Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Geisha of Gion” as Want to Read:
Geisha of Gion
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Geisha of Gion

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  22,788 ratings  ·  1,503 reviews
'I can identify the exact moment when things began to change. It was a cold winter afternoon. I had just turned three.'

Emerging from her hiding place, Mineko encounters Madam Oima, the formidable proprietress of a prolific geisha house in Gion. Madam Oima is mesmerized by the child's black hair and black eyes: she has found her successor. And so Mineko is gently, but firml
Paperback, 334 pages
Published October 21st 2005 by Pocket Books (first published September 30th 2002)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Geisha of Gion, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
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 th…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.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.91  · 
Rating details
 ·  22,788 ratings  ·  1,503 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Geisha of Gion
Petra is getting into the holiday mood
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
This is Iwasaki's response to Memoirs of a Geisha. 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 a young girl, and the descript
May 29, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
☘Misericordia☘ ⚡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
B. P. Rinehart
This was an interesting read and I read it in an interesting time. Right after a controversy breaks-out over a novel that is written sensationalizing the lives of real people, I read this book which was written in answer to an author who got rich writing a sensationalized (i. e. false) version of the experiences of Mineko Iwasaki. I'd owned this book for over a year, but did not know when I was going to be able to read it. I thought now was as good a time as any. Since I got some other ground to ...more
Ingrid Lola
Mar 09, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Memoirs of a Geisha is based on the life of Mineko Iwasaki, the author of this book. While the former is fiction, this one is the true account of her life.

Being an autobiography, I expected to be credible, but when I read such passages, my trust in what follows fades into inexistence:

"The lady looked at me for a second. Her body was very still but I saw her eyes widen.[...] "You know, Mr. Tanaka, I have been looking for an atotori [...] for a very long time and I have the oddest sensation that I
Brittany McCann
Check out my blog to see Reviews of Books and Movies as well as Recipes and DIY projects

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  ·  review of another edition
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. ...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
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
Jun 27, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 04, 2014 rated it liked it
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.

Dec 19, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 fascin
Jun 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Sep 28, 2016 rated it it was ok
I am very fascinated by all aspects of the Japanese culture and bought this book believing that it would be an authoritative source of information about the Geisha world. The author - a successful former Geisha who inspired the popular novel 'Memoirs of a Geisha' - declared to have been disappointed by the inaccuracies in Golden's book, and commits to giving a real and honest depiction of Gion's life; I was therefore expecting and objective account of her upbringing and lots of information about ...more
Kelly Furniss
Jun 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
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
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. ...more
Jan 15, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Where to begin... it's not that "Geisha" doesn't have an interesting story to tell, it's just a shame that Mineko Iwasaki had to be her to do the telling.

Geisha brings to us the enchanting tale of a spoiled Daddy's girl who becomes a spoiled geiko princess after she's adopted as the heir to a prominent okiya. She thus child royalty who gets what she wants, when she wants it with very little complaint from anyone. Below is a short list of what you can expect from the book:

Mineko demands things b
Crystal Navarro
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--
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
Eustacia Tan
Jun 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
I would like to introduce you to the book you should be reading instead of Memoirs of a Geisha. Because not only is Memoirs of a Geisha incorrect, it was also based on Iwasaki Mineko’s life (just that Arthur Golden mis-represented things by portraying certain events negatively instead of positively, etc etc. You can read more about this in Iwasaki’s Wikipedia page.)

So, I first found out about this book while I was in Fukuoka and I was fascinated by the book and the fact that we got to hear from
Dec 11, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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! ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Non-Fiction Enthu...: September Group Read 1 2 14 Sep 20, 2014 09:53PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Poems and Translations
  • Les Relations amoureuses entre les femmes du XVIe au XXe siècle
  • Arab Women Writers
  • The Death of Woman Wang
  • Brazil-Maru
  • 희랍어 시간
  • Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World
  • Chronicles of Majnun Layla and Selected Poems
  • English as a Global Language
  • Sources of Chinese Tradition, Vol 1: From Earliest Times to 1600
  • Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation: Mo Dao Zu Shi (Novel), Vol. 5
  • Autobiography of a Geisha
  • Geisha
  • Through the Arc of the Rain Forest
  • Sunbathing I Want To
  • Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation: Mo Dao Zu Shi (Novel), Vol. 4
  • T'ang China: The Rise of the East in World History
  • River of Time
See similar books…
See top shelves…
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.

Related Articles

  With more than 5.7 million votes cast and counted, the 14th Annual Goodreads Choice Awards are now official. Launched in 2009,...
111 likes · 54 comments
“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.” 29 likes
“And we are not mountaintop sages who can live by consuming mist.” 16 likes
More quotes…