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Geisha: A Life


For more than four decades, Mineko Iwasaki has lived within the boundaries of powerful but invisible constraints. With this autobiography, Mineko ... Show synopsis

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Reviews of Geisha: A Life

Overall customer rating: 5.000

For 29 years she lived as the most popular geisha.

by KassandraPhoenix on Jul 28, 2008

This is a beautiful story about a little girl who became one of the most famous geisha in Japan. Mineko, which is her adopted geisha name not her birth name, moved into the Iwasaki geisha house when she was only five years old. She started her artistic training when she was merely six. At a time when most five and six year olds in America are starting kindergarden, playing video games and sports, Mineko was already "working." Her passion and greatest devotion became the dance. This biography came out in 2002 which may or may not have been around the time Memoirs of a Geisha published as well. Both novels are strikingly similar I noticed, especially when it dealt with World War II. But this novel, as opposed to Memoirs, is an actual biography. The Japanese terminology is so fascinating to learn and explained very well. I learned that geisha in training were called maiko, or "women of dance," and geisha or geiko actually means "women of art." For a period of twenty five years (from age five until twenty-nine), Mineko practiced all the traditional and ancient customs including dance forms, music, and tea ceremonies (ochaya). Maiko is simply amazing. Despite learning traditional customs she is also an incredibly skilled business woman. She worked 7 days a week, 365 days a year, from the time she was fifteen until she was twenty-one. In the Iwasaki okiya she was the hardest working and most devoted geisha. Her experience with love was also very humorous. Because she worked so intently she viewed most men as business transactions and nothing more. One man, by the name of Toshio, eventually changed her views. After visiting her multiple times he finally expressed his love for her, which she just scolded him as a young child (despite him being twice as old) and he was also married! Toshio explained they were both in a loveless marriage, but Maiko didn't want to hear of it; she refused him completely. Finally she told him, after his countless advances, if he came to the Gion Kobu every day for three years then maybe she would consider it. She pretty much figured that was that. He came every single day for three years. But despite this their romance became rocky and unstable. He never left his wife. She later met a young painter, Jin, that won her over. When Mineko decided to retire at the "old age" of twenty-nine, she was sent thousands of letters from her adoring fans. She met kings and queens, royalty, presidents, diplomats, politicians, and celebrities from everywhere in the world. Her assets were in the millions. She opened up her own club, then later sold it. She decided to get her art license and became an art dealer. The beauty of this novel is how truthful and painful it was for her to grow up. I didn't really feel that she ever had a childhood, she always worked and trained every day. Her training did pay off because she was so incredibly popular, but there was still a hint of sadness in my opinion.

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