Thursday, February 07, 2008

Memoirs of a Geisha--Peek into Japanese Culture

Thanks to haiku and Discovery Travel and Living, I fell in love with Japanese culture. All things elegant inspire me and Japanese culture is just that. The amount of detail that goes into every task is mind blowing. The way they make a particular type of food is dependent on the kind of knife that they use! Which means the a dessert will go by a different name,just because the fruits are cut with a different knife. And they have over seven types of cuts that they do on raw fish, before cooking it.

In earnest and partly because I was developing an unnatural obsession for Japan, I picked up the book Memoirs of a Geisha. Popular perception made me assume that a geisha is a sex worker. However they are just entertainers. Their job is to dance and make tea for guests visiting the nitta- the house of the geisha. In special cases, however they might offer sexual services to their danna--the geisha sponsor.
The book is the fictional story of Chiyo alias Sayuri, the most popular geisha of Japan and her rise from a fishing village of Yoroido to the high rises of New York.
Like my earlier oriental literary experience with 'The Good Earth', this book is also about destiny and the role of chance in the life of an ordinary girl, who has no aspirations in life.
The book begins with Chiyo being sent to a Geisha house in Gion,Kyoto(which to his day is a popular Geisha district in Japan) . It is her rivalry with Hatsumomo-a famous geisha-that forms a large part of her childhood. That rivalry becomes the reason why a better geisha Mameha-her mentor-chooses to guide her to glory. Sayuri's hopes and her ride to greatness in the world of geisha based entertainment is against the backdrop of culture and the World War and depression. I was shocked to know that the virginity of a geisha undergoes a bidding war! It is a priceless commodity in geisha business and a good source of income for the geisha house.
The book drags in places, but its a good and easy read, especially if you want to steer clear of boring Japanese culture guides. The way a kimono is worn, the emphasis on routine, culture and precision and detail ...most things that we as Indians(harboring non-precise values!) would never know or appreciate. Eyeopener: The photographs on tourist guides and travel ads are not that of the geisha but that of a maiko--an apprentice geisha.
Overall, I would rate the book as a light read,nothing exceptionally great.

Hope is absolute--Sayuri,during one of the lowest periods of her life(Memoirs of a Geisha)


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The good life said...

I bought this book from amazon after your recommendation.. Lets see how it goes..thanks!

Aarabi said...

I think the insights into the feelings of, and the perpectives with which geishas think, was very well thought out in the book.
Fictional, but wonderfully elaborate. I liked the book for that :)

The good life said...

where art thou? long time post.