Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Geisha of Gion by Mineko Iwasaki

Author: Mineko Iwasaki
ISBN # 074343059X
Publisher: Pocket Books
First Published: 2002
334 pages

'I want you to know what it is really like to live the life of a geisha, a life filled with extraordinary professional demands and richly glorious rewards. It is a life in which I was a pre-eminent success; many say the best of my generation. And yet, it was a life that I found too constricting to continue. And one that I ultimately had to leave. It is a story that I have long wanted to tell. My name is Mineko.'

Mineko begins with her initiation into the profession she would perfect. Following her blossoming over the years, we learn all about the intricate training and rigid education system by which Japanese girls become geishas, and the extraordinary foundation of wealth upon which their culture rests.

This is quite possibly one of the most intriguing autobiographies I have ever read. Having loved the novel by Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha, I delved into the true story of one of the most successful Gion Geiko of recent history, translated from her own words by Rande Brown without losing any of her own voice. Mineko’s story is told in such a gentle and picturesque way that one is instantly transported to a time and place where women have devoted their lives to art and the pleasure of their patrons; the “flower and willow world” where traditional entertainment and intricate ceremonies have been preserved and revered for centuries: The women are shown as being strong and independent as well as sometimes ruthless in their ambition to be the very best, with grueling schedules and a proud tradition of ancient ceremony – they are artists of the highest caliber and treated as such within their widely misunderstood culture.

Far more engaging than Memoirs of a Geisha, this is the real deal with the bones of the industry laid bare for all to see; a story that will stay in the memory long after the covers have been closed.

Rating: 9


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