For about $100 a young woman can be dressed up like a geisha and walk around the streets of Kyoto. It is all quite funny, and everyone gets a good laugh out of it. For an additional cost, the "geisha" can also be pulled around in a rickshaw. However, there are still real geisha in Kyoto who find this whole thing quite disgusting. They protest that it trivializes their profession, and point out that these "geisha for a day" will even sometimes engage in such unladylike behavior as smoking cigarettes and eating ice cream cones in public. There are two American tourists in this photo. What you can't see here is the two dozen curious Japanese who pulled out their cameras to get a picture of this very unusual entourage. In case you are interested, men can also get dressed up, as samurai, and parade around the streets of Kyoto with a plastic sword. I didn't see any samurai the day that I was there.
War Memorial Shrine
Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, where Japan's war dead are enshrined, is a lightning rod for criticism by Korea and China, who view visits to the memorial by the Prime Minister as a sign that the country is intending to rearm and attack their neighbors as they did in the 1930s. However, when I visited the shrine on New Year's Day I found that the biggest attraction was a trained monkey, dressed in pants and a shirt, and walking on stilts.
Japan is fun. In fact, at times it is downright hilarious. This picture was taken at the height of the fall tourist season in the ancient capital of Kyoto. A Buddhist priest is begging while two girls on high school excursion to the city walk by in mini skirts. The red sign in the background says that the big temple in the neighborhood will be lit up at night for special viewing and worship at $3.50 per person. A few steps down the stairs a shop is selling hot dogs and green tea ice cream cones. You wonder why people who live in a country like this would find it necessary to visit Disneyland.
Every Sunday is Halloween in the Harajuku district of Tokyo. The youth of the city dress up in their most outlandish outfits and hang out. The two on the left are expressing their fantasies as a loud speaker car passes in the background, admonishing the citizens of Tokyo to reawaken their Japanese spirit. This is the same group that advocates reinstalling the emperor as the only political authority in the country.
I got a picture of this man who was playing patriotic music at the Yasukuni War Memorial Shrine in Tokyo.. His shirt reads, "Japanese be proud!! You are the descendents of the Yamato Tribe." I thought it might be difficult to talk with someone like this, so I stood back and used the zoom lens to get the picture. But I got up the nerve to approach him and found that he was quite reasonable. He said the three-string instrument he was playing was from Okinawa. The body is covered with snake skin. He had a large repertoire of songs, and when he learned that I was born in America he played Santa Claus is Coming to Town and the Star Spangled Banner for me. Sometimes I think I will never understand Japan.
I met this samurai actor strolling through the park. One hundred and fifty years ago a samurai would chop off the head of any foreigner he met. However, this one was quite friendly and agreed to have his picture taken with me.
This homeless man took a break from collecting newspapers to watch a Tokyo Rockabilly dance in the park..
This female impersonator has been entertaining for years. He drew a large crowd at Ueno Park, dancing to music from a cassette player.
Speakers of English never tire of the hilarious results that can sometimes occur when Asian languages are translated. I was sent a box of apples as a year-end gift, each having a seal pasted on it. I wonder if the gift giver was trying to tell me something.
New Age Geisha
Everyone laments the demise of traditional Japan, but it is heartwarming to know that at least one ancient custom is alive and well even today. I found this postcard in my mailbox the other day. Apparently modern day geisha have gone high tech. They accept major credit cards and even have a website. It is gratifying to know that, like the dental profession, they are accepting Westerners into their ranks. Also, it is wonderful that, in keeping with modern labor practices, they even accept part-timers.