A Look Inside Japanese Life in ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’
Many people in western countries wrongly believe that being a geisha in Japan means being a high-priced prostitute or call girl, when in reality a geisha is a woman who serves tea and food to Japanese men and may entertain them with artistic dances or the art of paper folding. Being a geisha was considered a very respectable means of living for a woman in Japan and many were, and still are, the most financially successful and influential women in society. If you are interested in seeing inside the life of a geisha, you may want to check out the book ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’, by Arthur Golden.
‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ is told in first-person perspective, following the life of Chiyo, who is taken from her poor fishing village at the age of nine and sold to a prominent geisha house while her older sister is forced to work as a prostitute. Chiyo experiences some hardships during her training at the geisha house but is also able to make friends and eventually rises to prominence. The book gives a very honest depiction of what it means to be a geisha girl and how the training and work actually unfolds, or as it did unfold before World War II. The women were not forced into prostitution and were not meant to be subservient to men but were a form of elegant companionship, and something that was very honored and respected in the culture at that time.
The book ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ may be one of the most honest portrayals of a geisha ever given to the outside world, although it was met with controversy when it was first printed. The author consulted with an actual geisha who had moved to the United States and she said after it was printed that he betrayed her confidence and did not depict a geisha accurately enough, romanticizing the plot for western audiences. Still, it has been considered one of the few stories to even attempt to look inside the very secretive world of a geisha and gave many an unprecedented glimpse of their otherwise secretive and quiet world.
If you love engaging and involving stories set in a foreign land and enjoy adventure and romance, then ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ is the book for you. It is heartbreaking but triumphant and has a number of characters you might relate to, and offers you a thrilling journey you will not find anywhere else. The book has been made into a very successful motion picture, released in 2005, and is still very popular and successful today. Check out ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ for yourself or for a book lover on your gift list this season.