Ah, it’s good to be home again. Transoceanic travels tend to wear one down; more about my travels later on in another article. Do any of you like that grizzled songwriter and singer named Willie Nelson? Have a look at some of the lyrics from one of Willie’s classic songs:
On the road again,
Goin’ places that I’ve never been,
Seein’ things that I may never see again,
And I can’t wait to get on the road again.
Old Willie isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. but his words are in tune with my desire to go where I want to go.
And travel is in some ways considered an ingredient of an art form; after all, people write articles and books, take museum quality photos, and make great works of art on canvases about where they’ve been. So call me an artist if you want. Or better yet, call me a traveler.
Isn’t life a series of travels — from here to there, from home to work and back, from the womb to the grave — we are always on the move. Even when we are just staying at home, our lives still travel forward, from dawn to dusk, from beginning to end.
A movie from a few years ago, Memoirs of a Geisha, can convey more about travel in a sense. While what we saw onscreen is an account of the travels of one small and impoverished Japanese child from a backwater fishing town to the highest echelons of the world of geishas, and the the movie itself is a Hollywood version of the life of a geisha, as created in the novel of the same name by Arthur Golden, this still represents the travels of an idea.
Years ago, at least as far back as when written communication began, when we had an idea, we sent it downstream to our hands where we transferred the idea onto a piece of paper. The idea transference progressed to paper and ink, to typewriters, to electric typewriters, to personal computers with a word processing program, and finally to its current circumstances where an idea can travel from my head to a screen in front of you, wherever you are — even halfway around the world — without either of us leaving our homes.
Arthur Golden was a Harvard scholar with a major interest in all matters Japanese: Mr Golden did his research and study and even traveled to Japan to learn about geishas. After scrapping his original 800-page draft, it was eight years before he gave the world this best-selling novel.
Memoirs of a Geisha, the book, topped best–seller lists for two years. Steven Spielberg ultimately bought the film rights, and the finished film, directed by Rob Marshall, ultimately played in a theater near you. Now that was an idea that really traveled!
While geishas are considered by some to be cultural artifacts whose time has long since passed, this is not really the case. Geishas are alive and well. I saw them with my own eyes in the Gion district of Kyoto, last October. Just like you and me, the geishas are working people. One can pass them on the street as they head for the okiya, or geisha house where they work.
They are, in some quarters, thought of as living works of art as they must master and hone their superb artistry to the skills of conversation, dress, tea, dance, and music, all for the entertainment of men. Yet they are still mostly an unknown commodity to those of us in the west, and to most of the world beyond Japan’s shores.
I hope Arthur Golden’s long years of research preceding his novel, and the efforts of Rob Marshall, and the cast and crew of Memoirs of a Geisha, have brought the subject into focus for us.
And that is my cue to wind down this column, and to begin another kind of travel. To follow some of the ideas to the places where they begin or where they become public. For us to share these ideas, you won’t need a travel agent, a passport, or even a hotel reservation. Just connect to the internet, and find your way to this website, or one of your own choosing to check out another person’s ideas, and your journey will begin.