Memoirs of a Geisha

Memoirs of a Geisha debuted in 2005. It was directed by Rob Marshall and based on the book with the same name. It is about Chiyo Sakamoto who is sold to the okiya. In the film you see her training to become a real Geisha. She has to dance, know how to walk, how to paint her face and how to seduce men. Once she is trained she is renamed to Sayuri.

Memoirs of a Geisha is a beautiful film in the sense that the cinematography is stunning.  Everything looks tip top, from the actors to the scenery.

However, if you pay closer attention to the film you will find many flaws. First of all, the main characters, who are Japanese, are portrayed by Chinese actors. Yes, Zhang Ziyi, Gong Li and Michelle Yeoh do an amazing job concerning their acting skills. Some Chinese people were offended by this because they see the Geisha as prostitutes. This and the fact that it brought back war memories, and the role Japan played in it, caused that the film was not shown in China.

The Japanese were also offended because of the Chinese casting. The most important roles were given to actors who were not even natives. They do not share the same culture and therefor should not have been chosen in the first place. Just because the film is not made for Japan does not mean that you can alter the truth. The culture was altered and traditions were changed. Hollywood changed the culture and heavily romanticised the story.

This can also be noticed in the way the actors talk. The wealthy Chairman speak nearly perfect English, while the mere Geisha’s have the most terrible accent. It may be an indicator for the level of power but it does not have any proof.

Trip through the Far East

This is going to be a road trip through Japan and China. You will be visiting the biggest cities is both countries.

Day 1:

On day one you will be flying from Amsterdam to Tokyo, the flight takes 11 hours. So, after the flight you can go straight to the hotel to clean up and get ready for dinner. Dinner is hosted at the Sometaro Okonomiyaki, where the main dish is Okonomiyaki (a traditional Japanese savory pancake. After dinner it is time to go to the hotel and catch some sleep. The hotel is called Hotel Metropolitan Edmond (it includes breakfast) and it is situated near the Chiyoda park.

Day 2:

Today you will start in the Chiyoda park. It contains the Tokyo Imperial Palace, the primary residence of Japans emperor. The entrance is free and you can participate in a tour of 1,5 hours. Or walk around by yourself. Once you have left the palace you will stay in the park and visit the National Museum of Modern Art. Where you get free time to walk around for 2 hours. Now it is time for lunch. From the museum it is about half an hour walk to the restaurant called Tokyo Ramen street. One and a half hours later you take the Tozai line from Nihombashi station and get off at Kudanshita station. You will have to walk 8 more minutes to the Yasukini Shrine. It commemorates Japanese war dead, it also has a war museum you can visit. Dinner will be held at Tony Roma’s. Then if a baseball game is on for the night you can watch it in the Meiji Jungū stadium. Afterwards it is time to hop into bed.  Take the Chuo-Sobu line from Shinanomachi station to Lidabashi station. From there on it is a five-minute walk to the hotel.

 

Day 3:

You will start the day off by visiting the Sensō-ji. To get there you first have to take Chuo-Subo line starting at Suidōbashi station, change lines at Akihabara station. There take Tsukuba express to Asakusa Station. From then on it is a 6-minute walk to the ancient Buddhist temple. There you get 2 hours free time, to look around and visit the shops. Afterwards take the Ginza line from Asakusa station to Ueno station. Then walk 10 minutes to the Tokyo National Museum. There you can spend 2,5 hours. In the park there is a restaurant called Innsyoutei, where you can have lunch. After lunch you are going to visit the Tokyo Tower. To get there take the Hibiya line from Ueno Station till Kamiyacho Station. After the 8-minute walk you have arrived at the Tokyo Tower. While you are in the neighbourhood also visit Zōjō-ji, a Buddist temple. To return to the hotel get on the Mita line at Oniramon station. There start packing because in the early hours we will leave to go to Kyoto.

Day 4:

It is a 6-hour drive, so we will get there around 12. First you can drop your luggage off at the hotel, Hotel Monterey Kyoto. This will be a chill day because of the long drive. Walk to the Karasuma Oike Station and use the Tozai Line. Change to the Keihan Main Line at the Sanjo Station. Get off at Shichijo Station, it takes a 7-minute walk to the Buddhist Temple Sanjūsangen-dō. There you can look at the 1001 life-sized wooden statues for about 30 minutes. Then walk 5 minutes to the Kyoto National Museum, where you can investigate calligraphy in just 1,5 hours. Take the bus to go to Tō-ji, the impressive 5-story wooden pagoda belongs to the Buddhist Temple. Then take a bus to get back to the hotel, where dinner will be served. And you have a free evening to regain energy.

Day 5:

The first spot of the day is going to be the Fushimi Inari-taisha, Mountainside Shinto shrine. You get there by getting on the Tozai Line at Karasuma Oike Station, switch at Sanjo Station to the Keihan Main Line. After about an hour and a half walk to the Inari Station and use the Nara Line, change to the San-In Line at Kyoto Station. From the Saga-Araschiyama Station you will have to walk 12 minutes. There you can walk in the bamboo forest and spot all kinds of monkeys. Right next to it is a restaurant called Kameyamaya where you will eat a late lunch. When lunch is finished take a car to go to Nijō Castle, where you can set your eyes on the beautiful gardens. There if you want eat dinner at the Koun-tei, Seiryu-en Garden. After dinner take the bus to go to Gion, a town known best for the Geishas. As an evening activity go to visit on of the tearooms and watch Geisha preform. Return to hotel by using the Hankyu-Kyoto Line. (Kawaramachi-Karasuma)

Day 6:

Set off by taking the Karasuma line from Karasuma Oike station till Karamaguchi Station. From there on walk to the Shimogamo Shrine. Walk to the Demachiyanagi Station and get on the Keihan Main Line, stop at Gion-Shijo Station. There walk to the Maruyama Park, where you can chill out and walk along the cherry blossoms and look at bronze statues. Maybe there will be someone in the outdoor music hall. Just outside the park is the luncheon called Izuju. Get back to the hotel by the Hankyu-Kyoto Line. (Kawaramachi-Karasuma) Once you have arrived pack up because it is time to change cities again. Take the Keihan Main Line (Sanjo Station) until Tofukuji Station where you change onto the Nara Line, getting off at the Nara station. The hotel you will be staying at is called Comfort Hotel Nara, drop your luggage there when you get off the train. You have free time to eat in what used to be Japan’s capital. And explore on your own.

Day 7:

Today’s itinerary exists of the Nara-koen Park, Isui-en Garden, the Todai-ji Temple, a walk through Naramachi (former merchant district) and a fire sighting. Walk from the hotel to the Isui-en Garden. Your next destination is the Todai-ji Temple. There you will find the largest bronze Buddha. 1,5 hours later you go to get yourself a nice lunch. This can be done inside the park (Rokumeien) or beside it (Kameya). After lunch comes the walk through the Naramachi. It is a 20-minute walk, once you are there you can also visit the Naramachi Museum to get an insight on how the place used to be. When you are done with walking you can return to the Nara-koen Park (next to the Isui-en Garden) and look around the statues, cherry blossoms even deer.  You get 3 hours of free time but get yourself a nice dinner in the meantime. In the evening you will go to the Omizutori (first two weeks of march) at Todaiji Temple. Afterwards return to the hotel.

Day 8:

Pack up and go to the Shin-Omiya Station to get on the Kintetsu-Nara Line, get off at the Osaka-Namba station. Walk to Namba and get on the Midosuji Line until you have reached Yodoyabashi Station. Drop the baggage off at the Hotel MyStay Dojima and eat lunch there. Use the JR Touzai-Gakkentoshi Line (Kitashinchi Station-Osakajokitazume Station) to go to the Osaka Castle, where you have 2 hours to walk around or follow a tour. Also take a look at the Hōkoku Shrine. Afterwards walk to the Museum of History, to take a look at how Osake became what it is now. Get dinner at Hotei Sushi. Visit the Dōtonbori (Tanimachi Line+ Sen-Nichimae Line), there you should visit the theatre. Lastly get back to the hotel, by taking the Yotsubashi Line from Namba Station to Nishi-Umeda station.

Day 9:

Start off by going to the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan. Eat lunch at Coco’s Restaurant. Visit the Umeda Sky Building. And lastly before dinner go and visit the Osaka City Museum of fine arts.  Dinner will be served at Yaekatsu. Close the day by looking over the city at night time at the Tsūtenkaku. Return to the hotel.

Day 10:

From the hotel take the bus to go to the airport. And get on the 3-hour flight to Bejing. Today is a travel day. The hotel you will be staying at is called Jinjiang Inn. Next to the hotel is a park where you can walk around today.

Day 11:

Take subway line 1 and 2 to go to the Forbidden City. You can visit the museum or join a tour guide. Get on the Subway line 1 and later 5 to head to the Temple of Heaven. Now it will be dinner time, recommended is the Beijing Dumpling Restaurant. Return to the hotel.

Day 12:

Today you will visit the 20,000 km long wall aka the Great Wall of China. Rent a car and drive to Badaling. There you can hike on the wall. But remember to return to the car! On the way back make a stop at the Summer Palace. Return the car. Have dinner at Li Qun Roast Duck restaurant. It is close to Tiananmen Square where you will be spending your evening.

Day 13:

Take a plane to Shanghai (2-hour flight). You will be staying at the Home Inn, so drop off your luggage and have a stroll along the Bund, a 1500-meter-long waterside promenade with beautiful architecture. You can have dinner at Ajisan Ramen.

Day 14:

Visit the City God Temple and the Oriental Pearl Tower. Then enjoy the Yu Garden in the afternoon when it is nice and sunny. Maybe find a nearby supermarket and treat yourself to a nice picnic. Shanghai has an art museum that you should visit.

In the evening the Shanghai Circus World performs at for example the Shanghai Centre Theatre.

Day 15:

Another day in Shanghai. You will be going to the Venice of Shanghai. It is town just like it only built in Chinese style. Keeping a water front. You will take a Zhujiajioa Cruise, to see the city from a different perspective. From there you can go to the lake and rent a boat. In the evening you should climb the Shanghai World Financial Center to overlook the city at night time.

Day 16:

Pack up again and fly to Xi’an. Drop everything off at the hotel and visit the Terracota Army before it is time for dinner. After dinner visit the Drum Tower of Xi’an, because it will be beautifully lit up.

Day 17:

Have a look around at the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda. Also visit the Small Wild Goose Pagoda so you can compare. In the afternoon visit the Huaqinggong Relic Site, it contains a mausoleum a hot spring and a waterfall. So, you will not only get information on historic events you also get to enjoy nature. In the evening enjoy the Tang Dynasty Music and Dance Show.

Day 18:

It is time to get onto a plane again. This time fly to Chengdu. There you can visit the Mount Qingcheng to walk on the mountain and look at panda’s. Later visit the Chengdu Wu Hou Shrine. In the evening catch up on some sleep.

 

 

Day 19:

Fly to Hong Kong. Get on the Peak Tram and see the wonders of Hong Kong. In the afternoon visit Mong Kok, where you can shop in narrow streets. Or visit the Wong Tai Sin Temple. In the evening another lookout point: Victoria Peak.

Day 20:

Visit the Lantau Island. You should visit Ngong Ping. It contains Po Lin Monastery and Tian Tan Buddha.

Day 21:

Time to go home again…

Arabic pop music

If you type in on google “Arabic pop music” you get to see a list of popular songs and artists. The artists that are on ranked highest and most are Amr Diab (top left)  and Nancy Ajra (middle middle). He is Egyptian, she is Lebanese. They share the music genre Arab pop. It is a subgenre of pop music and Arabic music. It combines pop melodies with elements of different Arabic styles. Characteristics such as Middle Eastern instruments and minor key occur. The most popular themes are romance and focus on longing, melancholy and love issues. Alcohol and sexuality, things that are forbidden in the Islam, are rarely mentioned.
The language barrier did not stop the music from charting in Europe. Many artists, even the ones mentioned above speak multiple languages and cooperate that in their songs. Obviously, the biggest audience lays in the Middle East itself. The pop music is not only popular amongst the young generation, but it has also older fans. As a result of the Arabic film industry (mainly Egyptian movies), is Cairo in Egypt the main center for Arabic pop music. Followed by Beirut in Lebanon.

 

Henna

Henna is a natural colouring device. The plant from which it is made is called the Lawsonia inermis, it is also known as the henna tree. With henna you can dye your skin, hair, nails and even fabrics such as silk wool and leather. Originally the Egyptians started using it to colour the hair and nails of mummies.

Before you can actually use the henna you have to make a paste with it. There are many different recopies and this is one:

Ingredients:

  • Fresh henna powder
  • Lemon juice
  • Sugar
  • Plastic wrap
  • Non-metal mixing bowl and spoon.

 

  1. Put sifted henna into a bowl
  2. Add lemon juice
  3. Add sugar
  4. Let the paste rest for 24 hours while covered with plastic wrap
  5. Create your own patterns

 

The art that results from using henna is called Mehndi. At least that is what they called it in ancient India. It is a ceremonial form of art seen mostly at weddings on the bride and groom as well. Muslims in Afghanistan also started to use it as an indication of coming of age. Both apply it during festivals. It is mostly drawn on the lightest places of the skin, such as palms and back of the hands as well as feet. This way there is a more noticeable contrast.

These are my own creations: