The hakama. Black, wide pleated pants that are a basic piece of Japanese wardrobe I have been chasing for many years. A sign of rank, a black belt. Sigh. Excuse while I have a moment. Ok I’m done.
When I finally got to order one, I was so excited. Then I found out I had to reveal the waist size and inseam of my beer keg physique. Jeesh not even the CIA knows that. My name also had to be stitched on the right hind side and as I suspected McLaughlin does not translate well into Japanese. This was confirmed when I got said garment and showed the label to Bob Jones Sensei, the resident expert on the language.
“Do you pronounce it macgloflin with the soft f sound like laugh?”
“No, it’s maclocklin, hard sound.” I really I wanted gankyo game - stubborn turtle- either that or wide load, put there instead. He shook his head no, it has to be your name. Guess which pronunciation they used? It comes out as “Makurafuin”. Yuck.
Like the Scottish kilt, the hakama was designed for men which means it looks great on them but not on us ladies (and black is suppose to be slimming too, hmm). I look like a garden gnome. Put a cone hat on my head and stick out in the front yard. They are too warm in the summer and you frequently step on the low hemline when standing up from sitting seiza.
The other thing is how damn long it takes to get and out of them so you can forget about going to the bathroom in a hurry. A male friend told me he found a way to cheat by pulling the pant leg of the hakama and gi all the way up. The one advantage guys have over girls- bastard. The front half is held in place with a sash that you wrap twice around the waist, mine could circle the earth several times. The back half is tied around in a fancy bow on the front. An entire class of black belts looks like a flock of penguins.
Strangely enough, despite all the formal inconvenience, I like wearing one. I feel like I perform better. As a sign of respect you ask to fold the sensei’s hakama after class but I feel very possessive and won’t let anyone fold mine. I’m not an instructor yet anyway so it doesn’t feel right to have anyone else do it.