules proposed.
“So you get here at eight thirty Jules,” Dad confirmed.
“Yeah, Aoi’s transferring our booking now.” Goth Gurl agreed.
“Your mother’ll pack your bags, we need to be off close on nine.”
“’Kay,” Jules allowed, “see you in the morning.”
“Take care Jules and keep your sister out of trouble, eh?”
“Yes, Dad, nite.”
Maddy Bell 09.11.15
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