Geisha in Kyoto, Japan

 

Gion District – Geiko (Geisha) and Maiko (Geisha-in-training) in Kyoto

Kyoto is  the centre of Japan’s Geisha culture. There are almost 200 Geiko, popularly known as a Geisha, in Kyoto, making it the largest concentration in Japan. Geisha in Japan are respected artists.

They reside mainly in the charming Gion quarter, with its leafy narrow lanes lined with traditional wooden houses. It is located around Shijo Avenue between Yasaka Shrine in the east and the Kamo River in the west.

It is here that girls and young women receive the rigorous training to a become a Geiko, and here that they entertain in Ochaya, the traditional tea houses.

You may be fortunate, as we were, to see an exquisitely costumed Geiko walking along the narrow streets in the Gion district. If you do see a Geiko, which is not a common sight, it is considered very impolite to approach or try to speak with her.

However, we were able to spend more time with a Maiko – a young woman serving an apprenticeship in order to become a Geiko.

Meeting a Maiko

Meeting a Maiko in Gion was one of the most memorable events of our time in Japan. We met her in the wooden Ochaya. It was a delight to see her serve tea and then to watch her dance. She then answered our many questions about Maiko and Geiko through an interpreter.

What is a Geiko/Geisha?

It is necessary to explain that contrary to popular belief, Maiko and Geiko are not sex workers. They are respected artists who undergo a course of 5 years apprenticeship in singing, dancing, playing instruments, calligraphy and traditional Japanese skills such as tea ceremonies before they are allowed to qualify. They are highly accomplished performers and social hostesses who are invaluable to the smooth and successful running of business or social gatherings.

Nor can you simply book a Geiko to hostess or entertain at a function. They entertain only for guests known to their mother house who have been clients of at least three generations standing. New clients may be accepted only on recommendations from existing clients.

The Discipline

It is hard to find a Western equivalent for this exclusive profession. It combines the rigorous training and discipline of an elite ballet school and music academy, with the self-renunciation of a nunnery.

The community of Geiko and Maiko residing in Gion is governed by the strictest and perhaps the most conservative rules of all. This unique art form developed over the generations is fading as fewer girls are prepared to undertake the arduous training and lifestyle.

Few are accepted for training as a Maiko, and even fewer qualify as a Geiko after 5 years.

A Maiko lives under the auspices of a Kami-san (Mother of the House) who is responsible for her training and accommodation. The House Mother also takes on a parenting role. The 18 year-old young woman we met chose to become a Maiko when she was 15. This meant that she not only left school at that age, but she also had to leave her family to come to Kyoto. She is only permitted to see her family a few times a year.

Maiko in teahouse Kyoto Japan – womangoingplaces.com.au

Each day, from morning until late afternoon, she receives instruction from teachers in singing, playing instruments, dancing and traditional Japanese arts including learning how to apply the striking makeup. Then from early evening until late at night she hosts guests in the traditional teahouses or at private functions. She dances and sings, accompanying herself with a range of Japanese musical instruments, pours tea and engages them in conversation.

She wears gorgeous kimonos and her hair is impeccably swept up in the distinctive, glossy traditional style. Since it is so difficult and time-consuming to arrange this style, her hair is washed, styled and set once a week. To maintain it in place, she, like all the other Maiko and Geiko, have to sleep with their necks on hard wooden little platforms.

During the 5-year training period she receives no pay for her work and studies. All her expenses are paid for by the Kami-san. If she wants to leave, she has to pay back all the expenses to the Kami-san.

If she wants to marry, she is not allowed to remain in the profession.

Remarkably, a Geiko’s skills and accomplishments as an artist, performer, conversationalist and hostess can survive the loss of her looks and her youth. There are even some Geiko in their 80’s still hosting guests.

Public Geiko performances

It has recently become possible to meet a Maiko as we did, through a tour company, through the internet or a local travel guide could arrange it.

Kyoto’s Gion Kobu Geisha community puts on annual public shows which provide a rare opportunity for the public to see the geisha perform their arts. The most famous of these performances is the Miyako Odori  in which Geiko give several hour-long highly stylised dance performances each day for about 3 weeks in April.  See the official site Miyako Odori  to book tickets.

 

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Feature image of Geiko in Kyoto Japan by June Simpson

Related posts:

Our Top Places in Japan

Ryokans in Japan

Japan’s Brilliant Bullet Train

Onsen in Japan

Geisha in Kyoto, Japan

Autumn in Japan

Notes on Japan

The Pleasures of a Japanese Toilet

Hokkaido – the Northern Island of Japan

 

 

 

Our Top Places in Japan

WomanGoingPlaces has chosen some of the places we saw as first-time visitors to Japan that became our Top Places in Japan.

Tokyo the capital, of course has many attractions and must be visited, but we would like to present some places outside Tokyo, some lesser known, that made a special impression.

These are to be found on 4 different islands of Japan – Honshu, Miyajima, Hokkaido and Shikoku. The choices are arranged according to islands and not in order of favourites.

We would also like to recommend the following local guides whom we found to be excellent – knowledgable, pleasant and reliable:

Ms. Atsuko Inuzuka   Areas guided include Tokyo area, Yokohama, Hakone, Nikko, Kyoto, Kanazawa, Himeji, and Kobe.

Ms.Chiwako Mukai   Areas guided principally Hokkaido, but also from Tokyo to Kyoto including Takayama, Kanazawa, Hiroshima and Miyajima.

Mr Masaaki Hirayama  Area guided – Hiroshima

HONSHU

KYOTO

Don’t rush through Kyoto. You need to spend time in this city that has more World Heritage Sites than Rome. Plan time to enjoy the extraordinary beauty of the temples and shrines. Allow time to wander through its distinctive districts, extensive gardens and wide boulevards. Eat Shabu Shabu sitting on tatami mats and other traditional food in its excellent restaurants.

Kyoto’s historical importance as Japan’s capital and the Emperor’s residence from 794 to 1868 spared it from air raids in WW2 and the mass, unattractive post-war development of many Japanese cities.

Kinkaku-ji Temple (The Golden Pavilion)

Golden Pavilion Kyoto

The glittering gold Kinkaku-ji Temple and its reflection in the pond is stunning and yet serene. The two top floors of the temple are covered in gold leaf.  Built initially by a shogun as his personal villa, it became a temple in 1408. The original building has been burnt down several times, most recently by a fanatic monk in 1950, but each time, like a gold-plated phoenix, it has arisen splendid from the ashes.

You cannot go inside, but must admire it from the outside only. On rare occasions, heads of state and royalty are permitted to enter and see the beautiful interior. Perhaps the luckiest are the cleaning ladies who get regular access to every part.

 

 Fushimi Inari Shrine

 

This is the head Shinto shrine of 30,000 shrines in Japan dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. Since 711 A.D., people wishing to give thanks have each donated a torii gate and now there are over 10,000 of these dazzlingly beautiful gates. You walk inside vermillion avenues formed by these torii, each with different inscriptions in bold black.

It is the most popular site in Kyoto and extremely crowded, so try to get there as early as possible in the morning.

 

HIMEJI CASTLE, HIMEJI

HIMEJI CASTLE

UNESCO describes Himeji Castle as “ a masterpiece of construction in wood”.  Sitting on top of a hill, it is a luminous white, particularly brilliant after its recent restoration, and appears to float on its fortified foundations. It is considered Japan’s most spectacular castle for its imposing size and beauty and its well-preserved complex of 83 buildings. Begun as a fort in the 14th Century, it was remodelled and expanded in the 16th Century. Despite war, earthquakes and fires, it remained intact, making it one of Japan’s twelve remaining ‘original castles’. It is also one of only four castles in Japan that has been designated as a National Treasure and has also been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A superb example of typical Japanese castle architecture, the intricate detail of every feature from the immense trees used as pillars to the feudal family crests in the tiling reflects extraordinary craftsmanship and ingenuity. Himeji Castle combines the strength of an immense fortification with the lightness and beauty of traditional Japanese aesthetic.

 

KOYASAN, Mount Koya

    If you would like to stay in a Buddhist monastery and practise meditation, Koyasan, is a beautiful, if  remote place to do it – in thickly forested mountains at an elevation of 900 metres. Considered one of Japan’s most sacred sites, it is the world headquarters of the Shingon School of Esoteric Buddhism and was established in the year 816 by Kobo Daishi. He is considered by many to be the most influential religious person in Japanese history and his mausoleum is there in the sprawling Okunoin cemetery.

    Koyasan has 117 temples. The Garan Temple complex in particular has very intricately designed, remarkable temples set in extensive gardens. Koyasan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For over a thousand years, pilgrims have made the lengthy journey here. You see them still, wearing white cotton jackets, with conical hats on their heads and wooden staffs in their hands. Like every place in Japan that attracts many visitors, there are shops, restaurants and even cafes to cater to guests. More than 50 of the temples and monasteries also offer lodgings, known as shukubo. See our post about Ryokans in Japan for more about shukubo and how to contact them.

    HIROSHIMA

       

      The destructive power of the the first atomic bomb that was dropped over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 obliterated nearly everything within a two kilometer radius. It was decided not to rebuild the blast area, but to turn it into Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park. You may be disinclined to visit a place of such harrowing memories but it is very worthwhile to do so. Hiroshima itself has been rebuilt into a thriving attractive city.  The memorials to the terrible events of the war are thoughtfully and sparely presented. Through personal belongings, clothes and stories they evoke the impact and consequences of that fatal day.

      The Museum on the site focuses on August 6 – the day the bomb was dropped and its outcome in human suffering. Scorched items of clothing, personal effects and buildings that survived the 3000 degree heat generated by the bomb make for a devastating display.

      The Children’s Peace Monument was built to commemorate the death of children in the atomic blast, and in particular the death of 12 year-old Sadako Sasaki. She was 2 years-old when exposed to the radiation of the blast, but grew up healthy until 10 years later when she was diagnosed with leukaemia. There is a Japanese legend that if you fold 1000 paper cranes, your wish will come true. So Sadako began to fold paper cranes hoping to become well. Some of these cranes can be seen in the Museum. The Children’s Peace Monument  has a bell you can ring in commemoration and it is ornamented with colourful paper cranes sent from all over the world.

      The A-Bomb Dome, also known as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, is what remains of the former Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. When the bomb exploded, it was one of the few buildings to remain standing, and remains so today designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

      Between the Museum and the A-Bomb Dome is the Cenotaph. This is an arched tomb for those who died as a result of the bomb, either because of the initial blast or exposure to radiation. Below the arch is a stone chest holding a register of these names, of which there are over 220,000. The grandfather of our guide when we visited Hiroshima, was one of them.

      NIKKO

       

        The lavish beauty of the buildings, temples, shrines, gates and bridges in Nikko is extraordinary. This area enshrines the power and wealth of the first Shogun of the Edo Shogunate – Tokugawa Ieyasu. As such, it is a UNESCO World Heritage centre. Pathways through giant trees lead to very long and steep flights of steps into most buildings. There is a feeling of having to ascend into the presence of the all-powerful Shogun. Nikko is 2 hours from Tokyo by train, so a day-trip is possible but would greatly limit what you could see. The area is also a mountain resort.

        MIYAJIMA ISLAND


          Miyajima Island is considered one of the top three scenic sights in Japan. This island sits in the western part of the Inland Sea of Japan, in the northwest of Hiroshima Bay. It is popularly known as Miyajima, which in Japanese means Shrine Island. There are shrines, temples and historical monuments such as the famous vermillion torii gate that appears to float in the water. Most visitors make a day trip by ferry from Hiroshima. Don’t. It’s worth a longer visit because even if your interest in visiting shrines has waned, it is one of the prettiest and most peaceful places in Japan. Miyajima has retained its traditional character and avoided the high-rise development of most Japanese cities.

          Walking through its charming streets you are often accompanied by wild deer, who either ignore you or try to nibble any paper you have in your pockets. There is a challenging but beautiful walk through primeval forest up (and/or down) Mt. Misen. Spectacular panoramic views over the sea await you. You can take the cable car up as well. The specialties of Miyajima are the oysters and the freshly baked, custard-filled sponge cookies. Excellent accommodation is available at all levels of comfort. See our Ryokans in Japan post for more about the Miyarikyu Ryokan.

           

          HOKKAIDO

          NOBORIBESTSU

            Noboribetsu is famous for its hot springs and volcanoes. A small town in the south of Hokkaido, it is easily reached by train from Sapporo. Set in volcanic mountains, it attracts those who seek the healing and relaxing waters of some of the best onsen in Japan. Noboribetsu Onsen is one of the most popular and famous hot spring resorts. See our Hokkaido post for more about Noboribetsu.

            The stark yellow, pink and green-clad landscape is beautiful. Taking a walk along the many pathways through the Shikotsu-Tōya National Park, including the one to Jigoku-Dani (Hell Valley) a huge geothermal crater, is exhilarating. There are cauldrons of bubbling, sulphurous liquid. Geysers periodically erupt in a shower of boiling water.

            HAKODATE

            Goryokaku Fort Hakodate

            Its chief attraction is the five-pointed star shaped Goryokaku Fort modelled on 16th Century European citadel towns and completed in 1864. Its thick stone walls are surrounded by a moat and the 1,600 cherry trees planted in its grounds make it an extraordinary sight in spring. It’s an impressive sight in any season and can be best appreciated from the observatory in the Goryokaku Tower nearby.

            The new Goryokaku Tower was built in 2006 as an observatory in order to give visitors excellent perspectives onto the Fort from a height of almost 100 metres.

            Hakodate is famed for excellent seafood. This bounty can be seen in over 300 stalls in the morning market (Asaichi).

            See our Hokkaido post for more about Hakodate.

            SAPPORO

            Sapporo Beer Museum

            Sapporo, Hokkaido’s capital, is probably best known around the world as the original home of its eponymous brand of beer. It is a thriving pleasant city of almost 2 million people set on a grid pattern that is easy to navigate. Below the city centre, there is a network of underground shopping malls, plazas and public transport that make it possible to live and go about business in the city without suffering the extremely cold winter.

            Winter is still an important season in Sapporo because of the annual Sapporo Snow Festival held in February and its astonishing mammoth ice sculptures.  Skiing is also an attraction because of the availability of ski jumps in the city and its proximity to the Niseko ski resort. For more about Sapporo see our Hokkaido post.

            SHIKOKU

            RITSURIN GARDEN, TAKAMATSU

               

              The city of Takamatsu is located on the northern shore of Shikoku, the smallest, least populated and least visited of the four major islands of Japan. Ritsurin Garden is thought by many to be one of best gardens in Japan. It was designed by generations of the local feudal lord and took over 100 years to be completed in 1745. The more than 1,400 twisted and contorted pines set this garden apart from other gardens. Every single day, gardeners hand-prune each of the pines in turn until they complete the 1,400 trees and then start again, removing withered needles and shaping the growth according to a well-defined aesthetic.

              The teahouse in the gardens is exquisite with magnificent views over the lake and mountain. Dating back over three centuries, Ritsurin Garden earned the highest rating of 3 stars from the Michelin Green Guide Japan.

              MATSUYAMA

              Matsuyama Castle

              Matsuyama Castle on the island of Shikoku is another of Japan’s twelve ‘original castles’ which have survived the post-feudal era since 1868 intact. It is located on Mt. Katsu, a steep hill in the city centre providing visitors to the castle with a bird’s eye view of Matsuyama and the Seto Inland Sea. The castle was constructed between 1602 and 1628. The current three storied castle tower was re-constructed in 1820 after the original one was destroyed by lightening.

              Related posts:

              Onsen in Japan

              Geisha in Kyoto, Japan

              Autumn in Japan

              Notes on Japan

              Ryokans in Japan

              Hokkaido – the Northern Island of Japan

              Japan’s Brilliant Bullet Train

              The Pleasures of a Japanese Toilet

               

              塔斯马尼亚塔斯曼岛游船 – Tasman Island Cruise, Tasmania

               

              游船的速度很快,海面也常常是波浪起伏。坐在船的前排,这快感仿佛是乘坐过山车。波涛让你时而上又突然下。如果你坐中间或者靠后的位置,整个航行会比较平稳,当然了,这取决于天气。所以,你可以根据坐在哪里来选择你想要的航行体验。

               

              但是,无论你坐在哪里,塔斯马尼亚东南部海岸线的风景是非常壮观的.

              媛梦之旅就搭乘了由Pennicott Wilderness Journeys公司承办的塔斯曼岛游船。

              看到那令人敬畏又极其美丽的悬崖峭壁,船上的每个人都感觉很兴奋,内心也充满喜悦。

               

              但突然间,我能够想象到200年前的人会对这些相同的悬崖峭壁作何感想。这些悬崖是那些来自英格兰的囚犯看到的关于范迪门土地(塔斯马尼亚)的第一样事物,在那里,他们将开始他们一生,或者是几十年的奴役生活。

               

              当他们的船驶出迷雾时,映入眼帘的便是高达300米的巨大高墙,这些高墙是南半球最高的。灰色、荒芜,辉绿的岩石历经超过2.9亿年的时间,已经演变成为狭窄的垂直褶 。这些景象对于我们的视觉来说是令人害怕的,但这些景象对于我们来说也是地质奇观。

               

               

              我们驰骋于拱门间、穿过径深的海蚀洞、经过低处的空隙和瀑布。我们的船漂浮在躺满无数海豹的岩石平台旁,与世无争的海豹们趴躺在上面,有的好奇地看着我们,有的则不以为然。在船上的另外一种感觉就是自由自在,因为我们从一片海域看到另一片海域—从塔斯曼海到环绕南极洲的南大洋是那么的轻而易举。

               

              我们是从霍巴特乘坐公交开始我们的旅程的。当我们穿过鹰颈峡(Eaglehawk Neck)到达亚瑟港(Port Arthur),司机给我们介绍了臭名昭著的景点“恶狗之路”(Dog-line)。在19世纪,从亚瑟港到塔斯马尼亚大陆这一片狭长的土地上,饥饿的恶狗等在路边袭击附近流放地试图逃走的囚犯。

               

              我们在一个码头下了船并穿上了红色的防水夹克。然后,我们登上了一艘时尚的生态巡洋舰,它是为适应崎岖的塔斯马尼亚南海岸破涛汹涌的海面而定制的Pennicott公司船只之一。这些长约12.5米的开放式刚性充气艇可分层容纳43名乘客。

               

              当我们出海的时候,信天翁在我们的头顶盘旋。塘鹅,海鸥,燕鸥和仙锯鹱扫过浪花。海鹰和鹰隼守望在悬崖的上方。海豚陪伴船只左右,但现在不是观看鲸鱼迁徙的季节。这里的海岸线、多种多样的海洋生物以及海鸟都是塔斯曼国家公园(Tasman National Park)的一部分。

               

              多种多样的野生动物、美丽的海岸线以及从一片海域驰骋至另一片海域的快感,都使这次体验成为最奇妙的经历。

              这条线路,以及Pennicott Wilderness Jouneys公司运营的到布鲁尼岛(Bruny Island),已经多次赢得了旅游业的奖项。

               

              照片: Rosalie Zycher 和 Augustine Zycher

              视频编辑:Augustine Zycher

              音乐:Albare演唱《No Love Lost 》选自专辑《The Road Ahead》

               

              澳大利亚的内陆地区:昆士兰卡穆威尔 派特•麦克弗森

               

               

                 

                      在澳大利亚,牧牛人是一个标志性的形象,在诗歌、民谣、绘画及文学中得到不朽传颂。

                       在澳大利亚的内陆地区,牧牛人就是这里的传奇,这种关系就如同牛仔在美国西部所刻画出的标志性形象那样。

                       但是如今在内陆地区,真正的牧牛人已经为数不多了,取而代之的则是公路列车和直升机。

                       我的朋友,现年82岁的卢克•麦考尔(Luke McCall)就是那些为数不多的传奇的牧牛人之一。在半个多世纪里,他和成千上万头牛马一齐穿越澳大利亚广袤的大地。他热爱这样的生活,也深爱着他的这些伙伴们。他从未把这样的生活视为流离失所、危险重重或者与世隔绝。

                       我的老朋友当卢克•麦考尔经常会讲他牧牛的经历。曾经有一段时间,他连着九个月每天都要坐在马鞍上,每晚都要轮流看守牧群。

                       但那些已经是过去的事情了,而现在卢克也是澳大利亚仅剩的不足80位牧牛人之一。每年,这些剩下的牧牛人都会前往昆士兰的卡穆威尔(Camooweal)参加一年一度的“牧牛人扎营节(Drover’s Camp Festival)”。每年八月的第四个星期的周末,他们都会千里迢迢赶来参加这个活动。

                       每年我都会开车送我的朋友卢克去参加这个活动。

                卢克最近非常喜欢赶时髦。但是对我来说,这是一趟7000公里的旅程,耗时大约三周。我们会住在我能找到最好的汽车旅馆里,同时得保证卢克每天都能有两次透气休息的时间,一次是吃午饭,另一次就是每晚来一顿不错的晚餐。他的那些在内陆的睡在地上、就着茶吃干面包的日子已经一去不复返了。他也发现到他这个年纪,是该稍微享受享受了。

                       “牧牛人扎营节”纪念的是卡穆威尔作为全世界规模最大的牧牛群中心所流传下来的传统。当时这里的牧牛人会把1000至1500头牛从大型的牛场(驿站)一路驱赶到澳大利亚西北部的金伯利地区、北领地以及昆士兰。 牛群们走过2000公里,穿越最恶劣、最炎热、最干旱但同时也是澳大利亚最美丽的地区,从西澳到昆士兰州及南部地区,最后到达铁路和肥沃的土地。

                       牧牛人有数十月的时间是在旅途中渡过的,他们经历了常人无法想象的困难。他们仅靠牛肉、干面包和茶度日,同时还要与严寒和烈日作斗争。

                       这样的牧牛方式持续了一百年。但是在20世纪60年代的时候,这种方式骤然发生了改变。在短短的几年中,牲口的铃铛声就被摩托车的响声所替代了。叫做公路火车的长卡车被引进,从而取代牲口成为拉货进出市场的工具。那些由牧牛人带领牲口驮东西的日子已经变成了历史…… 但是,他们并没有被人们所遗忘。

                       在卡穆威尔,人们产生了一种情结。它是由多个元素所组成的,包括一片室外的活动区域、一座纪念牧牛的博物馆、一个放置从前牧牛人肖像画的画廊以及一片扎营的广场。每年,年老的牧牛人都会聚集于此,重现那些值得回忆的日子。成千上万的人都会前来加入他们的队伍,参加各种庆典活动。

                       我们欢迎每个人来参观。您可以借此机会见见这些传奇人物,感受一下澳大利亚内陆地区的文化遗产。尽管这个活动一年只举办一次,您可以在一年中的任何时候前来参观这里的博物馆,同时这里还有很多其它的活动,可以带您领略澳大利亚不同的内陆地区以及牲口驿站。

                欲知更多内容,请访问droverscamp.com.au

                派特•麦克弗森(Pat McPherson)是维多利亚州一名退休的护士。20世纪60年代,她是西澳金伯利地区Fitzroy 红十字会“澳大利亚内陆任务(Australian Inland Mission)”的一名护士。她定期会前往被她视为“内心故乡”的内陆地区。

                 

                 

                 

                 

                 

                 

                 

                Polixeni Papapetrou最心仪的澳大利亚五大旅游胜地

                Polixeni Papapetrou passed away in April 2018. We keep this post about her as a tribute to this courageous woman and acclaimed artist.

                When photographic artist Polixeni Papapetrou chose her 5 favourite places to visit in Australia, they were not just travel destinations. They were landscapes that captured her imagination and inspired her to transform them into her art. Dramatically beautiful, they are insightful and unsettling works.

                Her art provides us with a unique perspective on these landscapes.

                Polixeni has said that in her work, landscape is another protagonist in the narrative.

                Polixeni’s parents immigrated to Australia from Greece, and she was born and raised in Melbourne. She qualified and practised as a lawyer. But it was her intense and singular vision as a photographic artist that won acclaim and forged for her an Australian and international career replete with grants, exhibitions and awards. Her works have featured in over 50 solo exhibitions, and over 90 group exhibitions in Australia, the United States, Asia and Europe. They are held in private and institutional collections in leading galleries here and abroad, including the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney.

                Polixeni and Lexi by Robert Nelson

                Polixeni’s art has evolved through a series of themes.

                Earlier works depicted the construction of identities through photographs of drag queens, body builders, clowns, circus performers, and Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley impersonators.

                Subsequently and most notably, Polixeni created the series on childhood and its shifting meaning. Featuring her own children, Olympia and Solomon as they grew into adolescence, the series uniquely combined reality and imagination, nature and theatre, the benign emblems of childhood story-telling with an underlying sense of menace.

                In later works, Between Worlds, (2009), The Dreamkeepers (2012), and The Ghillies (2013) masks and costumes worn by the children allow them to transgress boundaries – young to old, human to animal – and transform them into disruptive and unsettling figures in picture-perfect landscapes. As Polixeni describes it: “ I have these characters in my mind and like to find the habitat for them and then photograph them. For me it is about reconciling my inner world, possibly the unconscious to the real world.”

                It was her son’s interest in the camouflage outfits named after Scottish gamekeepers and used in computer games and by the military, that inspired the stunning images of The Ghillies. Polixeni photographed Solomon wrapped in camouflage in the landscape. But in this series, instead of being hidden in the landscape, he seems to grow out of it.

                Despite serious illness in recent years, Polixeni has continued until her death to create new series of works with the continued enthusiastic participation of her children and her husband, art critic and academic Robert Nelson.

                 

                WomanGoingPlaces is privileged to publish 4 works in the ‘Eden’ series. See below.

                Polixeni’s Top 5 Places:

                Polixeni_Papapetrou_The_Loners_2009

                Polixeni Papapetrou The Loners 2009

                Flinders, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria 

                When friends invited us to their holiday home in the coastal town of Merricks, on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria I was eager to go. I knew about the town as it is the home of the popular 1920s- built Merricks General Store and Stonier’s and Merricks Estate wineries (two of my favourite reds). I was enchanted with a site in Flinders, known as Bush Rangers Bay. The contrast of rural and the wild coastal terrain of Bass Strait makes for breathtaking landscape.

                 

                Polixeni Papapetrou The Shell Collectors 2009

                Polixeni Papapetrou The Shell Collectors 2009

                I have made numerous pictures at this location such as The Loners, portraying two elderly rabbits walking along the coast line framed by basalt cliffs, another of two horses enjoying the violin, three industrious pigs gathering straw at the site of the old quarry and a mother and son collecting shells on the coast. When making The Shell Collectors we were caught out by a rapidly changing tide and while the children scurried away in a flash, I had to gather my camera equipment before the encroaching waters carried it away to sea!  Nearby is the formidable Flinders Blowhole where if you dare you can walk on the rocks or even walk to the spectacular Cape Schank.

                 

                Polixeni_Papapetrou_Study_for_Hattah_Man_and_Hattah Woman_2013

                Polixeni Papapetrou Study for Hattah Man and Hattah Woman 2013

                The Mallee region 

                VIC and NSW 

                Mildura is a short plane trip from Melbourne, but I find the six hour long scenic journey by car one of the most relaxing drives in Victoria. As we progress through the drive, I love seeing the earth change colour turn from brown to a rich red. That is the signal that we have arrived in Mallee country, on which the beautiful stunted mallee tree grows. Before we reach our destination in Mildura to spend time with family friends, the         De Pieris who run the acclaimed Stefano’s restaurant and Mildura Brewery, we stop off at various locations to make work.

                The semi-arid Murray-Sunset National Park is a must stop for me. The landscape is virtually untouched other than the site of the Raak Plain, an old gypsum mine which looks like an apocalyptic landscape. I made the picture called Study for Hattah Man and Hattah Woman on the Raak plains.

                Polixeni Papapetrou Salt Man 2013

                Polixeni Papapetrou Salt Man 2013

                The landscape has a mysterious and ancient mood that I wanted to capture. I also love the Pink Lakes in the same park which change colour throughout the year. During Spring the lakes turn a deep pink colour and you can walk across them. I made the picture Salt Man on the Pink Lakes. The gorgeous pink coloured salt we have on our table at home is produced by the Murray River Red Salt Farm.

                A short distance further from Mildura crossing the Murray River into New South Wales brings you to the town of Wentworth and the spectacular ancient site of the Perry Sand Hills. It was once a camping and hunting ground for Aboriginal people. As a result of the Ice Age, the area turned into sand dunes sculpted by wind erosion over thousands of years. As far as the eye can see, the area feels like a scene from another planet, acres and acres of shifting orange coloured sand dunes. I have visited this site a number of times to make photographs.

                 

                Polixeni_Papapetrou_Wild_World_2008

                Polixeni Papapetrou Wild World 2008

                Lake Mungo, NSW  

                Another favourite destination is Lake Mungo, a significant ancient Aboriginal site, which was once  an Aboriginal fishing, hunting and camping ground. During the last Ice Age the water levels dropped and the lake dried up. Subsequent erosion of the land revealed human and animal remains as well as tools. The most spectacular discovery were 40,000 year old skeletal remains known as ‘Mungo Man’ and ‘Mungo Woman’. Walking on the dried lake has a moon-like eeriness about it.  The small museum on the site and the old woolshed are added attractions. Many visitors camp on the grounds, but as I can’t wear my heels camping we stay in the Lake Mungo Lodge.

                 

                Polixeni_Papapetrou_Hanging_Rock_1900_2006

                Polixeni Papapetrou Hanging Rock 1900_2006

                Hanging Rock, Macedon Ranges, Victoria 

                As a teenager in the 1970s I was captivated by Peter Weir’s film, Picnic at Hanging Rock. Set on Valentine’s Day in 1900, a party of schoolgirls ventured out for a school excursion at Hanging Rock. Three of the party set out on a walk on the rock and were not seen again. The story of the three missing schoolgirls has become embedded in Australia’s cultural imagination to the point where people are surprised to learn that the account is a fiction. When I discovered that Hanging Rock was just outside of Melbourne, I hopped to and immersed myself in its mysterious history.

                Polixeni_Papapetrou_The_Lantern_ Keeper_2012

                Polixeni Papapetrou The Lantern Keeper 2012

                The site itself is one of the world’s most extraordinary and significant geological formations. The Rock is a former volcano and is shaped into pinnacles created over 6 million years ago when lava rose through the earth’s crust. The magma that rose to the surface is only found in two or three other places in the world. It is a ghostly place, wild and chaotic and is a perfect backdrop to set the scene for my work portraying the ancient, spiritual wilderness of Australia.

                I was moved to make a photograph about the three missing schoolgirls at Hanging Rock as well as making Magma Man and The Lantern Keeper as I could imagine my invented characters living there, hiding in the Rock’s many nooks and crannies.

                 

                Polixeni Papapetrou The Visitor 2012

                Polixeni Papapetrou The Visitor 2012

                The Victorian High Country (Mt Buller) 

                When you mention Mount Buller, in Victoria’s high county, you immediately conjure up images of snow and skiing. I love to visit the mountain in the warmer months of the year, as working on-location is more comfortable and easier. The stunning snow gums at Mount Buller are also fully expressed in the warmer months and create pockets of natural beauty set against these spectacular mountains.

                When we made The Wanderer, we arrived the day before and were surprised by sudden overcast conditions, a thunderstorm and a blackened sky. I despaired and thought that I would not be able to take photographs as planned on the following day. I resigned myself to having a holiday, but plans were once again changed when we woke up to a brilliant blue sky the following morning.

                Polixeni_Papapetrou_The_Philosopher_2012

                Polixeni Papapetrou The Philosopher 2012

                Similarly when I made The Visitor during the Spring, a dampness descended on the mountain, which was atmospheric. I thought that I’d have days of this perfect photographic backdrop, but once again we woke to a clear sunny sky the following day.

                 

                I also made The Philospher at this location. The image reflects a person alone on the top of a mountain. It symbolizes the solitude of thought where the vastness of the landscape is the counterpoint to the intimacy of an internal world. It is an internal/external that we all struggle with. I love the way that the landscape in the High Country plays tricks on me.  We also love to visit the nearby town of Mirimbah, eat at the café, walk in Mirimbah Park and jump into the lake when it is hot enough.

                 

                Images in Eden Series

                Travel Tips:

                * If you are friendly with your neighbours, let them know that you will be away. Otherwise leave home in the dead of night! And don’t forget to put the dogs in kennels.

                * Research the history of the areas that you are visiting. And take maps. Intuiting your way across foreign terrain is only great if you enjoy becoming seriously lost.

                * Pack as lightly as possible as you always accumulate things along the way. Kidding yourself if you say that you won’t.  But always take plenty of water.

                * A book goes a long way to relieving the boredom of travel.  Yes holidays can be a bit boring, but you can always attempt an interesting conversation too.

                For more information about Polixeni Papapetrou see:http://www.polixenipapapetrou.net

                Exhibitions

                • MAMA Art Foundation Photography Prize, Murray Art Museum, NSW, 21 May – 7 August 2016

                • Timelapse, Gippsland Art Gallery, Victoria, 24 May – 24 July 2016

                •European Month of PhotographyAthens, Benaki Museum, Athens, 9 June – 26 July 2016

                •Spring 1883, Windsor, Kalli Rolfe Contemporary, 17-21 August 2016

                •Eden, Stills Gallery, Sydney, 31 August – 5 October 2016

                •European Month of Photography, Berlin, 1-31 October 2016

                •Beyond Eden, Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne, 22 October – 2 December  2016

                 

                Photo of Polixeni Papapetrou by Robert Nelson

                 

                 

                 

                 

                 

                 

                Susan – Women of Oz

                I learnt to be on my own later, travelling as an older woman, because I think I have been left alone as an older woman in a way that I never was when I was younger. I used to be followed. Spain was a nightmare. You couldn’t be on the street in those days in the sixties. You could not go to Spain alone, under Franco. I was there. You could not go to Greece alone. And you could not be in Italy unless you wanted to be followed all the time. Now I feel very free because no-one even sees me! No-one sees me. They’ll help. I can ask questions and they’ll come to my aid, but no-one wants to follow me and touch me.

                Oh, it’s great! It’s fabulous!

                THE KIMBERLEY, AUSTRALIA

                One memorable trip for me is going to the Kimberley a few years ago with my husband. And I feel like I’m a millimetre high when I go into that country, Australia. I feel like I don’t exist. I’m so insignificant. I always feel that when I go into that sort of country here. And the Kimberley was just extraordinary because of the colour, and the vastness, the silence and just so much going on. But you need a guide. You need to be shown how to look. Whereas, you go to Europe, you know how to look. I don’t know how to look in my own country. It’s fabulous.

                 

                THE NAKASENDO WAY, JAPAN

                The Nakasendo way (Japan) was an ancient road that linked Tokyo with Kyoto, and it was controlled by the old warlords. Along that way there are stations like forts and they controlled who went on that road and it was for their own survival. It was a very violent time in the 12th and 13th centuries. So this road goes through the mountains, literally through the mountains behind Kyoto.

                It’s a 10-day walk, and you walk from Ryokan to Ryokan (traditional Japanese inns). You stay in tiny, tiny little ancient Japanese Ryokans. You have to just carry a little day pack. You’ve got to be fit enough to walk up to 8 hours a day. But you go in the autumn or the summer. And the road can be hilly, very steep or it can be quite flat. And little paths, little beautiful tiny mountain paths. You’re surrounded on all sides by trees, bamboo. It was autumn so all the leaves are changing colour, and in that 10 days, the leaves went from green to brown to scarlet to yellow. And it’s meditative because the only thing you need to do is concentrate on your feet – that’s it! I tried one or two times…, things came into my head but I had to push them away. So you basically just get up in the morning, have a divine Japanese breakfast, and you put on your shoes and your jacket, take your walking sticks, and walk – until dusk.

                It’s very spiritual. It’s very ancient. And it’s a challenge beyond. There are some days when you are walking on the original bluestone. They’re like 500 years old and you’ve got to walk on them in a certain way and you’ve got to be very, very careful. You’ve just got to plod. They’re sort of sticking up. It might only go on for half a mile because a lot of them are not there. You’ve got to plod. You’ve got to walk as slowly as your heartbeat. And what’s the challenge for me, is slowing down. You can’t run because you won’t make it.

                And the other challenge was just to know I could get there. Because on about the third or fourth day you think, I’m not putting my boots on again.

                We probably ended up walking 300 kilometres.

                So, I know lots of people that are doing that right now. People of my age, women who are feeling – if I don’t do it now, I’ll never be this fit again. Because you must be reasonably fit.

                 

                 

                 

                 

                Karyn – Women of Oz

                CAMBODIA

                Every time we build (as part of the Tabitha Foundation Cambodia), it’s a challenge because 40 to 50 people build 40 homes in 3 days. It’s heads down, bottom up, hammer away. It’s always a physical challenge.

                And what do you do?

                Build. Hammer.

                When we go there, there’s usually a cement base that’s already poured and a frame and a roof. And we hammer floorboards. They can be bamboo or timber. And we basically hammer. One project, I think we did 3000 nails in 2 floors and also we used corrugated iron around the external walls. It has a cut out door-frame and a window, and I guess it doesn’t sound like it’s a beautiful luxury framework in which people live, but it’s dry – Cambodia has so much rain – and it’s a protection for their property and anything that’s precious. It’s a safe place for them.

                I’ve been doing it for 9 years. I took my daughter last year, for her birthday, for her 21st. We went to visit Sue Huxley’s school, which was amazing. And I took my 21 year-old daughter and a friend of hers. I wanted to take them to Siem Reap because Siem Reap is one step away from heaven. That’s the temple area. It’s beautiful. That always overwhelms me because that’s so amazing. So taking Jessica last year was really important. Rather than her just being involved in the build, I just wanted her to get a sense of the country, just to understand why I just keep having to go back, why it’s just in me. It’s almost like I feel, it’s one of those places that you become so involved in it, that it’s almost hard not to go back.

                It’s like watching the twin towers fall. It’s like you watch something horrific or you understand the circumstance of something and you think, I’ve seen this same picture, I’ve seen this same circumstance again and again and again. The footage just keeps coming, the environment is still there. But it’s like, do I have enough? Do I just go to bed now because I’ve already seen it? It’s like you can’t give yourself permission to step away because it’s like a responsibility. That’s how I feel. It’s a bit of a responsibility.

                So that’s why I keep going back. But it’s so much fun. I love it. It’s so energising. It’s such a remarkable experience. As I said, it’s a way for me to go very safely into a country, really make a contribution. You see that. We drive through all the areas. We see all the Tabitha houses. They’re so well recognised. Each time we build, it’s usually 40 houses in a province. So maybe we do 4 houses amongst my team of 8 people. That’s a lot of houses. But there’s a lot of people that don’t have a shelter.

                There’s no mucking around, let’s discuss it. It’s like: there it is, there’s the materials, the floor’s in place, start hammering! The most important thing is: where is the sun and how do we put up what walls to protect us from that beating? Because by the time you’ve been out since 8 o’clock in the morning and it’s 38 degrees and it’s 1 o’clock, wow, that heat! It’s the only place that I ever feel that complete, not dehydration, it’s different. Something happens to your body, it’s completely spent.

                We had the opportunity to visit the site of a school being built in honour of one of the leaders and organisers of the build initiative Sue Huxley. I happened to go into the building to take a photo when the teacher came in. She had probably 60 or 70 students with her and they all walked in. I was sort of stuck in the middle of the room thinking “Ok, might be time for me to go now,” I was disturbing them by being in their space. So I was saying “Excuse me, I’m sorry I’m in your little space,” and she said “No, no, no.” And they started to sing. And all of my colleagues in the build team were outside the frame of the building looking in, and I was just in the middle of these amazing children singing, singing, singing. And that was a really overwhelming experience. I felt like a giant as I’m so long-limbed. And they were so open-faced and everyone participating, just singing their little hearts out. I felt like Maria out of The Sound of Music.

                *           *

                And oh, this Cambodian man, came out of the lush undergrowth and he looked like a warrior, bare-chested, strong, physically strong, I mean, these are people who work hard and he just looked like a warrior. And he had something (in his hand) like a spear or utensil he must have been working the ground with.  He obviously couldn’t speak English but his eyes were wide and white and he gathered the children up. We thought wow, that’s amazing and our interpreter got out of the van and went and spoke with him. And he sort of then settled down. And when the interpreter came back to the van he said that these people were targeted, the children were going missing because there were people coming from Phnom Penh to take children, for them to be taken back to the city to be prostituted. So that is an issue too, if you’re living in isolation, that’s what can happen. Children walk long distances to get water, or they walk between villages. So they have an unsupervised period of time. And that was very frightening, and obviously for that gentleman as well. And he had never seen people with white skin, so we’re talking a remote area.

                For me, my travel is always to have an experience, to immerse myself in a culture, to understand the history. And I hope that makes me a more interesting person. That’s what I’m hoping.

                 

                 

                 

                 

                Susie – Women of Oz

                MT. KILIMANJARO, KENYA

                The most outstanding trip I ever undertook was with a group of 5 women and we climbed Kilimanjaro. It was an amazing, emotional experience. We trained really, really hard. We trained together. We made a schedule. We trained at least once a week, sometimes twice. And we’d go up a thousand steps, and we’d do 5-hour hikes, and we went and did altitude training. So we were really probably the fittest we’d ever been in our lives.

                We arrived there and we were at the bottom of Kili, and we’re having a group hug, and of course, I burst out crying because it was so momentous. We got to the top, I burst out    crying. It was an emotional experience because it was really, really tough. The altitude was horrendous. We had really bad weather – it rained, it poured – so much so, that the 4-wheel drive that was supposed to take us to the bottom of Kilimanjaro couldn’t make it. So we had to walk an extra 6 or 8 kilometres before we even began.

                It was just amazing. When we got to the top, it was the most amazing experience – the camaraderie, the fact that the 5 of us started and the 5 of us finished together. We were always together. If someone was feeling a bit bad, you would help them to put one foot in front of the other. It was just the sheer exertion of getting there. It was the physicality as well as the emotional experience. So physically it was really tough. It took us 5 days up and 11/2 days down or 41/2 and 11/2. It was 6 days, 5 nights.

                Was it the most difficult thing you’d ever done physically? Emotionally?

                Both. It’s almost like the 9 months of carrying a baby and then finally having the baby. And just being so elated at the top that you forget about all the problems that you had getting there.

                Why do it?

                Because it’s there. And it’s a challenge. We all love a challenge, and that was my physical challenge. It was a now or never. We were all in our early 50s. I think you need it because you need it for the mental aptitude and the ability to do it mentally ‘cause it’s a head thing. Apart from it being physically difficult, it’s really hard to keep yourself going. There were nights when we didn’t get into to the camp until well after dark, exhausted, fatigued, not even wanting to eat. And you know you’ve got to force yourself to eat. You’ve got to force yourself to do everything because you’ve got to get up the next day and do it again.

                Do you think you were mentally and emotionally stronger now than when you were younger ?

                Yes, absolutely.

                I did a marathon when I was in my early 40s and I only believe I could do it because I had the mental attitude to keep going. When you’re young, it’s not that important, give up, who cares?

                Why is it important now?

                Because if you don’t do it now, when are you going to do it?

                Did it in anyway change your relationship with the other women?

                Yes. We’re best friends now, we’re all friends.

                Yes, absolutely. We’re really close friends. We’ve accomplished something together and experienced something together that is really inexplicable and you can’t take that back. So now even if we don’t see each other all the time, they are counted amongst my best friends.

                 

                 

                 

                 

                Elizabeth – Women of Oz

                I’d never been out of Australia until about 6 years ago. Well, I thought, it’s now or never. And now I’ve been to over 30 countries.

                I say to people who say -“I can’t afford to travel” – I tell them: “Go to the travel agent and book it – and then the money seems to magically appear. That’s how you do it, otherwise you can’t afford to go anywhere.”

                THAILAND

                The first trip ever was to Thailand. I back-packed north and south with my daughter. We did a trek through the jungle. We rode elephants, and we went down the river. We went to a Thai wedding and I got into the Thai wine and got a little bit merry. Phuket was like    paradise for me. That was probably the happiest trip, with my daughter.

                IRELAND

                I always wanted to go to Ireland because of my ancestors. Absolutely loved Ireland.

                They had the singalong in the pub until 11:00 at night and then the old people would go home and us youngies would stay for the nightclubs.

                ENGLAND

                I used to look at England on the TV and never wanted to go there, always wet, always raining. And yet when I arrived there, that was my most favourite. When I got there, I had a strong sense of coming home.

                NEW ZELAND

                In New Zealand, in the morning, they picked me up and I jumped out of a plane. And then I did Level 5, white-water rafting.

                USA

                In America, I went to LA, went to Las Vegas, and as I’m a marriage celebrant I loved all the corny little wedding chapels. I went to Washington and because I’m a detective, I went to the spy museum, and Maxwell Smart was there. I found that rather amusing.

                AUSTRALIA

                I’ve also been a scuba diver here in Australia. I’ve dived Mount Gambier – the caves and I’ve dived the Great Barrier Reef, plus the coast of W.A.

                I’ve been around Australia twice.

                I’m going to Vietnam, Cambodia next.

                 

                 

                 

                 

                Claire – Women of Oz

                MEXICO

                The trip I most remember was to Mexico, about 4 years ago. My daughter was working there with Cirque du Soleil. Flying into Mexico City was just unbelievable – flying in and seeing all the poverty That huge population, all living on  the hills with virtually no shelter. I just found that quite incredible. And the experience of being in Mexico city – it was amazing and how they all survived, I just found that quite incredible. I stayed with my daughter for about a month. She was working but we did a few trips around Mexico. But just Mexico city was amazing. The fact that you could get around so easily even though they didn’t speak much English, and I felt safe, and I love the culture, the dancing, the music the whole history of the Aztecs, going to the pyramids and just the people. I just loved it.

                What was that the happiest trip you had?

                ENGLAND

                My mother took me away when I was 17, on a ship over to England for 6 months and then we had a trip around Europe – that was pretty amazing. I guess that was the happiest. It was special because it was the first time I’d been out of Australia. And the fact that Mum did that for me, I thought that was pretty amazing. We met another lovely mother and daughter who were doing a similar thing. I had my 18th birthday in London and we went to see Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev at Covent Garden doing Swan Lake. That was amazing. I remember that as being special.

                SINGAPORE

                I loved the experience of travelling and working overseas. I would much prefer to do that than do a whole lot of sight-seeing really. Although that’s lovely too. I lived in Singapore for 4 years in the 70’s and that was pretty amazing. In Singapore, just getting to know people from all over the world, an absolute melting pot in Singapore, it was then. Seeing a completely different culture.  And I did some nursing there as well. I just loved the fact that I worked with local people. I had local pay, which as a nurse was very usual. I just think that’s how you get to know how people function.

                And had a child there too. My son, my first child, was born in Singapore. And we went back there recently, last October, and found the house where we lived 40 years ago. And the hospital where my son was born and where I worked. That was very special.

                What trips in Australia have been special for you?

                QUEENSLAND

                I suppose, one recent trip in November, when I went up to visit my family in Charleville, in Western Queensland. It’s where our family property has been for 80 years. And I loved going back out there again amongst the Mulga* and the kangaroos. That’s a very special place for me. I just went out there and visited my first cousin who’s still on the place. They have cattle. My cousin’s been there for the whole of his life, 70 years, and they educated their children with distance education before they went away to school. And they’ve managed to battle it out with a 3-years drought. It meant a lot to me because Dad used to take me up there. We took Dad’s ashes back there.

                Recommendations: Singapore, California, and Mexico would be up there.

                And I did love Spain although it’s been a long time since I’ve been to Spain. And Italy.

                *Australian acacia tree native to outback