Geisha of Gion
The True Story of Japan's Foremost Geisha
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Geisha of Gion by Mineko Iwasaki
Book Description'I can identify the exact moment when things began to change. It was a cold winter afternoon. I had just turned three.' Emerging shyly from her hiding place, Mineko encounters Madam Oima, the formidable proprietress of a prolific geisha house in Gion. Madam Oima is mesmerized by the child's black hair and black eyes: she has found her successor. And so Mineko is gently, but firmly, prised away from her parents to embark on an extraordinary career, of which she will become the best. But even if you are exquisitely beautiful and the darling of the okiya, the life of a geisha is one of gruelling professional demands. And Mineko must first contend with her bitterly jealous sister who is determined to sabotage her success ...Captivating and poignant, GEISHA OF GION tells of Mineko's ascendancy to fame and her ultimate decision to leave the profession she found so constricting.
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Book DetailsISBN: 9780743430593
(198mm x 126mm x 23mm)
Imprint: Pocket Books
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publish Date: 6-May-2003
Country of Publication: United States
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UK Kirkus Review » It's impossible to bring up the subject of geishas without mentioning Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, but fascinating and beautifully written though that book is it would be a shame if its success was at the expense of this marvellous factual memoir, written by the very woman who inspired Golden. Mineko Iwasaki is, by her own admission, probably the most famous geisha - or geiko, to use the correct designation - of her generation. What makes her account so different from Golden's book is the fact that she is so aware of the conflict between the highly secretive, traditional world of the karyukai and the modern society that was developing around her in the 1960s and 1970s. One of the most truly fascinating aspects of this autobiography is not so much the astonishing detail of the rigorous aesthetic and physical demands made upon these young artists (the prurient should note once and for all that 'geisha' does not in any way equate to 'courtesan'!), as much of that is now known to us through other accounts, but the conflicting emotional demands placed on Iwasaki by her calling, her family, and, ultimately, her desire for freedom. An exceptionally beautiful young child, she was selected early to become the successor - the head of the family - of a particular geisha house (okiya) in Kyoto, and was legally adopted by the owner. (To understand how she was able to bear to leave her family in such circumstances, one has to be aware of the debt of honour owed by her family to the okiya after an elder sister left under a cloud.) The interiors, the dances, the theatre, the kimono: all are described in such loving and beautiful detail that you are truly transported into a different world. Yet, when Iwasaki describes her decision not just to leave the profession (she became an art dealer, married and had a child) but to close down the okiya when she was just 30 years old, one begins to understand her frustration with the archaic system and its failure to respond to the demands of late 20th-century society. A must-read. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Mineko Iwasaki
MINEKO reached the peak of her career as a geisha in the 70s and 80s, performing for the likes of the Queen and Prince Charles. Now fifty-two years old (and still stunningly beautiful), she is the mother of one daughter and lives with her husband in a suburb of Kyoto, Japan.
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