Hong Kong: Image of the Day (7)

Why is Chinatown such an inconvenient drive for me? (All of a 30-minute drive…) One of the tasty treats I cannot say “no” to in Hong Kong is the egg tart, nor to its equally tasty counterpart in Macau. Warm, not overly sweet, rich, and filling, they are little hand pies of perfection!

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When it rains in Kyoto…

Sometimes it’s a good idea to think of plans that include sights other than temples and shrines, like the Toei Kyoto Movie Studio tour. Some of Japan’s best-loved films and dramas  have been filmed using the sets on display here, including the upcoming movie, “Ōoku,” starring Ninomiya Kazunari, who’s making a name for himself in film (beyond his participation in the super popular band, Arashi).

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The history of the studio goes back many years and the displays will be most meaningful to devotees of these films. (Most of the signage and information is strictly in Japanese.)

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But that’s not to say that this is not fascinating for the more casual viewer of Japanese cinema and dramas. There were many sets that had this look of familiarity, and I was frequently thinking, “Waaaate a minute… wasn’t this the place where so-and-so went to see the courtesan?”

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This fast glimpse of a striding figure hurrying on his way (above) reminded me of a scene from the drama “Jin.”

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And of course, there were others in character who were happy to pose for photos, such as this young man.

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And, if your pockets are deep, you can, for a price, get made up in period costume and feel like a member of the cast of your favorite movie. I passed on the privilege, as I was squishy wet from the rains and not in the mood to put on layers of clothing – not to mention not wishing to be the strangest looking samurai woman one would ever see. (I’m pretty sure pale blueish eyes are not indigenous to Japan!)

But in spite of the gloom, the few school groups that were there on an outing had a great time racing up and down the “streets” of old Japan. And so did I!

One final word though: Japanese studio tours like this and the one at the Fuji TV building in Tokyo have a LOT to learn about merchandising and what belongs in a souvenir shop. There were no classic movies for sale on DVD, few images of past stars, or other items that promoted the product. Instead there were the usual souvenirs of Kyoto and small trinkets. Disappointing, really. I would have loved a Toshiro Mifune movie poster or the movie image on a shirt… (but then, perhaps these things cannot be licensed in Japan). The only drawback to an interesting outing.

Movie Night: Honey and Clover

Chika Umino’s popular manga of the same title, “Honey and Clover” has spawned an animated series, a movie (this one, released in 2006), and two television adaptations (one aired in Japan, the other in Taiwan), all within the past 4 years.

The movie condenses the story, focusing primarily on the relationship between Hagu (Yu Aoi) and the two art students who are interested in both her talent and demure personality: the older, more experienced Morita (Yuseke Iseya) and the earnest young Takemoto (Sho Sakurai). Another love triangle between gifted architect in training Mayama (Ryo Kase), the woman he has a crush on and the fellow student who has a crush on him receives less attention, given the time constraints of the film.

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The movie is well cast with each of the young actors setting just the right tone. Sho Sakurai, one of the very popular J-pop group Arashi, gives the lovestruck Takemoto a sweetness and candor that could easily have come across as foolish or smarmy and Yuseke Iseya has that hard-lived sort of face and persona as Morita that stamps him as an art student. Yu Aoi as the naive, gifted Hagu can at times be almost hypnotically blank, innocent, or adrift inside the character’s own world. I look forward to seeing the series adaptations as well to see how they flesh out the plots and bring the manga further to life.

More information and interesting trivia on the movie and manga that started it all can be??found here.