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46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing insight!
After reading "Memoirs of a Geisha" i was really hungry for more literature about this fascinating world and i picked the right book. Ms Iwasaki's story is truly interesting and offers an amazing inisght into the REAL world of the geisha. The details are so fine and exquisite that you really dont want to tear yourself away from this world. It also cleared up a lot of...
Published on 27 Oct. 2002 by Soraya

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars someone who appreciates a good bit of writing
Let me begin this review by saying that, whilst I have recently read a lot about Geisha and their practices, I am not an expert in the field. I am, however, someone who appreciates a good bit of writing. This is not a good bit of writing.

I'm not sure if it's the quality of the translation or the original material, but it reads at a very low level. Great if...
Published 9 months ago by Emma Miller


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46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing insight!, 27 Oct. 2002
After reading "Memoirs of a Geisha" i was really hungry for more literature about this fascinating world and i picked the right book. Ms Iwasaki's story is truly interesting and offers an amazing inisght into the REAL world of the geisha. The details are so fine and exquisite that you really dont want to tear yourself away from this world. It also cleared up a lot of misconceptions that "Memoirs of a Geisha" presented. The latter text relates of a practice called the "mizauge" in which a young geisha offers her virginity to a patron (who has paid for the privilege). Ms Iwasaki clears this up and points out that it was NOT a part of her experience as a Geisha and that the practice belongs to another group. The only criticism i would have is that Ms Iwasaki tends to come accross as a little arrogant and presumtious sometimes (e.g the time she believes she caused the Queen and Prince Phillip to sleep in separate beds!). But other than that, this book is truly MARVELLOUS!
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Geisha's Life, 24 Feb. 2004
I've read the reviews below and think some people have missed the point a little; yes, it's true Mineko can come across as being up herself but in reality she's just very factual, as is the style in Japan. She could easily be discussing someone else's life rather than her own. It's a fasinating book which reveals tons about the kind of life Geisha's have and how much hard work it is. I would highly recommend it - more so than Memoirs of a Geisha.
Read it and be your own judge.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mysteries Revealed!, 8 Nov. 2006
These are the memoirs of Mineko Iwasaki (born Masako Tanaka) who became the number one Geisha in the Gion Kobu area of Kyoto and remained as such until she decided to leave the community at the age of 29. Some reviewers have stated that she seems to think too highly of herself, but my understanding is that she's simply telling her story in the way she remembers it, and her self-descriptions are influenced by what those close to her led her to believe about herself. She left her parents at the age of 5 to live in the Iwasaki okiya, an all female environment, where she trained in the arts necessary to become a Geisha. At the age of 10, she agreed to adoption by the Iwasaki house, and took the name Iwasaki. She eventually left the community because the heirarcy had remained unchanged for several hundred years and was not moving into the present world; the trainee geisha's education is limited to the necessary Geisha arts, with no academic training at all. For instance, as a teenager she had no idea that the human body has 2 kidneys. The accounts of her childhood reveal quite a disturbed child; she would sit in dark cupboards for hours on end if worried or upset by anything. In order to fall asleep, she would suckle at the breast of either her older sister, or her 'Aunty' (the owner of the oikya) and this practice continued until she was 12! She even made a childish attempt to commit suicide by trying to strangle herself with her velvet hair ribbon following her adoption into the Iwasaki `family', although she was never forced into adoption. She goes on to be the number 1 geisha in the Gion Kobu, has a long-term relationship with a well-know, married, Japanese film star which she finished after 5 years, as his promised divorce never materialised. After leaving the Iwasaki house, she went on to marry and still lives in Kyoto with her husband and daughter. Her book was published in 2002, when Mineko was 52. The story, as told, lacks the drama of Memoirs of a Geisha, a book that I read some years ago. It's content, however,is most enlightening to those who have no knowledge of the life and commitment of a geisha and I believe it has been told with honesty.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truely beautiful read!, 2 Jun. 2003
This book was an insightful look into the world of Geisha from the viewpoint of one of it's own (normally close mouthed) people. You really relate to Mineko and her story. A great look at how people react to others within the Flower and Willow world of Kyoto. Also relates the authors own struggles with the education system within the Karyukai. Highly reccommended for anyone intrested in Geisha and their community.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An enlightening, fascinating & educational readl!, 9 Dec. 2006
By 
FAMOUS NAME (UNITED KINGDOM) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
I purchased this book in error thinking it was fiction (I only read fiction generally) and so when I eventually picked it up to read it and learned my mistake, I was hesitant, and did not feel I would enjoy it. A further disadvantage for me was that it wasn't historical either (as I only read historical fiction as a rule) which was a double blow, and so this caused me to lack even more interest in what I was about to read... However, I gave it a go, and I wasn't disappointed!

I found the book very readable, and I looked forward to each new read when I would pick it up and be surprised at what I read! I found it incredibly fascinating to learn that a small child who had began her life hiding in cupboards and a child who was obviously lacking in great confidence and so bashful, could develop into such an adept person in her Art, and then to be equally successful having 'retired' from her profession upon entering the outside world!

I found this book, enlightening, fascinating and certainly educational! Educational, in that we learn from it that we can all do what we'd like to do if we all put our minds to it - and do it well! I expect this book has been inspirational to many people who would have read it.

When I finished the book, I felt I would miss 'Mineko' - I became fond of her, and genuinely interested in her life.

Highly recommended - even for those who don't usually read non-fiction!

Definitely five stars!
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful glimpse into a little understood culture, 3 Aug. 2003
By A Customer
After reading both 'Memoirs of a Geisha' by Arthur Golden, and 'Geisha' by Liza Dalby, I was pleased to find this book as good. The prose flows well and captures the interest, and the photos add an element which was lacking in the other books I have mentioned (although 'Geisha' contained photos, I did not think they were as good, being black and white).
The story is interesting, and Mineko is a good story-teller, with each sentence being complete in itself. However, I would agree with other reviewers, as I also thought that Mineko sounded at times arrogant, and seemed to exude an air of superiority over those around her.
Overall, this book is excellent, and has the notable advantage over 'Memoirs of a Geisha' of being a true story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars someone who appreciates a good bit of writing, 16 Oct. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Geisha Of Gion: The True Story Of Japan's Foremost Geisha (Kindle Edition)
Let me begin this review by saying that, whilst I have recently read a lot about Geisha and their practices, I am not an expert in the field. I am, however, someone who appreciates a good bit of writing. This is not a good bit of writing.

I'm not sure if it's the quality of the translation or the original material, but it reads at a very low level. Great if you're a high school student with an interest in Geisha, not so much if you like varied sentence structure. At times, the drama of the story carried me through and I forgot that everything was essentially worded the same way. At other times, it read like a very boring list. There are only so many times I can read the words 'I was wearing [insert superfluous description of outfit]' without thinking of a notorious piece of Harry Potter fan fiction.

As for the story itself, I would not recommend it. The author is a profoundly boring person who seems to have written the entire tome in an attempt at self glorification. I don't doubt that she was a skilled and famous geisha in her time, but then it seems that most geisha who have spoken out have always been the most successful geisha of all time. The supposed clarity of her memories from the age of three onwards seem fabricated, but without any linguistic merits or narrative techniques. I am not asking for her total honesty, all autobiographies are edited or embellished in some way, but either Mineko was a ridiculously rude and stuck up young lady or she has no idea how to portray herself.

Another reviewer has mentioned the incident in which Mineko believes she is personally responsible for causing Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip to sleep in separate beds, as a punishment for Her Majesty's supposed rudeness. Clearly, this was never intended to be read by anyone with any knowledge of the Queen. If the incident happened as she describes, it was a massive event with diplomatic consequences reaching across Asia and Europe. As it is, I'm not convinced. And, frankly, my stomach was tightening in shock as I read Madam's smug little comments that no one should be rude, even a Queen. Many other events in which the entire world seems to revolve around Mineko (with the exception of her 'rival' geisha, there for added drama) are equally unbelievable but as I have no way of proving they didn't happen exactly as she claims, I shall not make too many assumptions.

Overall, I would not recommend this book. The skill behind it is lacking, and the story is not particularly interesting. If you are seeking a book about geisha life, there are many others available. If you want a romantic drama from a fabled creature, you will be disappointed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The real Sayuri, 16 Oct. 2011
I read this book many years ago, but for some reason I never got around to reviewing it. This is despite the fact it has to be one of the most important works on geisha that has come out in the last several decades. It tells a human story of a girl growing up in the geisha community, compared to the painful tale of Arthur Golden's "Memoirs of a geisha". Of course there are similarities between the two - Iwasaki was largely the woman Sayuri is based on.

Iwasaki, like Sayuri, left her family from a young age to join the geiko community, had various sponsors and become a success. However, it is here that Geisha of Gion diverts from Golden's book. Iwasaki was not sold to the geisha house (okiya) she joined because her family were poor. "Sourpuss" was actually quite nice to Iwasaki, and the young girl was treated quite reasonably in the okiya she joined. It was hard work, but that's the life of a geisha. "Nobu" was a fairly cool looking man with a fashionable moustache and stylish sunglasses (the photographs in the book are excellent). There are no guilty pleasures in reading about corporal punishment or nasty clients and thinking "oh dear, how horrible it was to be a geisha". Golden's book might be a truer story of what life was like for geisha in the early 20th century, but Iwasaki wasn't born until 1949, when conditions had vastly improved. And even in the decades before Iwasaki was born, there were geisha who were happy.

But this is an excellent book, so long as you are content with happy memories. Iwasaki gives us a personal account of the geisha world, and the characters there are interesting to read about. Iwasaki entertained many famous people, including the Queen and Prince Philip. You'll want to read about how Iwasaki accidentily (or maybe deliberately?) provoked a split between the royal couple one night when they were visiting Japan, after she felt the Queen was being rude. Iwasaki has a strong character, which is apparent from reading her book, even if she is gentle. This is a woman who describes herself as running down the street in high-heeled geta after a man who had tried to attack her, catching him (despite her footwear) and giving him a good hiding!

Geisha of Gion can seem a bit slow or boring. It focuses on Iwasaki herself, rather than the people in her life. But then what would you expect from an autobiography? Perhaps she could have made things more exciting, but as I said this is largely a collection of positive memories. There's nothing really sexy here.

The book split the geiko community in Kyoto, and by this I mean those who both work in the profession and the wider community in Gion. There are those that feel Iwasaki has betrayed her confidence by writing about clients, which a geisha should never do. Others feel that she helped shed light on a dark, and in some respects dying, profession that might help rewaken interest in it. In any event, Iwasaki would have never written the book if she hadn't felt the need to set the record straight. Indeed, you might ask yourself why Iwasaki would write this book, given she probably knew it would generate controversy. Then again, if you had a fairly happy childhood and someone wrote a bestseller of a dark version of that, with the people who you loved and loved you turned into horrible monsters, and if it was wrongly suggested that your profession sold girls' virginity, wouldn't you risk everything to tell the real story? If you enjoyed reading "Memoirs", you owe it to Iwasaki to read her story. Then at least you'll be clear on what's fiction and what's not.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and engaging, 22 Dec. 2003
I'm reviewing this having only just read half... but it is so wonderfully engaging I read at every oppertunity. I'm glad for the traveling I have to do for work. I've never enjoyed delayed trains until now. I would agree that Mineko-san does have an air of superiority, but her story itself explains why; the way she was groomed for greatness, the way she was treated like a princess as a child and given so much power (within the household) so early. But I have nothing but respect for her drive and ditermination. I can't wait to get through the second half, but at the same time know I'll feel hollow for a few days after finishing it, as I do after every good book.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fasinating, 23 Jan. 2007
By 
M. Mukhtar "Moazma" (UK, Manchester) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I am fasinated by the Chinese and Japanese cultures and picked this book up after reading 'Memoirs of a Geisha'.

I must say I enjoyed reading both Geisha of Gion and Memoirs of a giesha. The books are comparatively very similar and when reading you are able to see how the story of Memoirs of a Geisha has been highly influenced by giesha of Gion.

This story is about Mineko Iwasaki (childhood name is Masaka Tanaka). This is her story of her life as a Geisha.

The art of the 'Geiko' or 'Maiko' is very interesting and complex. If she wants to be successful she needs to put alot of effort into practicing the dancing and wake up early and sleep late. The story evolves in the Gion Kobu area of Kyoto the most popular Giesha district. Mineko decided to retire at the age of 29 at the hieght of her success. She became a great dancer and jthe most popular Gieko in the district in the era. Before becoming a Geiko she was a Maiko (dancer) and when she turned her colar she became a Geiko. There is specialised traininig given to Geiko which starts when she is very young. They are trained to dance, pore sake, learn tea cermony and performing. The maiko or Geiko are artists that perform specialised skills in tea houses.

Mineko decided to join the Iwasaki family at the age of five and was adopted at 10. She left her parents to try and improve things for them and to be able to support her parents.

Mineko was hated by one Iwasaki family member whom she learn't afterwards was her own blood sister. Her sister was increasingly becoming jelous of Mineko's success and the love her adoptive mother had for her.

When Mineko was younger she found solace and comfort in a cupboard and was continuing this when she joined the Iwasaki family. She slowly started to find her conifidence and eventually stopped for her own benefit. She was hard working and dedicated to her family and profession.

I do recommend this book to you all. It is worth it and very interesting.

I find the Japanese have a fantastic culture.
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