Saturday, April 24, 2010
Oiran Dochu, roughly translated as courtesan procession, is a practice that dates back to the Edo Period (1600- 1868). Oiran were prostitutes of the highest class – the ancient Eliot Spitzer variety – and they could choose their lovers from the richest of men. They could only operate inside walled pleasure districts inside major cities. Tokyo housed the most famous one known as Yoshiwara. While they were trained in the arts, music, conversation, etc, they did not receive the kind of training a geisha did. I know many of you read ‘Japanese courtesan’ and go right to your cinematic or literary memories of Memoirs of a Geisha, and you would not be the only one to do so, but you would also not be the only one to be mistaken. Oiran came about before geisha and to oversimplify it a bit, geisha were more artists than prostitutes and the opposite is true of oiran. This parade of sorts was done when they were escorting their honored guests. The oiran would wear 6 inch geta, wooden clogs, place 8 or more pins in their hair, and were up to 60 pound of ornate clothing for these walks! To make it even harder, they walked VERY slowly and moved their feet in a slow figure-eight pattern. The pictures do more than I ever could to describe the ancient beauty being reenacted here. So the next time you start complaining about wearing heals or that your clothes feel uncomfortable, just imagine putting on 60 pounds of priceless robes, 5 inch wooden-heals and placing enough metal in your hair to pick up XM Radio.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
We rarely use the term fantastic outside of Disney movies. I chose to use the term in my title for its basic meaning: imaginative, fanciful and remote from reality. If you had told me during my freshman year at Furman that I would one day meet up with the guy from 2 doors down in Tokyo, I would have considered that pure fantasy, remote from reality. And I would have been wrong!
Michael Clemens, a fellow Furman-ite and dear friend of mine recently flew to Tokyo to visit his brother who is serving in the US Navy. Being that he was now 14 hours closer to me, I thought a reunion was simply necessary. We met up in Tokyo near the end of his trip to take in the some of Japan’s wonderful capital. Traditional shrines, sprawling metropolitan areas, first class museums and great local restaurants were all thoroughly enjoyed. Being as we had not seen each other in almost a year, we were never left lacking conversation and even if we had been, Tokyo offers ample talking points at every turn. While I certainly enjoyed all of our time together, I would have to say that our final night out on the town that was brought to an end with drinks on the top of the Shinagawa Prince Hotel was simply epic. Very little beats sipping drinks 39 stories high while gazing out a panoramic window at the tallest building in Tokyo. Add a good friend in the mix and simply nothing beats that.