Shelves: memoir "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. 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. Many say I was the best geisha of my generation; I was certainly "No woman in the three-hundred year history of the karyukai has ever come forward in public to tell her story.
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It was a cold winter afternoon. I had just turned three. And so Mineko is gently, but firmly, prised away from her parents to embark on an extraordinary profession, 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 demands. And Mineko must first contend with her bitterly jealous sister who is determined to sabotage her success.
After centuries of mystery Mineko is the only geisha to speak out. This is the true story she has long wanted to tell and the one that the West has long wanted to hear. Get our latest book recommendations, author news, competitions, offers, and other information right to your inbox. I understand I can change my preference through my account settings or unsubscribe directly from any marketing communications at any time.
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How does the picture that Mineko paints of the world of Gion Kobu compare to your previous impressions of "geisha girls"? Why is this view of geisha still prevalent even though more accurate information about geishas is available? What does this say about our culture? Why might the Japanese themselves have perpetuated this stereotype?
In a sense, Mineko had no childhood. Do you consider the rewards that she has reaped as a famous geiko to be worth the sacrifices she made? What do you think she would say? I found it very disorienting. Do you think this is a product of the business itself, or of the innate competitiveness of human nature?
What place does sisterhood have in the walls of Gion Kobu? Although the geiko and maiko are obviously restricted and shaped completely by the expectations of their lives in the Gion, they also make their own money and are not confined to the kitchen or the home. Does this affect your opinion at all? Do you think the geiko tradition has any place in the modern world? Were you surprised at how shrewd, smart and cunning Mineko, and the other women, had to be in order to succeed in their business?
Why do you think Mineko, above all the other women in Gion Kobu, met with such success, holding the number one spot for six years and becoming the favorite of countless customers? What do you think Madame Oima saw in her at such a young age that convinced her that she was the future of Gion Kobu? Why are the men and women who frequent the Gion Kobu willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for time and attention from these women?
Do we have any similar institutions or traditions in our culture? What aspects of Japanese culture make the presence of geikos possible? Do you agree with this idea? Do you think, by the end of her time as a geiko, that Mineko herself would agree with this? What are the beautiful and delicate kimonos representative of for both the people who wear them and the people who admire them?
Pride above all. How do concepts like these translate into everyday interactions for the people in this book?
Does this affect whether or not they are successful in the long run? To what degree does familial responsibility trump monetary or business responsibility? How does Japanese culture view the individual and his or her needs, wants and desires? What value do they place on the idea of the group? Why do people in Japanese culture struggle so hard to do what is proper over what might be fair or just?
What kinds of life lessons do you think Mineko learned from her years as a geiko? What did you think of her decision to close the Gion Kobu in her pursuit of family and other interests?
Overview[ edit ] Born as Masako Tanaka, she left home at the age of four to begin studying traditional Japanese dance at the Iwasaki okiya geisha house in the Gion district of Kyoto. Iwasaki became a maiko apprentice geiko at age She also received the name Mineko, as prescribed by a Japanese fortune-teller. According to her autobiography, Iwasaki worked herself to her physical and mental limits.
Geisha of Gion