Geisha of Gion: Memoir of Mineko Iwasaki | Book Review Part 1 – First Thoughts
I have been infatuated with the mysterious beauty of the geisha, more formally geiko from a very young age. However, the inner workings of the lives of geikos—women of art—seemed so far out of reach growing up. Yet, the portrayal of geishas in movies, and modern culture, primarily in the United States media left me captivated. The film “Memoirs of a Geisha” adapted from the book of the same title by European novelist Arthur Golden left me even more enamored. The movie heightened my curiosity. Nevertheless, slowly, I grew very skeptical of the portrayals I had grown accustomed to seeing.
As I grew wiser I began to question my miseducation on the world I had come to love and admire. I started to realize that Hollywood, to say the least, and authors like Golden consciously chose to highly sexualized and ritualize prostitution in their depictions of the lives of geisha. Somehow I knew the art of a geiko was more of a sacred art than simply a carnal fancy. Coming to the latter awareness led me to search for a truth hidden within all of the mysteries.
When I first saw the movie “Memoirs of a Geisha,” I was still in high school. It was only around that time I found out the Golden’s book preceded the film. At the time, I still knew nothing of Iwasaki Mineko (Mineko Iwasaki), her story or the autobiography she had published. It was not until two years ago listening to Golden’s fictitious audiobook, that my quest for the truth resurfaced. A quick Google search lead me to Iwasaki’s story. The search also led me to Golden’s breach of contract and confidentially. Most importantly, it shined a light on his distortions of Iwasaki’s life and geisha customs. About a week after listening to the audiobook, I received “Geisha of Gion: Memoir of Mineko Iwasaki” in the mail.
I felt much lighter after I purchased Iwasaki’s autobiography. Being bamboozled into a false relationship with a culture you adore can leave you feeling somewhat heavy. So, having a glimmer of truth arrive on my doorstep was very much welcomed. Truth is, simply having the book in my possession was enough. I read a few chapters and then tucked it away in my nightstand for safe keeping. I knew when the time was right I would open it up again and fall into the world I was truly meant to love.
My intuition never fails me. I had spent the last three months of 2018 dealing with first-time pregnancy worries, life transitions, minimalizing and lots of reflecting. Mid-January I found myself finally in a state of reoccurring peace. I realized I had time to feed my spirit, and so I pulled “Geisha of Gion” out of my nightstand. Everything I thought I knew about the life and the art of the traditional geisha proved to be highly polluted with fictions and misrepresentations.
I initially wanted to finish the book in a month. However, after diving into the life of Mineko Iwasaki I decided to really appreciate her story—her tenacity and culture. I intend to share the wisdom I pull from Iwasaki’s story. Iwasaki exemplifies courage and virtuous pillars upon which every woman can rise. She paints an almost unfathomable picture of starting from her vulnerable age of five to fifty-two telling her own story in the face of adversity and social ridicule. Thus, I encourage every woman to explore her offerings.
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