Monday, April 9, 2007

Memoirs of a Geisha

I just finished reading 'Memoirs of Geisha' by Arthur Golden. Set in Japan in early years of 20th century, it unravels the journey of a girl from small fishing village in Japan. The way she sees her life through rose tinted glasses during her childhood days, her bewilderment towards worldly affairs, her love for her fishing village, makes her strike a chord with us during the initial pages of the book. It is later followed by a elaborate description of the Geisha culture of Japan, and the struggle chiyo-san undergoes to finally emerge as a popular giesha, christened as Sayuri.

Unlike the popular tendency of relating a geisha to a prostitute, 'gei' in Japanese means art, geisha meaning an artist. Her principal aim is entertaining those around her, with tea ceremonies, playing shamsien and dancing. The book even gives us ghastly insights to how a young geisha's virginity is sold to the highest bidder. It also throws light into the Deep Depression Japan went through during the years of second world war.

There are several heart touching moments in the book. The innumerable attempts little chiyo makes to reunite with her sister, the tribulations she faces in the geisha house in Gion, the pain she endures when the persons whom she trusted the most, betrayed her, are a few of those. The book as a whole tells the tenacity and perseverance u need to have to make your dream a success, be it becoming a popular geisha or winning a man's heart.

Meanwhile, this is what says about the current status of geisha culture in Japan.

Geisha do still exist and ply their trade, of course. But the role they play in modern society is minor and, except for the attention they get from camera-wielding tourists, largely unseen. In fact, most of the women captured on film are either maiko (apprentice geisha) or tourists themselves, done up for a few hours of faux sophistication and attention seeking.

The book is a must read for anyone who wants to know about the reality behind the Geisha culture of Japan.



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