The walk was really pleasant, and like the day before it was really nice to see the more suburban side of Tokyo. We did also pass this interesting looking puppet theatre on the way...such an unexpected thing!
We did get a wee bit lost, because the building Google Maps was pointing us towards was not the building the samurai place was actually located in. And because we were the first appointment of the day, the place didn't have their signs out when we first passed the correct building! Fortunately as we doubled back the sign was out so we entered the building, took the tiny elevator up, and entered the samurai photo studio.
And it was so cool! As with many things in Japan, it was way smaller than I thought it would be, but every inch was packed with samurai armour. James also pointed out that the music playing was the soundtrack from The Last Samurai!
Shortly after we entered a staff member (who turned out to be the photographer/dresser/main person of the whole experience) hurried out to us and urged us to sit for a moment, which we did. Another person entered a minute later, who must have had priority for some reason, because they where whisked out to the back of the studio while we waited for about five minutes. but soon enough they left and it was our turn to be ushered to the lounge at the back of the studio.
Here we confirmed the plan we had booked online, and James go to choose the photos and the armour that he wanted. And then it was dressing time! We went into the actual photography area, James was given the appropriate undergarments, and left in a curtained area to change. While he was changing, his chosen armour was prepared. This armour was modelled after that of a famous general, Tadakatsu Honda.
Once James came out in the little shorts, shirt, and tabi socks, the dressing began. As the staff (the original man - I think he's the owner, actually - and a female assistant) put each piece on they explained a bit about each one. I don't remember the details but it was fascinating to learn about the function and purpose of all the different armour pieces. One thing I do remember is that apparently samurai didn't really have armour on their backs - it meant they wouldn't retreat from battle!
With the majority of the armour on (but not the helmet, the helmet was huge) James got a quick lesson on how to hold and use the sword. Being a sword guy generally he picked it up the specifics in a flash.
Just putting it out there now I was ecstatic the whole time. I love watching my man dress up! And hey, ladies love a man in armour ^__^
Then it was time for the helmet (due to it's weight, the female assistant removed it between shots, which was kind of cute and funny to watch) and photos! It soon became obvious that there was someone out back of the studio starting to process the greenscreen photos in real time, as the assistant would talk quietly into a walkie talkie and get the photographer to make adjustments to the pose.
And once the photographer had his shots, I was able to step in with our camera (and sometimes my phone) and take our own photos. This is the reason we specifically chose this studio - not only did the plan James chose provide all raw image data that the photographer took, but we were able to take our own shots as well. So one day who knows, James may photoshop himself into even more epic backgrounds. We have the option!
This includes the raw images used to make the "horse riding" photo which is James straddling a big suitcase wrapped in greenscreen. It's great.
As a final greenscreen shot, they put me in a fancy drapey kimono and had me stand in with James - we chatted about this afterwards and we think one of the poses James had selected didn't work out for some reason, as this wasn't a bonus photo and we didn't book a couple plan! But it was okay, we didn't mind the change.
Then as a very last thing they took some photos out in the hallway among all the other suits of armour. I was truly amazed by how they could fit so much experience into such a small space!
But that was truly the last of it, and they had the armour off James (and the kimono off me) in barely any time compared to the time it took to get into it! Then James got back into his street clothes and we headed back into the lounge area. The photographer brought us some water, and only a few minutes after that a little folder containing all twelve final photos!
It was so cool to see all the different photos, and to help James choose which ones to have printed on coasters, which one to get as a poster, and which one to have printed on the CD itself. It was a bit hard to choose! I'm not going to post everything here, but this is James's favourite shot of the day (and the one he got as a poster).
After maybe five minutes wait we had all of the final products and were able to head back out into the cute backstreets of Shinjuku. The overall experience had taken about and hour and a half, which I thought was really impressive! If you're into samurai and would like to get some cool photos I really recommend this studio.
We popped back into the hotel briefly to drop off the bag then it was off to the station and on to a train to Asakusa to meet up with yet another friend, Jayne and her travel companion George. Three different sets of friends in one week! To this day, that's pretty much unheard of for us ^__^
We had to switch trains at Akihabara Station, and we got a little distracted by gachapon machines. But it was very worthwhile, because James won me the exact Mari figure I wanted! Now she lives on top of my computer along with my bridal Rin (which I got earlier that week at Raido Kaikan for all of 800 yen).
Unfortunately, we had some trouble actually meeting up once we got to Asakusa, exacerbated by the fact that they hadn't replied to any of my messages earlier in the day! But eventually we met up...only to find the restaurant I'd intended us to go to was full and not accepting walk ins. So we tried to go to a place they'd been to earlier, which was also full, and eventually ended up at a place called Sansada Tempura. We were seated upstairs in the tatami area, which was a first time for us and kind of exciting!
I rather liked this place. I ordered a bento (because bentos are a tradition for Jayne and I) and it was really tasty.
I also loved that the waitresses were all older ladies in kimonos, it definitely made lunch more memorable for my old white touristy self. Our waitress also really liked James's shirt, since she stroked him on the shoulder and said "Dragonball" with a big, big smile.
After we finished, we drifted out to the huge lantern in front of the Nakamise area, took a quick selfie, and then parted ways...because we were off to another photoshoot! This time we were off to Studio Nanairo for a oiran couples photoshoot.
We were welcomed in and sat down with the paperwork. I got to specify how many photos would be taken of each of us individually how many together - fortunately we'd already discussed this so it was easy to come up with the numbers. And then I left James behind and was shown upstairs to start make-up!
First of all, I had to change into the provided tank top, shorts, and tabi socks, which an assistant then topped off with a kimono style wrap. I put my clothes and most of my things into a locker, and carried my phone and a provided bottle of water in a little bag the studio provided. Then it was make-up time!
My make-up artist spoke some English, which was really nice as we could chat a bit, and while she worked on my face another lady started on my hair. Once the half-wig was secured to the back of my head and my hair was styled into it seamlessly, it was time to accessorise and oh my goodness. So many choices! I got kind of overwhelmed, and ended up deferring some choices to the hair and make up ladies. I knew I'd get to choose my kimono but I had no idea I'd get to have quite so much input in everything!
Once the hair and makeup were perfect I headed up another flight of stairs to choose my kimono. Since I'm plus sized, I actually chose two - one for each side of my body! I selected a matching pair of purple beauties, and then I was dressed up. I felt like a doll as layers and layers were tied in place on me, it was very cool. I then got to choose my obi and whatever the giant front bow was (in retrospect, I don't think I made the greatest choice but it still looked cool) and then I got to oh so carefully walk out of the dressing room to find James waiting for me, looking really handsome in a luxurious, dark outfit. I approved ^__^
With James's solo photos already taken while I was getting ready, I was given yet another layer of clothing in the form of a luxurious coat and lead straight into the decadent set for our couple shots! The photographer worked very fast, guiding us into a series of poses, and the whole experience was really fun. My solo photos went by in the same fun, fast, professional manner and very soon it was back into the dressing room to get undressed - which was a much faster experience than getting dressed!
Then it was down to the make-up area to have my hair taken down and make-up removed, then into the changing room to finish transforming back into my usual self. After that, I went downstairs to see my photos! The staff member downstairs gave me a page with the final twelve shots so we could choose which ones to have printed. After much discussion, we made our choices.
A bit of a confusing thing happened next, which was the only negative of the whole experience. With some communication difficulties, the staff indicated that they wanted to give me the photos to my phone (I think it's normally a LINE app thing?) so we figured out how to give them my email and they sent them to me, which was nice. Shortly after that, I receive my prints of the four shots and my CD. But since I hadn't expected to get the photos sent to my phone as well, I started worrying that perhaps I was only going to get the four shots, not the twelve that were part of the package. But given the communication difficulties I decided to just check the CD back at the hotel and email them if there was a problem. Fortunately there was not and the CD contained all twelve pictures, but still - I didn't like getting all confused and panicky about it.
PS I uploaded all my solo shots to my Facebook page if you want to check them out ^__^
It was around 5PM now, so we headed straight back onto a train and back to our hotel (via Family Mart, of course). We still had one photoshoot to go - this time with me wielding the camera! James wanted to do a cyberpunk shoot at night while we were in Tokyo so I was getting to play photographer. He'd bought some clothes from home, as well as some props, and we'd bought an epic shirt the day before, but we decided to try finding a shop that Smella had mentioned the day before that might stock cyber items to see if we could find anything else to add to his look.
I don't remember the name of the shop, but it was about fifteen minutes walk away from our hotel towards Harajuku. So off we went!
There's just something cool about trains in the night-time.
It was a pleasant walk (except for the obvious sore feet and general tiredness) in the dark, getting to see yet another new place, and we found the shop nestled in a completely innocuous suburban street. It was a small shop that stocked items for a number of indie brands, and though they had some cool stuff things were expensive so we walked back to the hotel empty handed.
But we still had enough stuff to put James in a rather cool looking cyberpunk outfit, and I snapped some shots on my phone of his outfit before we went out.
Then out we went to a nearby bridge to shoot. We got some really cool shots, if I say so myself! It was such a great location and James is a very expressive model ^__^
James did the editing ^__^
And then it was back to the hotel for our last night in Japan. We did have a funny moment while James was in the shower though. See, he'd gotten his hair done by a different hairdresser before we flew out, and the blue dye they used just continued the bleed colour for about a month (yeah, we ain't going back to them again). Every time he washed his hair, the water ran blue. And this night, while I was chilling on the bed and he was getting all the styling product out of his hair I heard "I got blue everywhere! Oh no, the ceiling!"
Yes, there was blue water throughout the shower...even on the ceiling. We cleaned it off, of course, but it was so funny. And it was nice to have a funny on our last night.