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Geisha, a Life

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  17,463 ratings  ·  1,164 reviews
"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."

Celebrated as the most successful geisha of her generation, Mineko Iwasaki was only five years ol
Paperback, 297 pages
Published September 1st 2003 by Washington Square Press (first published October 2002)
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Heather McAlister White male privilege at its finest: Golden can interview a woman from another country and culture from his own about her own life, mess around with…moreWhite male privilege at its finest: Golden can interview a woman from another country and culture from his own about her own life, mess around with the details to make his story seem more spicy, lie to her about keeping her anonymous and then publish her name to give his own writing more credibility anyway, and people still assume that his word is more trustworthy than hers. Iwasaki Mineko is just a woman born and raised in Japan, who joined the geiko when she was a small child in the 1940's, and spent decades working as a geiko in Gion; why would her account be more credible than Aruthur Golden's? A straight white male American professor who it's doubtful ever set foot in Japan?(less)
Rebecca Yes, Geisha a life is simply the title for the American release.
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3.93  · 
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 ·  17,463 ratings  ·  1,164 reviews

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Petal Eggs
Jun 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The book, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden was based around interviews with Mineko Iwasaki. She was unhappy with the misuse of her words and wrote this, her autobiography. The book details her life as a geisha from childhood up until her retirement a few years ago, in her 40s.

In the West, at least, 'geisha' has always been thought of as a euphemism for a high-priced whore, but as the book shows, the women earn far more as geishas than they could ever hope to do on their backs. The world of
Jul 26, 2013 rated it liked it
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 th
Sep 08, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
This is Iwasaki's response to Memoirs of a Geisha which I both read and enjoyed. I picked this up because I thought it'd be great to get the truth behind the story. This fell flat.

The book couldn't decide if it was a memoir or a history of geisha in post-war Kyoto. If a history, it lacked description, and the author inserted too much of her annoying self (more on this later) into the story. If a memoir, the author didn't talk enough about her emotions. For example, she tries to kill herself as
May 29, 2007 rated it it was ok
This woman wrote her book in a response to Memoirs of a Geisha because she felt that the book gave the wrong impression. Unfortunately for readers, this book is story after story about how great and important the author was / is. It doesn't represent life as a geisha, it represents life seeking fame.
☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~  ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣
A very enchanting story. Not finished yet but I will finish reading it later.
First, I would like to urge anyone who wants to learn more about geisha - READ THIS BOOK INSTEAD OF MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA. The author of that, Arthur Golden, interviewed Mineko Iwasaki and twisted her tales into falsities, making it seem that geisha were high class prostitutes. This is not the case - oiran, a high class courtesan, sold their bodies, not geisha. In fact, Iwasaki was extremely upset when she realized Golden had twisted her facts on the life of being a geisha, and decided to write he ...more
Oct 05, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommended to Cheryl by: Rowena
I started reading this as a memoir and realized my mistake because I was yearning for more emotion, more of an understanding of the narrator. I should have been reading it as an autobiography instead though, because it certainly has the texture of the traditional autobiography (rumors are, it was ghost-written). There is a lot here about the Japanese culture and the pictures really help you place the descriptions.

Mineko Iwasaki tells the story of her life as a geisha in Japan. Written after the
Jan 09, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"I believed that self-discipline was the key to beauty."

Mineko Iwasaki successfully sued Arthur Golden for modelling his novel Memoirs of a Geisha on her life. I can't really blame him. This memoir gets three stars solely due to how fascinating it is to see what it takes to become the most successful Geiko* of a generation.**

Geisha of Gion is far from a perfect read. My gripes, in no particular order:

1) Other reviewers suggest that Iwasaki had a ghost writer. If she did, she was robbed. There wa
Ingrid Lola
Mar 09, 2013 rated it did not like it
Yeeah ... Mineko Iwasaki unfortunately comes off as very unlikeable in this book. The overtone that she is trying to prove something (that Arthur Golden was "wrong" [even though he was writing fiction, which I feel she should understand, since she knows everything about art and all?]) is very, very strong. Like way too strong. Like it kind of made me laugh. It just didn't read well at all.

I would love to have read more about how Mineko challenged the system (like she claims she did, but never s
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This book was a solid 4 star read for me. Whereas Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha was meant to entertain, Mineko Isawaki's Geisha, a Life was meant to inform.

Mineko Isawaki is most notable for being one of, if not THE most famous Geisha in Japan's history. This autobiography is told from her own view of the traditions and trails that she faced.

Mineko does a brilliant job of taking the reader through the
Sep 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, asia
One of my favourite books ever! Mineko's story is so fascinating, filled with tragedy, love and intrigue. Also great introduction to Japanese culture.
Dec 19, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: libraryread
I'd vaguely remembered hearing/reading something (maybe on NPR or 50bookchallenge posts) about Mineko Iwasaki, the prime source & inspiration for Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha: A Novel, being disappointed with the portrayal of the geisha life in that novel, and therefore, she had written her own memoirs. So I checked this book out from the library and I now see where her concerns lie.

Mineko (born Masako Tanaka) joined the Iwasaki okiya as a child, due to some family issues. She was fa
Jun 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013-reads
I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir. I think it's a very real glimpse into a world many know very little about (but like to think they know more than they do). I liked the insight to traditional Japanese culture, something I've been interested in since my youth. Mineko lead a life that most women can not comprehend, and many would probably find appalling or undesirable, but Mineko lived it well, I think. While she was naïve in many ways, in others she was quite strong and mindful of how best to han ...more
The autobiography of Mineko Iwasaki, the most famous geisha in Japan until her sudden retirement at the height of her career. This is written partially in response to Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha (although it never says so directly); as such, it's made accessible to a foreign audience and does much to explain the controversy surrounding Memoirs, particularly the liberties that book takes with Iwasaki's life story, as well as the way it elides geisha and prostitution. This is also a memoir ...more
David Nicol
Jan 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked it for the peek inside the life of a meiko/geiko in post war Japan. Mineko herself as a child is what we in the West would call a precocious little brat, but is more of a misinterpretation of the class system.

Two things that were negatives for me though were the fact that either Iwasaki or Brown had never seen a Shamisen and/or a Viola. The text states that a Shamisen is played like a Viola.... that I would like to see.

The second thing was Mineko's assertion that she doesn't pass
Kelly Furniss
Jun 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have read a few books on Geisha's and always found them interesting so when I saw this recommended on a forum I ordered it. I thought it was a really good insight in to the Japanese culture, customs and traditions. What really came across was Mineko's self discipline and work ethic and on reflection of her career how important it was to dispel the myth of a what a Geisha actually does.
I enjoyed this book and read it in two large chunks and the photographs included really added to the images f
Maria Elmvang
Ever since I read "Memoirs of a Geisha" I've wanted to read this one, as Arthur Golden mentions this book as being one of his inspirations. On my way to Italy I found it at the airport, and immediately bought it. It did not disappoint. Where MoaG takes place around World War 2, this one describes the life of a Geisha in the 60s and 70s. You get to read about how Mineko meets Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth and several other celebrities that we 'know'. Fascinating book.
Mar 21, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was a pretty good book, but it was a little dry, probably due to the translation. Main point: Geisha are NOT prostitutes.
Jun 27, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: true-stories, memiors
I'd give this 2.5 if I could but it doesn't deserve a three. The author is stuck up, spoiled and full of herself. She Disparages both the Queen of England and Prince Charles for trivial things that a normal person would never even consider. She acts like shes better than everyone around her and bosses people around from a young age. She spends the entire book slamming the entire geisha system and is terribly offended that everyone doesn't change and do her things her way instead. If you're readi ...more
monica ♪
For people who don't know about Japanese culture maybe geisha for them has 'negative' image.
But it's all wrong. Geisha don't sell their body. They sell arts!
And this book tells the very detail about Geisha and their life.
Geisha really are the real artist! They learn various traditional Japanese culture since they were very young.
And being Geiko (Geisha) is not an easy thing. They have to take so many lessons, performing those arts (dancing, singing, playing traditional music instruments, etc) w
The culture Iwasaki reveals is more than enough for me to give her a pass on the somewhat stilted writing - she isn't an author by trade, after all.

I especially enjoy the fact that she pretty much wrote this as a big "fuck you" to Arthur Golden, who ignored her request for anonymity when she helped him with Memoirs of a Geisha; it's worth noting that Golden also misrepresented many facts about the life of geisha in general.

I could not handle such a career - the lack of good sleep for such a lon
Dec 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biographies
I enjoyed this peek into a fascinating culture. I read the fictional Memoirs of a Geisha by Golden first (which is based on Iwasaki's life) so was looking for some additional background reading when I found this autobiography. Definitely seemed much more like real life than the novel!
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
I was eager to read this, so eager that I read it in French--the only copy I could find. The translation from English (and previously of course from Japanese) was easy to read, in spite of a couple of hiccups--as a former professional translator myself, I know those are impossible to avoid. The French translation must be gentler than the English version, as there is quite a lot of self-deprecating humour included in the tales of her beginnings as maiko, and her bid for independence when she get ...more
Crystal Navarro
Mar 13, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned, historical
This book, like most non-fiction, had a bit of a slow reading pace. There were a few events that truly drew me into Mineko's story, though my review is going to be mostly about about the comparison of this book to Memoirs of a Geisha.

It's kind of upsetting to me to see so many people say they changed their view of the fiction novel because of this book. Memoirs of a Geisha is a work of fiction- not everything is portrays will be straight on. The biggest confusion present is the use of mizuage--
Nov 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
I think if you have read Memiors of a Geisha this is a must read. Mineko does a good job of telling about the life of a geiko (geisha) from her personal perspecive. I appreciated getting the first hand account of it.
My only complaint would be the way she laud out the time line. At some points she jumped forward in time then jumped back in time and it was hard for me to keep track of her age and what other things were happening at the same time. I would have been able to follow along easier if it
Feb 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Four stars! I love reading memoirs - I think they're one of the best parts of reading: learning from people you've never met, experiencing a part of the world you never would otherwise, wonder. I've been meaning to read this particular memoir for several years; ever since I read 'Memoirs of a Geisha', which fascinated and enthralled me. And then I did some research and found out it had some very serious inaccuracies, and that Iwasaki (whom the author interviewed) had pressed charges for breach o ...more
Mineko Iwasaki takes you on into her world with her autobiography. In this book you'll learn about some japanese costums, what the world of the geisha (or geiko, as in this book) is like and how it is organized. You'll see how something that is normal for us can be viewed as un-normal or unwanted in this culture (like, signing a fan is not a good thing to do, as the geisha needs it for her performance). Mineko Iwasaki might come off to some people as being on a high horse or arrogant or anything ...more
Jul 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book of Geiko life immensely. The entire time I read this, I thought fondly of Liza Dalby's "Geisha", written about the same period. Mineko Iwasaki was honest about her personal feelings and personal trials. She also wrote with passion on her love of dance. While reading this book, I felt like I was walking beside her as she went to dance class and Ozashikis at night. Her hard work throughout her life inspired my respect for her and the Geisha tradition even more than ever before. ...more
Sep 04, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
You should read this book if -

You've read Memoirs of a Geisha, but now want something more.

You're considering reading Memoirs of a Geisha, but didn't realise this was the true story.

You wouldn't consider reading Memoirs of a Geisha, because of the twisted western stereotyping.

Girl From the North Country
Mar 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Historical Fiction Fans, Lovers of Japan, Geisha, & History
Geisha, A Life, is an actual memoir, about the actual geisha that Arthur Golden loosely based his book Memoirs of a Geisha on. Golden's book was a novel. Sensationalized, Americanized, Fictionalized.

If you enjoyed it- it was a well written book, and a beautifully directed film, so I certainly understand why you might- you've probably ended up here. If you were motivated by your interest in the movie, and want to learn about the realities of geisha, then you'll enjoy this book.

If you're looking f
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Non-Fiction Enthu...: September Group Read 1 2 11 Sep 20, 2014 09:53PM  

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Mineko Iwasaki (born Masako Tanaka) is a Japanese businesswoman, Geiko and author. Iwasaki was the most famous Japanese Geiko in Japan until her sudden publicized retirement at the age of 29. Known for her performances for various celebrity and royalty during her Geisha life, Iwasaki was also an established heir or atotori to her geisha house (Okiya) while she was just an apprentice.
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“Cleaning is considered a vital part of the training process in all traditional Japanese disciplines and is a required practice for any novice. It is accorded spiritual significance. Purifying an unclean place is believed to purify the mind.” 26 likes
“And we are not mountaintop sages who can live by consuming mist.” 16 likes
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