I’ve not blogged recently because I’ve been away – on holiday – to Japan and Dubai. A bit of an odd mix I know, but Dubai was a stop-over on the way back from the main trip to Japan. I had planned and expected that I would be able to blog whilst over there, BUT found that I had limited access to computers and the Internet and typing on a Japanese keyboard is extremely frustrating when it keeps reverting to Japanese characters and I wasn’t sure which key I’d pressed that had done it! So, I had to keep my blogging limited to comments only!
Anyway, I’m back, and ready to tell you my tales, especially the bits that relate to erotic art! I love seeing different cultures and how other people live. And I think the Japanese are perhaps one of the most interesting cultures I’ve ever experienced. They are extremely polite people, entrenched in their respect for everything and each other, and totally efficient in absolutely everything they do. They know Westerners are different to them, both in looks and attitude and accept that. But as a visitor you try to fit in and adapt as much as possible (and I look about as different as you can do to any Japanese person!!!). But even though they are perhaps more reserved than some cultures, they still have their quirks, and some of them surprised me! One of them was their obsession with heated toilet seats. I know this is going to sound strange, but virtually everywhere I went as I travelled around Japan had heated toilet seats with a built in bidet where you could adjust the temperature, and pressure of the water, and reach all sorts of strange places with it! (And I’ll leave the rest of THAT to your imagination!!!!). During my travels I stayed in a ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn) walking barefoot on tatami matting, eating at low tables whilst dressed in a yakata (light cotton robe tied at the waist) sleeping on a futon, eating very odd things (I’m not so keen on raw fish or cooking my own octopus I’ve decided!) and it also included communal (but segregated) nude bathing in a scalding hot bath as part of the experience. I had read up about this before I went because I knew it was very important to follow the rules of showering thoroughly before hand, allowing the water to get hotter and hotter so that when, after at least ten minutes of showering, scrubbing, washing hair, soaping, and getting as clean as was at all possible, it was then time to walk over to the communal bath and immerse in the scalding hot water to feel invigorated and relaxed. The purpose of thoroughly cleansing first due to the fact that everyone sat in the same water, and it was deemed rude to not be scruptiously clean first. But, for me as a Westerner I found it more fascinating, because I was ignored. Even though I knew they were probably watching me from the corners of their eyes,when I wasn’t aware of it, as they certainly knew I was there, but wouldn’t have openly stared at me. Not for any reason, other than their innate politeness. It was like I didn’t exist, and that I found strangely erotic, like being a voyeur. And it was certainly fascinating as an erotic artist to see the communal scene of women washing themselves, the spray of water, the steam rising from pale wet skin, the long black hair, flash of nipple and dark pubic hair. To hear the chatter and laughter amongst themselves as they washed their hair, and soaped their soft skin. I have certainly added it to my list of erotic scenes to paint at some time in the future!
I also knew that when I was in Kyoto I wanted to go in search of the Geisha girls, if they still existed. I wasn’t sure that they still did. But having read “Memoirs of a Geisha” and seen the film, I wanted to see if I could find any last vestiges of this most erotic of Japanese womanhood. I know the Geisha are entertainers, not sex workers, but I still think there is something very erotic about them in a doll like, non sexual way, if that makes sense? So, I set out to Gion, the area of Kyoto where they are reputed to be, and found that the area is now just nightclubs and backstreet bars and dubious signs over dark doorways. No sign of anyone there at all during the day. Sigh. What a pity. Never mind, it’s not to be, I tried, at least. So, to explore the area further I crossed the main road into a labyrinth of quiet lanes of tiny houses with minuscule and immaculate bonsai gardens next to small dark wooden restaurants, and there I turned a corner, and before me was…… three Geisha girls, with their painted doll like faces, their elaborately tied kimonos, tottering down the street, hanging on to each other’s arms as they chatted on their way to a local tea house to entertain the business men. Wow!!! Double WOW!! They do exist after all! I was entranced. How wonderful. How sexy. How erotic they were. And as I explored that area of Gion more (as that was where I still was, I was just in the wrong part of it before) I came across other Geisha, and was delighted at my find. So gorgeous, with their white painted faces, and red vermillion lips, the makeup so carefully applied, their kimonos a vibrant mix of exotic colour. I can understand why the Japanese men find them so desirable. But, do Western men? Tell me what you think – are they attractive to your eyes? Do you find them sexy? Or erotic?
So, it seems, the Japanese are more restrained than I’m used to, but I very much respect their culture. I certainly would have been very circumspect about telling them my profession if the subject came up (it didn’t) so it was some surprise to me to find the egg cups. I wasn’t expecting them. Particularly where I found them. I was just meandering through a tourist type shop on Miyajima Island, which is considered a spiritual place for relaxing holidays by the Japanese, and where I was delighted to find a new wooden trick box to add to my collection of wooden puzzles when my eyes fell upon the egg cups……. and widened in surprise! Because the images on them were certainly erotic! I smiled in delight! And had to buy them!!! What a wonderful find!!!
So, on to Tokyo, via Hiroshima (an incredibly poignant place, as you can imagine). And Tokyo was so delightful as the cherry blossom was out! Wonderful! And one of the reasons for going to Japan at this time of year was in the hope of finding the cherry blossom in bloom. I know the Japanese hugely celebrate it and can understand why now. It’s the herald of spring, the end of the dark days of winter, and so stunningly beautiful to walk under the trees, with the sunlight catching the pale blossoms, the scent of spring in the air, and people promenading and picnicking under the trees, celebrating their natural and delicate pale beauty.
Whilst in Tokyo I had dinner with an architect and his psychologist wife. They’re both English, live near me, and happened to be in Tokyo on holiday at the same time. I knew them both slightly and had not socialised with them before but found them both delightful dinner companions. They both work in subjects I’m deeply interested in – she with people, and he with creative design, so was delighted to hear more about their work, and their opinions on the Japanese, and they were more than happy to discuss erotic art! But I think the thing I found most exciting was listening to the architect and how he described his creative energy for designing his buildings. It was exactly the same way I work, except I’m an erotic artist working in 2 dimensions, and you would think totally different to him. But we were so similar in our thought process and how we came to the finished product. I loved the way he described the way that his work is not designing with bricks and mortar but is sculpting with light. How wonderfully exciting to do that!
And then, on to Dubai. A totally different place to Japan, with new cultures to be aware of, and since it’s an Arabic country, it’s expected that women cover up and don’t flaunt themselves. No excess flesh on show. So I spent most of my time in public in light trousers and short sleeved tee shirts, no cleavage on show. And since it was extremely hot and sunny, sunglasses and a hat. I had forgotten what it’s like to wear sunglasses…. because although you can see everything clearly, anyone looking at you cannot see your eyes. At all. They have no idea where you are looking, even when standing close to you. And because of that it means that they look at you differently. Because they presume you are NOT looking at them. How interesting, I found. Because, again not looking like the locals, I was looked at. Quite openly. And was very aware of masculine eyes on my body, and that because their women are covered, that they perhaps found looking at me erotic because they could see more of me, even though I wasn’t dressed in the least erotically by Western standards. How interesting again, that different cultures find things erotic that other cultures don’t at all. MMmmmm………
So, all in all, I’ve learnt an awful lot whilst I’ve been away, and have come back with some fresh ideas. Oh yes!!