The 90 Day Geisha – My Time as a Tokyo Hostess

My brother is in Japan at the moment (when I started writing the post, he’s now in Nepal). When he was initially planning his trip he had explored the option of a 90-day cultural visa. Now, I don’t know if other countries offer this, but it seems like a good way to boost tourism and get people to understand your country’s culture.

A few weeks ago, I came across this book – The 90 Day Geisha: My Time as a Tokyo Hostess – at the library. I was intrigued by the title (which I’m sure was the intention of the publisher/author), having previously read Memoirs of a Geisha. What I discovered was a whole new, previously unknown to me, use of the 90-day cultural visa to Japan. Plus the setting and context of this book, was completely different world from that in the previously referred book. I’m sure the Japanese authorities are aware of this use of the 90-day visa, unofficially, as it seems to be a popular choice of cultural education among young foreigners visiting Japan for an extended time.

The version I read

The story basically follows the adventures of Chelsea, a former model, and her husband Matt as they navigate the world of Tokyo’s hostess clubs. While Chelsea works as a hostess, her husband sources girls like her on a commission basis for clubs. The author also takes you through different aspects of Japanese culture that the regular tourist to Japan may not even be aware off.

Hostessing in Japan is very different from stripping or prostitution. It’s basically an experience where well-dressed and cultured women entertain men with conversation. It’s like a companionship lounge, with karaoke, which is very popular among local and visiting senior executives of large Japaneses corporations;  and is apparently acceptable even for married men.

The author is on a quest to understand why so many internationally traveled and educated women are attracted by hostess clubs, what disillusions them and what makes them come back. She partially finds her answers but enroute learns and experiences a lot more than she bargained for. The readers get glimpses into the (not so) secret lives of the real Japanese, such as underwear vending machines and dohans?!

My recommendation would be read it with no preconceived notions and don’t judge. Treat it as you would view your experiences while traveling to an exotic place. It’s not perfect but it definitely keeps you reading.

I won’t be surprised if this is soon made into a movie, though I’m not so sure if it’ll pass the censor board.

Stay Happy Everyday

The Dreamer

Credits: Image 1

Copyright 2013 (c). Please do not reproduce this article in its entirety without permission. Alternatively, a link to this URL would be appreciated.

I Deserve Me

It’s that time of the year again. When thinkers start introspecting, party animals go crazy , dieters yo-yo and  us regular folk go nuts trying to balance a social, professional and family commitment while enjoying the festive atmosphere.  What all of us do, in some capacity or the other (except some supremely self-confident and zen people out there), is chalk up and evaluate the previous year, leading to smug moments, moments of feeling left behind, crazy resolutions and ultimately the breaking of those crazy resolutions. There are very few people who I know that head into January (post the extended New Year Eve’s party) with a smile on their faces.  Why do most of us end up panicking that we have lost another year, as against really celebrating our achievements? 

In keeping with the positive (escapist) vibe of this blog, here’s how I’m going to make like a child and blow my own trumpet (even if it’s just between me and me).

  • Make a list of three things that I have achieved this year
  • Decide how to reward myself and make time to enjoy it
  • Plan how I’m going to build on my achievements and hopes for the coming year

To be truthful, this seemed extremely self-indulgent to me at first, however, this is how my thinking changed. Don’t we balance criticism with praise in most environments. be it at work, at home or even in a well-written review? So, when we believe that behaving ‘fairly’ towards the rest of the world yields the best results, why not apply the same to ourselves?

This new year decide to ‘Love yourself unconditionally’ and I guarantee you will become a better person.

P.S. – This is not the same as always indulging yourself and being self-centered. Think of it as a mother loving and guiding her child and you’re good to go.

Stay Happy Everyday

The Dreamer

Credits: Image 1

Copyright 2013 (c). Please do not reproduce this article in its entirety without permission. Alternatively, a link to this URL would be appreciated.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

I recently re-joined my old library after almost 9 years. It was one of the best decisions I could have made (which I’ll discuss in another post). While browsing the shelves on my lunch break I came across an author I had never read before, John Boyne. Apparently, he is fairly high profile but I had never heard of him before! I picked up his book ‘The Thief of Time’ and was pleasantly surprised. I finished it in two sittings, which is no mean feat when you have a five year-old, run a full-time business and get to read only after 11pm at night. I was hooked.

When I went in to return the Thief of Time, I was looking for a slim volume to fit into my handbag. I had a longish ride to meet a business contact the next day and wanted to read on the commute, without having to lug around a brick in my handbag. I went back to take a quick look at the other titles by John Boyne and ‘lo and behold!’ there was a slim volume in the bunch. I immediately  grabbed it, barely scanned the title, and rushed to check it out.

The next morning I got settled for the long drive (I wasn’t driving) and pulled out the book. When we pulled up in front of my contact’s office an hour or so later, I had to literally pull myself out of a trance. The book was so easy to read (and even relate to a bit), while making you think hard that it had my undivided attention. I finished it on the commute home over the next few days and though that was a few months back, the book has stayed with me since.

The cover of the version I read

The story is viewed through the eyes of a nine year old boy, Bruno, who’s like any other nine year old child I have met. Completely involved in his own world of friendships, adventures (real and make believe) and fights with his older sister ‘The Hopeless Case’. The story starts with the family’s move to support the father’s promotion. Though this is a rise up through the ranks of ‘The Fury’s’ (Hitler) administration for his father, it feels like a punishment to Bruno, his mother and sister. They are moved from the center of Berlin, to a god-forsaken house, where their only company are the soldiers reporting to Bruno’s father. Separated from his friends and grandparents, Bruno decides to entertain himself with his favourite pastime exploring.

Unlike his old house, which had five floors and dozens of undiscovered nooks and crannies, the current house offers no such delights. There isn’t even a marketplace or crowded street where he can be pushed ‘from pillar to post’. So the young explorer decides to find out the significance and extent of the barbed wire fence he can see from his bedroom window. His burning questions are “Why does everyone on the other side of the fence get to live in loose, striped pyjamas all day, while he has to wear shoes that pinch his feet? Why can’t he play with any of the children that he can see from his window?”

His adventures lead him to Shmuel, one of the striped pyjama people. A friendship blossoms between the two, based solely on the sharing of food and conversation (a usually strange notion for nine-year old boys). Apart from a shared birthday, the two boys have nothing in common but come to depend on each other’s company to get through their individual days.

The story ends with a simple but highly poignant twist that makes sure you will never forget this book.

Why choose to review this book on a blog about making life happy? Well, the book actually made me appreciate the smaller pleasures in life, gave me an idea of what could be going through my little one’s head and did not for a moment linger on the morbid (unusual for a book set right in the middle of wartime).

Read this and I guarantee real happiness whenever you think of it. Not because of the actual story, but because of the way it is told.

Here’s a transcript of a talk by the author on this particular book.

Stay Happy Everyday

The Dreamer

Credits: Image 1

Copyright 2013 (c). Please do not reproduce this article in its entirety without permission. Alternatively, a link to this URL would be appreciated.

Short escapes through books, art, cinema, travel, style and aimless discussions

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