So I started watching a new J-drama called Real Clothes a few of weeks ago. (It airs every Tuesday at 10pm on Fuji Television.) The basic premise is that a dowdy salesperson, Amano Kinue gets transferred from bedding to the women's clothing section of a major department store, Echizenya. Jinbo Miki is the newly hired supervisor of the women's clothing department and she has big plans for the renewal/revival of the department store. Having no interest in clothing, Kinue struggles to find her place in this world of elite fashion.
I really enjoy the show because I feel like I can relate to Kinue. (She also happens to be 26 in the story!) At the beginning of the first episode, she is traveling in Paris with her boyfriend, Tatsuya. Although he tells her she should buy some nice clothes since they're in France, all she's interested in is eating various foods recommended in her guide book! When she first meets her soon-to-be-new-boss, Jinbo Miki, Miki looks at her with disdain and declares: "If you wear boring clothes, you will have a boring life."
Kinue's attitude towards clothes reminds me of how I was, probably right up until almost the end of university. Even as a child, I rebelled when my mom wanted to put me in pink frilly dresses. I was always more for comfort (those frilly dresses were itchy!) than style. Then I became super self-conscious about my weight/appearance in junior high and high school, so I only wore black clothes. (I did branch into grey towards the end of high school, though.) I lost weight in my first two years of university because I was living in residence and had to cook for myself (i.e. no meal plan), so around that time I started buying more clothes in different colours--mostly reds and various brown/beige tones.
But I was also buying a lot of manga/anime at the time, and moreover had started getting into hockey, so I preferred spending money on those things rather than clothes. Apart from my (very basic and plain) clothing for work--I'd worked summers and part time at Scotiabank since I was 17--I pretty much only had t-shirts and jeans, plus sweatershirts/hoodies for colder weather. When I started work full time I did go on a bit of a clothes shopping spree, but I still stuck with very plain clothes--still predominantly black--and went for practicality/comfort rather than style. Unlike Kinue, I wasn't thinking "I don't like clothing/fashion" but I did feel like I couldn't be bothered with it.
But, just as Kinue has been developing an appreciation for clothing over the past few episodes, I've started to find the fun in being a girl and "dressing up" since coming to Japan. At one point in the first episode, a co-worker of Kinue's tells her that she likes working in the women's clothing department because she enjoys seeing the happiness on customers' faces when they look in the mirror and realize that they've found that perfect article of clothing. In the second episode, when Kinue asks another co-worker what she should do to improve in her job, the co-worker tells her all she needs to do is to like clothing/fashion more. Still yet another co-worker tells her later on that the first step she needs to take is to find one thing (fashion-related) that she likes--a favourite colour, silver accessories, one piece of clothing that makes her feel happy, etc.
As I said, I've never disliked clothing/fashion, but I've never really found clothes shopping enjoyable before. I always thought it was kind of a pain being a girl. I mean, when guys need to "dress up" all they need to do is put on a suit and tie and they're done, but girls have so many more decisions to make/things to consider--dress, skirt, or pants? flats or heels? accessories, hair, make-up, etc. etc. Unless it was for work or a semi-formal event, I generally couldn't be bothered to do more than throw on a t-shirt and jeans.
I think that one of the "one thing"-s that made me feel happy was the yukata I bought in August of my first year. At the time I didn't know how to put it on by myself, but when I was able to wear it during Aki Matsuri (thanks to the help of a nice older Japanese lady), I felt a little different--more feminine, maybe. And this year in particular I've been finding a lot of shoes and clothes that I really like--especially pants. Having lost a fair bit of weight since coming to Japan, I've been noticing that the pants I brought with me are pretty loose now. For example, I used to be able to get away without using a belt, but my pants would sag dangerously low now if I went without one.
I've always had the idea that Japanese pants are designed for super skinny girls only, so I'd never bothered trying on any pants (exccept at the GAP in Sapporo) in Japan. But recently I tried some on at Uniqlo and was pleasantly pleased to discover that I could find ones that fit! I needed to get them shortened, but even in Canada pants were generally too long for me, so that wasn't an issue. Besides, at Uniqlo they can hem pants for you for free (if you don't mind visible seams) in about 15 minutes!
So yes, I went on a second Uniqlo shopping spree (the first one being about a month ago) on the Monday when I had the car accident. (I was driving from Uniqlo to Powers U, in fact, when the accident happened). I bought two pairs of dress/work pants, two pairs of jeans, and three v-neck sweaters. The mother of one of my Kirita first year students was working at Uniqlo that day and actually rang up my sale, so I was a bit embarrassed to be "caught" spending so much in one shot, but oh well... (By the way, this is a picture of me clothed almost entirely in clothing from Uniqlo! In case you're wondering, the socks and necklace are the only things not from Uniqlo. Furthermore, with the exception of the black turtleneck--which I bought last year--it's all stuff I purchased from Uniqlo within the last two months! @_@ I'm crazy, I know--and my budget is completely out of whack now, too...)
the "Japanese-type" top I got from Chambre, but I was really happy to discover that the "Sawako-image" one piece dress and parka (hoody) that I ordered simply because it was related to the Kimi ni Todoke anime/manga actually didn't look too bad on me! (Well, I did send a picture of myself in it to a friend to ask her opinion about how it looked on me before I wore it in public, but anyway...)
Apart from the burgeoning interest in clothing, another thing about Kinue I feel I can relate to is her stage in life. In the most recent episode (episode #3), her boss, Miki, asks her about her direction in life: what she intends to be/where she wants to be five years and ten years in the future. Kinue realizes at this point that she hasn't really thought about her future in such terms before and is unable to answer.
Watching the show, I was also thinking "Where do I want to be five years and ten years in the future?" I really have no idea. I know that I want to be working somewhere where I feel challenged by the work and where I feel like I'm making some sort of contribution to society, but I haven't a clue as to what type of job that would be.
Until recently I would've at least been able to say that I definitely planned on living/working in Toronto or Mississauga, but now even that's in question. Maybe it's just my natural dislike for change, but recently I've been thinking about what it'd be like to come back to live in Towada permanently... There's probably only a 2% or less chance of me actually doing so, but the fact that I'm considering it all just goes to show how completely up in the air my plans for the future are.
Another long held "plan" for my future that has come into question since I moved to Japan is my belief that I would never ever get married. I've always thought that the whole relationship thing is just way too much trouble and that I would be much happier staying single, but actually living on my own for the first time I've realized that there are some benefits to being able to share your daily life with someone. I've said it before, but for one thing, moving into my apartment and having to assemble various pieces of furniture--bookshelf, dish cabinet, etc. etc.--on my own really made me think about how handy it would be to have a guy around... Well, assuming said guy happens to be good with such things... =P
I still believe that I'd be perfectly happy staying single, but I'm no longer completely resistant to the idea of possibly getting married in the future. Even just a few months ago if someone asked me about whether I planned/wanted to get married, I'd immediately say "Not for me. NO WAY." But now it's more like, "Most likely not--but you never know."
So yeah, my time in Japan has definitely been a huge learning/growing experience for me so far. I wonder what the next nine months have in store for me...?
[Edit: The Real Clothes theme song "きっと大丈夫" ("Kitto Daijoubu" loosely translates to "definitely all right/OK") is sung by Sakazume Misako and can be found in her "love note" album.)