Thursday, May 25, 2017

Edward G Robinson, the Sexy Geisha and Me - A True Story!

Whenever I put some famous person's name in the title of my articles, the hits and access to those articles literally explodes. I like to think that my readership is skyrocketing because of my prose and penmanship (on a PC?) but I suspect it is really because of how vain I am and how I like to name-drop famous people. It doesn't matter how tenuous that relationship between that famous person and me is either because this stuff is all true. 

Swear to god! Strike me dead if I lie!.....

See? I'm still here!

Just the other day I wrote about my close "working relationship" with Charles Bukowski. That article was quite popular, thank you. Looking back, though, I kind of screwed that one up because I should have added the name of U2's Bono to that article's title; "Charles Bukowski, Bono and Me."  

Also, a while back, I wrote about the time I met "God" in person and even sort of had lunch with him at a restaurant in Los Angeles!...  And who could forget the time I met former president H.W. Bush and the hijinks surrounding Daddy Bush, Diana Ross and me

Yes, folks. These stories are all true too! 


So, here we go again with another titillating tale of my chequered past! (Well, not so past, I'm just talking about what happened yesterday...) Hence the title: "Edward G Robinson, the Sexy Geisha and Me - A True Story!"

Yesterday, I spent the day down in Atami. Atami is a famous sea-side resort town just south of Tokyo. It used to be called the "Venice of Japan." It is famous for the ocean, mountains, Mt. Fuji and it is one of two seats of true geisha culture in Japan (the other being Kyoto).

Atami and Mt. Fuji in the background

Anyway, before I tell you about the sexy geisha, Edward G. Robinson and myself, let me give you some background on Atami...

Atami is celebrating their 80th year of becoming a city and they are aiming to change their nickname from the "Venice of Japan" to the "Hollywood of Japan." The reason being is that there seems to be some sort of boom going on there for locations for TV shows and movies... (A government representative told me that there were, on average more than 300 location shoots a year in Atami! Wow!)

So, I was down in beautiful Atami to meet some folks from the government and the national travel bureau because we are arranging a fancy hootenanny shindig next year. Besides meeting the government and travel bureau folks, I was also going to meet a very famous, legendary geisha named Matsuchiyo and her geisha house publicity manager. 

I was looking forward to a sort of "Teahouse of the August Moon" meeting (except I hate sitting on the floor. My knees and my butt starts to hurt!)

Anyhow, Matsuchiyo is a very famous and high class geisha and has been doing that for years. She has been on TV and is well known in the entertainment business. I even worked on a documentary about her a while back. Here's that trailer:

Matsuchiyo has been a geisha since about the end of World War II. During the war, as a young girl, she and her family moved to then Japan-occupied Manchuria to seek their fame and fortune. Well, as you may have heard, the war didn't quite go as the Japanese Imperial Army planned and when the Soviets invaded Manchuria right before the dropping of the atomic bomb, all hell broke loose and the Japanese in Manchuria had to beg, borrow or steal to get the hell out of Manchuria before the Russians got to them.

A young Matsuchiyo and her mother were the only ones from their family who survived and were able to escape the onslaught of the Soviets and return to Japan. 

Beautiful Matsuchiyo in the 1950s?

Back in Japan, her family had incurred such huge financial losses that the only way out for them was for Matsuchiyo to be literally sold to become a geisha. So a proper and professional geisha she became.

After the war, in the 1950s, many famous American actors and actresses came to Japan. They would often go to Atami as Atami is only about 2.5 hours from Tokyo (there was no Shinkansen Bullet Train until 1964 so going to Kyoto was a major endeavour back in those days - Now we can get to Atami from Tokyo in 40 minutes or so by Bullet Train). And this is where Edward G. Robinson comes in. I was talking to Matsuchiyo's son (my friend Ken) and he was showing me photos of his mom. He said to me, "Here's one of my mom and some famous American actor." 

I looked at the photo and couldn't believe it. There, in the photo, is Matsuchiyo and my mom and dad's favorite gangster actor: Edward G. Robinson! My jaw dropped to the floor!

"Your mom performed as a geisha for Edward G. Robinson in the 1950s!? Holy shit! That's unbelievable!!!!" I exclaimed. In his always understated and subdued manner, Ken quietly responded, "Yes. It would appear to be so..."

Matsuchiyo in white and standing behind her with his hand on her shoulder is Academy Award winning actor Edward G. Robinson (I'll bet they called him "Ed-san.")

I was even told a story about the time Matsuchiyo went to the British embassy to entertain some royalty and other big shots who were visiting Japan. You know, if you or I go to the embassy whether there are "important people" there or not, they always treat us like criminals and rifle through our shit and give us full body cavity searches and check our ID and everything? Well, to a geisha? No. They don't do that. So when Matsuchiyo showed up to the embassy they didn't even check her ID or her belongings or anything. She, as a geisha, just walks right past security, no questions asked. No one bats an eye.

What the hell? That's right. No checks. No nothing. Why? Because everyone in Japan knows that geisha do not carry ID (I am not kidding here either)....Isn't that wild?

Anyhow, where was I? Oh, yeah, I was meeting with these government people and the travel agency people and Matsuchiyo. Matsuchiyo told us that the publicity manager for the geisha house was to attend today's meeting, so we were sitting at the government office waiting. 

Of course since she told us it was the "publicity manager" we were expecting some dude in a suit to show up... But no!.... Oh my god! It wasn't a dude, but a beautiful girl!... I mean, a really beautiful geisha arrived! Her name was Miho. I think my jaw dropped to the floor when she walked into the room. Everyone was so surprised!

Miho and Matsuchiyo at Atami Government City Office - May 24, 2017

Well, we all sat in a conference room (in chairs, thank you very much) and had a nice meeting. Matsuchiyo and Miho didn't say two words the entire meeting; they didn't have to, the mere eloquence of their presence was quite extraordinary and had a profound effect on everybody. I mean, imagine having a business meeting and legendary people are sitting right next to you! Wow!

The meeting went well and we all came to a mutually agreeable deal. We all said our "goodbyes" and I left and headed home. The end of a satisfying day!

But there is an epilogue and one last "joke" for people who are into Japan and geisha and pop culture. This last tidbit blew my mind too.

At the meeting, the representative from the national travel bureau handed me her card. I looked at her name and was quite surprised. Her name is "Tomoe Kimura." Why was I so surprised? Let me explain.... (My twisted way of thinking...)

Here I am in a room at Atami (The Hollywood of Japan) meeting with high ranking government officials and there are two famous geisha sitting right next to me. The girl we meet from the government travel bureau hands me her card and her name is the same name as one of the most famous Enka singers of all time! Imagine if you sat down at a meeting and someone handed you a card and her name was, say, "Petula Clark" or "Nancy Sinatra"? Get it?

I'm with geisha at a meeting and the person I am talking to is named Kimura Tomoe???? WTF?????? Kimura Tomoe sang one of the most famous Enka songs in history! You can't make this stuff up!!!!! 

 Tomoe Kimura - "Naniwa Bushidayo Jinsei Wa"
If video doesn't play, click here:

I asked the Ms. Tomoe Kimura we were having a pleasant meeting with if she would sing her monster hit song, "Naniwa Bushidayo Jinsei Wa" at our event opening ceremony.... 

When everyone realized the connection and the joke about her name and that famous song, they all burst out laughing... Especially the two geisha! 

I was happy. 

You know, geisha usually entertain you and make you laugh... it's not everyday that I get to entertain the geishas and make them laugh!


If you got a kick out of this article, you might like yesterday's: The Spirit of Ecstasy

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