January 6, 2009

Kyoto, Japan

After visiting the enormous city of Tokyo and spending a quiet Christmas in the town of Takayama, we arrived in Kyoto, a place that felt like a perfect blend between the two. While still maintaining a city atmosphere with many restaurants, shopping streets and nightlife, getting around is very manageable and, thankfully, much more affordable.
I don’t know if it was the easy pace of the city or the three of us finally getting into a unified travel groove, but John, Jess and I felt immediately comfortable walking the streets and exploring. Our activities seemed to follow more of an organic format and Kyoto lends itself to accommodating the spontaneous itinerary; you could walk along restaurant alley and choose almost any place and wind up having a great dinner or wander down a little side street and find a whole new district to explore or while on the way to visit one temple, you could be sidetracked by another one that was equally interesting.
I had told John and Jess in Tokyo that I was making an audition video for a travel show and that I had previously filmed an introduction at the Great Wall using my International Almost Naked idea as a theme. The goal of the International Almost Naked photo contest is to try to get as naked as possible, without graphically revealing anything or offending anyone, in front of as many world heritage sites as possible. The big ones, such as the Great Wall, the Giza Pyramids, or the Parthenon obviously win the most points and will earn you the most respect from your fellow traveler’s, which is why you do it in the first place. I was pretty proud of my Almost Naked video on the Great Wall and when I showed it to John and Jess they were equally enthused, but it inspired an idea in a whole different direction.
I was fortunate to be in the presence of two humorous and creative people, my sister in law being an actress and in the film industry for many years and my Brother being a natural comedian; before long they had transformed themselves into my writers, producer, co-producer, and videographer. They created a solid and playful story and when we arrived in Kyoto, we were ready to roll…
The concept really came together when, over a delicious lunch on the waterfront, I read in the guide book that you could have yourself made up like a geisha from one of the local studios. It was to be the prefect ending to a storyline that had me looking for the famously elusive geisha in Kyoto, interviewing people find out where to spot them and then finally getting so frustrated at not finding any that I just become one.
That evening as Jess and I were planning for the early morning make-up session, she turned to John and said, “oh, your sister is going to look so pretty tomorrow.” I went to bed thinking that maybe, just maybe, they will make me look like a Japanese starlet from the olden days and, beyond the sheer absurdity of it all, it would allow me to relish in a moment of glamour.
When we arrived at the studio, I surprisingly was not the only customer. Who knew that quite a few young Japanese girls love to get dressed up like a geisha and slowly walk the streets with a wood clog strut and a serious expression while their family and friends take photos of them? I am not quite sure when the last time a 34 year old American showed up for a make-over, but alas, there I was and I was ready to enter the world of geishadom. 
Jess wasn’t allowed in the dressing room with me and they had so many rules to follow that I didn’t even know if I was allowed in the dressing room with me, but soon enough I was picking out a kimono and kneeling in front of the make-up artist. When she finally finished painting my face white and my lips bright red, I had the chance to look in the mirror and what I saw looking back at me was nothing short of terrifying. Was that really me? She had succeeded in making me look like the Bride of Chucky, which, after the lead iron wig with the sideburns was placed on my head, had transformed into a spitting image of Ronald McDonald as a drag queen. And just as I thought it couldn’t get any better, it was the look on Jessica’s face when she saw me for the first time that solidified my feelings that this was one of the greatest things I have ever done.
I was allowed fifteen minutes, with a chaperone, on the streets next to the studio. While the other girls were carefully passing and posing, Jess and I were practically rolling on the ground in belly-aching laughter, making filming a bit difficult. When I pulled out an unlit marlboro menthol cigarette as part of my skit, the poor chaperone must have thought this a very, very sad day for the geisha.
I didn’t know which felt more freeing, stripping down to almost nothing in the wintertime on the Great Wall of China or donning a ridiculous geisha costume while running through the alleys of Kyoto. Whichever it was, I do know one thing for sure – that I haven’t laughed that hard in years.


jessica said...

unbelievable...i am literally pissing all over myself.

jessica said...

from john, again...fabulous writing. i am really impressed for a lot of reasons including your choice of material, knowing what translates into good writing stories, and then the execution, your choice of verbs is strong and the writing ultimately combines funny stories with a deeper, warm message on the nature of the human condition. love you, keep it up, your bro j.

sand said...

and truthfully, I too am literally pissing all over myself. Where are those pantyliners? My sides ache. THat photo is the best. I mean THE BEST. bride of chucky indeed.


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