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GEISHA, A LIFE
"No woman in the three-hundred-year history of the karyukai has ever come forward in public to tell her story. We have been constrained by unwritten rules not to do so, by the robes of tradition and by the sanctity of our exclusive calling … But I feel it is time to speak out."

Celebrated as the most successful geisha of her generation, Mineko Iwasaki was only five years old when she left her parents' home for the world of the geisha. For the next twenty-five years, she would live a life filled with extraordinary professional demands and rich rewards. She would learn the formal customs and language of the geisha, and study the ancient arts of Japanese dance and music. She would enchant kings and princes, captains of industry, and titans of the entertainment world, some of whom would become her dearest friends. Through great pride and determination, she would be hailed as one of the most prized geishas in Japan's history, and one of the last great practitioners of this now fading art form.

In Geisha, a Life, Mineko Iwasaki tells her story, from her warm early childhood, to her intense yet privileged upbringing in the Iwasaki okiya (household), to her years as a renowned geisha, and finally, to her decision at the age of twenty-nine to retire and marry, a move that would mirror the demise of geisha culture. Mineko brings to life the beauty and wonder of Gion Kobu, a place that "existed in a world apart, a special realm whose mission and identity depended on preserving the time-honored traditions of the past." She illustrates how it coexisted within post-World War II Japan at a time when the country was undergoing its radical transformation from a post-feudal society to a modern one.

"There is much mystery and misunderstanding about what it means to be a geisha. I hope this story will help explain what it is really like and also serve as a record of this unique component of Japan's cultural history," writes Mineko Iwasaki. Geisha, a Life is the first of its kind, as it delicately unfolds the fabric of a geisha's development. Told with great wisdom and sensitivity, it is a true story of beauty and heroism, and of a time and culture rarely revealed to the Western world.

Topics: Japan, Women in History, Wealth, Prostitution, Dance, Music, Art & Artists, Female Author, Translated, Japanese Author, Cultural Heritage, and Informative

Published: Atria Books on Oct 15, 2002
ISBN: 9780743453042
List price: $13.99
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Despite being different from the book that I normally read about this kind of thing I enjoyed it immensely. It is a more factual accounting of the more modern-day geisha . It gives the feeling of meeting actual people and living within their lives like furniture.read more
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Great book. I had finished "Memoirs of a Geisha" right before reading this and loved that one also. Memoirs is fiction, while this is autobiographical so there are differences in the details. The story is told beautifully and gives a great peek into the life of a real geisha. It dispels a lot of myths and misconceptions that people have. Definitely worth the read - especially if you are interested in that aspect of Japanese culture.read more
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This was an intriguing insight into the life of Iwasaki, in contrast with the fictional account of her life presented in Golden's Memoirs of Geisha. The main character in Golden's book was loosely based on her in many ways, but after the book's publication Iwasaki sued Golden for revealing her identity as his informant on the life of geiko, and for misrepresenting many duties of a geisha.Iwasaki's book, in contrast, seems much more straightforward and has a great ring of truth to it. The many pictures of her that were included, particularly as a child in the okiya, were terribly interesting.read more
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Despite being different from the book that I normally read about this kind of thing I enjoyed it immensely. It is a more factual accounting of the more modern-day geisha . It gives the feeling of meeting actual people and living within their lives like furniture.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Great book. I had finished "Memoirs of a Geisha" right before reading this and loved that one also. Memoirs is fiction, while this is autobiographical so there are differences in the details. The story is told beautifully and gives a great peek into the life of a real geisha. It dispels a lot of myths and misconceptions that people have. Definitely worth the read - especially if you are interested in that aspect of Japanese culture.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This was an intriguing insight into the life of Iwasaki, in contrast with the fictional account of her life presented in Golden's Memoirs of Geisha. The main character in Golden's book was loosely based on her in many ways, but after the book's publication Iwasaki sued Golden for revealing her identity as his informant on the life of geiko, and for misrepresenting many duties of a geisha.Iwasaki's book, in contrast, seems much more straightforward and has a great ring of truth to it. The many pictures of her that were included, particularly as a child in the okiya, were terribly interesting.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
The much better, real life version of Memoirs of a Geisha.
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This was such an insightful book. She gave such a good description of the different levels of apprenticeship and the restrictions to their society. It was certainly very different from reading Memoirs of a Geisha, and I think there was more fiction in that book now after reading this one.
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Okay, so I'm going to be very blunt and honest in this review and probably in the rest of my future reviews. I'm always honest, but sometimes I hold my opinions back a little bit for fear of offending someone. I just can't do it anymore. And when it comes to this review, I have some very strong opinions. First of all, I would venture to say that anyone that reads/read this book has already read Memoirs of a Geisha. This memoir is supposedly the real story of the geisha that Memoirs was based upon. It was written by Mineko Iwasaki herself with the help of an English translator. Now I can say that I have read both books, and Memoirs of a Geisha beats the pants off of this very informative, but slightly dry attempt at the same. Listen. I know parts of Memoirs of a Geisha are fictional. But some of the things that Mineko said about the book I find slightly offensive. She has said that Memoirs of a Geisha made the Geisha appear to be a high-classed prostitute. I never had that opinion after reading it. At all. In fact, quite often the author made the distinction between traditional courtesan and Geisha. Also, I want to talk about the Mizuage tradition. Mineko has stated that it was never a ceremony where a maiko's virginity was auctioned off to the highest bidder. As gross as this is, Mineko is being very misleading and she is/was not speaking the truth. During the time that Mineko was a Geiko, the practice had been outlawed, but before the 60's, it was commonplace. It was officially outlawed in 1959, but carried on for awhile after that. Now notice for a second the setting for Memoirs of a Geisha. Most of the book was set before World War 2. The whole virginity aspect was still very much a part of Geiko culture then. So like I said, Mineko was being very misleading in her book. I could go on and on about the disagreements I have with the things Mineko has said, but I think by now you get the point. I didn't dislike reading it, I found it to be very informative. But I also found it kind of dry and written with an air of condescension. Mineko thinks very highly of herself.I'm not saying that she shouldn't be, but I felt I was being talked down to for a good portion of the story. I gave it four stars, because it was a well-written piece of non-fiction, and I happen to be very interested in Asian culture, especially the Gaiko/Maiko culture. There is not a lot of information out there, and I will read whatever I can get my hands on. That being said though, I will probably never re-read this, but I will re-read Memoirs of a Geisha. There's actually a story there and quite a few facts. I would recommend reading this if you are interested in Japan or Geisha culture. Otherwise, it could go either way.
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