Haircuts and Kakizome

by mo on 01/11/2010

With Seijinshiki (Coming of Age Festival) tomorrow and my trip home the following day, things are picking up speed. This morning was the only free time I had in the past week to go get a haircut from the same barber who did the honor of cutting my hair rather drastically in my Japanese-schoolgirl days three years ago.

This time I didn’t really know what I wanted, other than something different, and generally to have less hair. We found a few pictures in hair magazines that I liked, and I told him to leave enough hair to put up (like I will do tomorrow). For “before” pictures, see previous post. In the end I came out looking something like this:


Also got a shot with the barber and his wife, just like I did last time I got a haircut from them. Same people, same pose, same place, 3 years apart:



Later in the afternoon was kakizome, or the first brush-writing of the year, with Miyamoto-sensei. There were way more people this year than in 2007, and a wider variety of ages and genders. Basically the brush writing works like this:

1) Show up, decide what character you want to write.
2) Look your character(s) up in a series of brush-writing kind of encyclopedias, where different writing styles are all shown. Pick one you like.
3) Practice writing it on a small piece of paper with a brush-like pen.
4) Practice with a real brush but on a relatively small piece of paper (8.5″x11″ for example).
5) Move to the floor, bigger paper, and a much bigger brush. Be nervous. Write about 4 times, sometimes with different ink or brushes.
6) Sit back, reflect, and pick the one you like best to be mounted on some thicker paper or a scroll.

All the while, getting input from Miyamoto-sensei on how to improve your brush writing for the next attempt.

3 years ago, I wrote the word 「恐竜」(dinosaur), oblivious to the fact that the character you write is supposed to have some kind of relevance to the kind of year you have. So people write things that are more clear-cut like “love” or “new” or “effort” or something. However, Miyamoto-sensei told my host mom she was very excited about what I might possibly write this year. “We’ve all been waiting in suspense to find out what comes after ‘dinosaur'” I was told. PRESSURE IS ON.

So I waited for inspiration to strike. And it did. My word of the year, folks, is 「逆光」(gyakkou). It means “reverse lighting,” or when you’re taking a photo and the cameraman is facing the light, so all you get are silhouettes.

The main reason I chose this is because I learned it the other day (while someone was taking a picture) and it was one of those “I’ve never heard this word before but I immediately understand” moments. Additionally, I realized that there isn’t really a single word for 逆光 in English (unless I just don’t know what it is, which would be kinda embarrassing), and I found that difference interesting.

Also, I’ve always thought 「逆」is a cute kanji.


I wrote the word several times, and obaachan (host grandma) helped out a lot too, telling me how to write the characters better. In the end, I came up with something like this:


There was also a little boy there who was about 6, and incredibly adorable. He was completely entertained with brush writing for HOURS with his parents not around. He also apparently has an English class at school so all the women there were saying “Go say ‘hello’ to Mo!!” and he is like “okay!” and he walks up to me and says “bonjour!”


In general, Miyamoto-sensei et. al. weren’t as shocked by my presence as I expected (which is fine, being chill about me being here is an unexplored alternative to ‘OH MY GOD, YOU’RE BACK!!!’) At one point, Miyamoto-sensei was saying I looked more mature, and that she liked my haircut and that I’m overall cuter than before. At this point, obaachan interjected and says “yeah, of course she looks good — she went out and paid money today for people to make her look good!!” Oh obaachan…

Okaasan, Obaachan, Mo

Mo and Miyamoto-sensei

Adorable New Years decorations in the entryway

It seems that 「逆光」did in fact live up to everyone’s post-dinousar expectations. Phew.