How many women and some men too, enjoy fashion shows? How many harbor dreams of strutting down the catwalk in an exciting wardrobe, to the admiring look of a large audience and paparazzi?
The dream is yours today for a mere $30 in Kyoto, Japan.
Kyoto is the aesthetic soul of the country. It’s the epicenter of traditional pre war, wood and shoji screen architecture. The town is infused with a hushed silence of hidden gardens of moss, bamboo and stone lanterns. Ancient shrines and temples lend an exotic spiritual ambience if you wish to pray. The spiritual optics are occasionally off set by the glimpse of a geisha girl in her brilliant kimono, as she is pulled through the narrow alleys in a rickshaw. Artists, poets and foreign visitors have crowded in to the Gion or entertainment district for centuries to witness the color, ambience and serenity that is Kyoto.
Now there’s a change. The hidden gardens and shoji architecture are the same but the hushed, contemplative ambience has changed in the past few years. Even in off season there are now more geisha girl tourist attractions than tourists. Rickshaws carrying these kimono clad beauties are lined up bumper to bumper, causing streets congestion. Large crowds of Chinese visitors now pay the $30 at any of the dozens of “Instant Geisha shops”. These newly wealthy visitors become celebrity/tourist attraction themselves. Why be a camera toting tourist when you can become the focus of the gawking, picture taking crowd? Chinese ladies can now return home with selfie souvenirs to last a lifetime.
This phenomena has become a bonanza for the Kyoto’s merchants and tourist industry, but it comes at a cost. Clusters of exuberant and boisterous young ladies do not bring serenity to the neighborhood. Their laughter and self congratulating outbursts ring through the hushed temple gardens that have always been silent for centuries.
The traditionalists will say “tut tut” to this new ruckus.
“It has destroyed the aesthetics” they say. “It is an obscenity to our serenity.”
I disagree. Everyone is having so much fun in a colorful, happy, pretend world.
If you seek serenity and aesthetic contemplation, go to the forest and mountain tops. Not the inner city. Gion has always been Japan’s Entertainment District and what could be more entertaining than lavish costumes, giggling girls all enjoying a prosperous, pretend world?