Geisha, A Life by Mineko Iwasaki



[Click the cover below to check it out! If you don’t see a book cover below it’s probably ad-blocker settings]

[I find myself admiring this cover a lot. I really do love the appearance of geisha]

“No woman in the three-hundred-year history of the karyukai has ever come forward in public to tell her story—until now.

“Many say I was the best geisha of my generation,” writes Mineko Iwasaki. “And yet, it was a life that I found too constricting to continue. And one that I ultimately had to leave.” Trained to become a geisha from the age of five, Iwasaki would live among the other “women of art” in Kyoto’s Gion Kobu district and practice the ancient customs of Japanese entertainment. She was loved by kings, princes, military heroes, and wealthy statesmen alike. But even though she became one of the most prized geishas in Japan’s history, Iwasaki wanted more: her own life. And by the time she retired at age twenty-nine, Iwasaki was finally on her way toward a new beginning.”



If you’re here reading this, good! You’ve chosen to read about the better, not-stolen, not-lied-about story and truths of the lives of geisha and what they do. If you want to read about the lie-filled, stolen version, see my review on Memoirs of a Geisha.

So just gonna put this up front and out there:

As much as you might have been told or read or watched, geisha are not prostitutes. [Not that there’s any shame in sex work, just you know, geisha have and do harassed/attacked/raped over this misunderstanding on a regular basis, especially by foreigners] And they don’t have their virginity auctioned off, either. [That’s where the difference is, that event happens with oiran/tayu – girls/women who are high-end prostitutes who are also trained in classic arts]

Some geisha may fall in love with their clients, sure, but those relationships are out of love/lust. Not money.


So after the bullshit that was Memoirs of a Geisha and the lawsuit that the author of this book had to do [I list in in my Memoirs review, but if you want to see it here, go here and scroll to ‘Lawsuit.’] because of the threats and accusations she was receiving, Mineko Iwasaki decided to also write her own book [that she had been wanting to do since she was a teenager and considered it no better time to do so] about the truth about geisha to try and clear the air and set things straight.

She, being considered the greatest geisha of her time when she was active, had every right and say-so to do so.

The book is very much an autobiography, so don’t go in expecting fluff-filled imaginings. Mineko’s story is told very to-the-point and blunt in a lot of ways. She starts with the beginning, as far back as she can remember being a child and having a relatively happy childhood and how she eventually was adopted into a geisha-raising family to groom her to be a master of the arts.

She tells of her training, personal ups and downs, abuse from siblings, knowing literally nothing of the outside world, and then eventually into becoming the different phases of what ultimately ends up to be a geisha. She also tells of the drama that goes into the service, how daunting it is, and terrible things that happened to her over her life. [CW: Attempted incest-based rape when she was underage]

Essentially, if you want to know everything about geisha, from every single piece of their outfit down to all the types of art and dances that geisha must learn, this is the book for you. Bonus: There’s also picture inserts of Mineko and they’re gorgeous.

I definitely chucked Memoirs from my bookshelf and replaced it with Geisha, a Life. I also suggest it for anyone who wants to know the truth.



I give Geisha, A Life 5/5 Tortoiseshell Hair Ornaments


[This is another review where I couldn’t choose my favorite quote, so have two!]

“A first-class geiko is an exquisite willow tree who bends to the service of others, while I have always been stubborn and contrary by nature, and very, very proud.”

“In my mind I believe that her love for him still exists and that it will continue on for a thousand years, or into eternity.”




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