Perhaps I've written this before in these pages. Things happen to me here in Japan that wouldn't happen anywhere else. I don't think there is an American equivalent to the "Kimono Queen", but if there were, I'm sure I would not be asked to do a photo shoot with her.
My friends Okamoto-san and Uchiyama-san at be-kyoto gallery needed someone to play a Western tourist for a PR project they were working on. Of course they called me.
I sat in the serene washitsu of this machiya-turned-gallery with the lovely current "Kyoto Hospitality Ambassador" and former "Kimono Queen", Noriko Zugawa dressed in a gorgeous pearl-colored kimono. For the shoot she was to serve me tea, point out the highlights in a Kyoto tourist brochure and show me the fine art of ikebana flower arrangement.
She arrived terribly late so the perfect afternoon light was rapidly slipping away. This meant there was no time for small talk or getting acquainted. Uchiyama-san sat me uncomfortably close to this immaculately dressed stranger with piercing black eyes and quickly began shooting. Her close proximity and self-possessed gaze made me rather nervous. Uchiyama-san, like any good photographer, helped us, or rather me, relax by making us laugh.
Zugawa-san asked me things in Japanese that I sometimes understood and sometimes didn't. Thankfully Okamoto-san was just off camera to translate when I stumbled. There was something about her that reminded me of someone I knew, but I couldn't think of who it was.
The shoot was over almost as quickly as it had begun. There was a long series of bows and "arigato gozaimasu". Then Zugawa-san was whisked away with her stylist in a big, black, luxury sedan.