Wednesday, March 21, 2018


Chapter 28 of Mineko Iwasaki's memoir is where we begin to find her tale of her geisha mistresshood to a famous married and much older Japanese actor, stage name Shintaro Katsu.  Remember that an arrangement like this was socially acceptable in Japanese society where marriages were arranged and not for love, and even desired by the geisha, who needed to think about a future for herself as she aged. We must realize that geisha were not expected to remain virgins, and as Mineko says, when you put beautiful, accomplished, charming, women and powerful rich men together something is bound to happen.
I'll reiterate the story for you.
Mineko and Shintaro, who she called Toshio, were introduced when she was a fifteen year old professional dancer, no big deal, and then reintroduced when she was 18 and considered marriageable. Mineko, because of the attempted rape she had suffered at twelve, had doubt that she could allow physical love.  She even thought that her inability to love effected her dancing.
It turns out that Shintaro Katsu was the first man to kiss her and her reaction was not positive.  She says she thought kissing caused pregnancy! (This was the late 1950's.)  She was outraged that he had taken advantage of the two of them passing each other on the stairs, and reported this to her house and begged off having to entertain him. She was encouraged to give him slack because he was a good customer. He wished to seduce her gradually, but she gave him a challenge.  She said that if he showed up at Gion Kobu for three years, then she would succumb.  She was not always there but this he did.
He said that love and marriage do not always go together. He said he wanted a divorce.  He was twice as old as she and had children.  She voiced her objections.  But he won her over, gradually becoming one of her favorite customers.

And so she began a life of continuing to dance and being honored as the greatest dancer of her generation in Japan, but also traveling with Toshio.
EXCERPTS: Chapter 31, pages 5, 6 of 25 of the e-book.
"The "flower and willow world" is a society apart, complete with its own rules and regulations, its own rites and rituals.  It allows for sexual relationships outside of marriage, but only if those relationships adhere to certain guidelines... Thus Mother Sakaguchi arranged my apprenticeship to the iemoto and remained ready to intervene whenever there was a problem...Toshio promised Mama Masako that he was going to divorce his wife...
Page 13: "Toshio sounded on the edge of despair.  he talked to me for hours.  About his wife.  About his children.  About his anguish over the whole situation. I was too concerned about him to think about myself...
Page 14: "I will stay with you as long as it takes to convince her.  But you have to promise me two things.  You will never keep secrets from me and you will never tell me a lie.  If you do, it's over.  No questions asked. You'll go your way and I'll go mine." 

She went with him to New York City.

Mineko found herself surprised by her lusty passion.
Page18: "I was madly in love, and the intensity of our passion made a profound difference in my life.  More than anything else, it affected my dancing, which attained the expressiveness I had been seeking for so long.  Emotion seemed to flow from my heart into every movement, every gesture, making them deeper and more powerful."

In 1973 during another trip to New York Toshio introduced her as his fiancée at a party.
Back in Japan, though he had homes in Tokyo and Kyoto, her apartment became their "love nest."  She reports that he actually enjoyed doing the cleaning.  As her schedule was still very busy, for she had not retired her dancing, she had no time for domestic duty.  In fact she had moved back into the okiya in 1972 because she couldn't deal with cooking and cleaning.

Chapter 35, pages 1-3, 10-12. 16 of 27
EXCERPT: "For five years I believed that Toshio was going to divorce his wife and marry me.  During this period he lied to me twice. ... (He spent time with his wife.  His wife and children met him at the airport.) ... I know I said in the beginning of our relationsjhip that lying was unacceptable but life is not so simple.  ...

Toshio lied to her twice, both times the lie had to do with spending time with his wife. He had her exit a plane separate of him when his wife and children were there to meet him.  Finally, after five years, she decided to end it after in March 1976 he lied to her a third time. This time his wife was with him at a hotel she had planned to stay at with him.  He lied that he was in meetings but she entered the room he was staying in and found herself relocated to another room.  Then she saw his wife's fur coat and bag.   Mineko went crazy, dumping the contents of the bag and putting a knife through a heap of clothing.  Then she packed her bags and left him.

Now if you are wondering if Toshio's whole family was on the side of his wife, they were not. In May of 1976. she went on a family trip that included his parents, his brother and brother's girlfriend,
EXCERPT: ..."It was not considered strange that I was traveling with this artistically accomplished group.  His parents valued the cachet that I  brought, as a geiko, to the party and were happy to include me in their circle.  They approved of my relationship with their son and we were quite fond of each other,"

Then she went to her house and informed Mama Masako that she wanted to separate from Toshio.  He was supposedly heartbroken and wanted the relationship to continue, but Mineko was through.


As you read these excerpts, I wonder if you, like me, noticed that this wealthy and famous man who owned homes allowed the affair to continue at her apartment.  It seems to me that he should have bought her a house rather than allow her to continue living in an apartment that she needed to afford.  - Missy

Saturday, March 17, 2018


Chapter 25 pages 4-5 of 36 of the e-book  EXCERPT:

"It's hard to imagine living in a world where everyone - your friends -  your sisters - even your mother - is your rival. I found it very disorienting.  I wasn't able to distinguish friend from foe.  I never knew who or what to believe.  Inevitably,  all of this took a psychosocial toll and I began to experience emotional problems.  I suffered periodic anxiety, insomnia, and difficulty speaking."

Mineko writes that in Japanese culture, harmony is the most prized way of living.  A peaceful co-existence is emphasized.  Everyone is to get along and especially so when a geisha.  She must learn to communicate with everyone even if she does not like them, project warmth but without inviting sexual intimacy, to be diplomatic and entertaining.  She is not expected to play dumb.  The geisha and management of the house research the people they will be entertaining so that they will know something about them and what to talk about before they even meet the guests.  They are expected to be humorous, make intelligent commentary, and exhibit some witt.
In her book, Mineko says that she is by nature a shy and private person who does not like people.  Becoming social was a challenge for her and she sees it as a way of overcoming her nature.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018



In her memoir of her life growing up to be an entertainer known as a Geisha in Japan, Mineko Iwasaki tells us that balancing a husband and a career is not an easy life, but it is allowed.  Most geisha first retire, then marry.  She sees the life they are raised to live as an independent one.  Women lead the business, keep records and do the bookkeeping (including the cost of lessons in dance and music to provide the woman a professional career and the cost of food and the extremely expensive kimonos) and says that the geisha are out late, often not getting to bed until 3 am.  Around 10 am, the business men who sell things they need come to show their wares.  But no husbands, no men, not even a girl's own father, is allowed where only priests and children are allowed and there in an inner house that is all women, a feminine society. And there is no stigma to becoming a single mother.  But if the geisha has a boy, she must leave the house, while a girl child is welcome as a future geisha.

In Chapter 9, page 13 of 27 of the e-book, she emphasizes that Geisha houses are NOT houses of ill repute. 

In Chapter 19, pages 3 and 4 of 28 of the e-book, she writes
"MISEDASHI, the term used for a moiko's debut, means "open for business" and indicates that the maiko is prepared to begin working as a professional."  (She had hers on March 26, 1965.)

She states that this event is expensive, tens of thousands of dollars, easily over $100,000 is spent!  There is a strong emphasis on kimono.  In Japan there are 28 seasons, each with it's own symbol (I think of this as like a zodiac) and the kimono, obi (sash) and hair ornaments are supposed to reflect the season, which means that a geisha must be able to own or borrow at least 28 different kimono.  The colors and patterns of kimono communicate class, status, and much else. Each geisha has a "dresser," (think of him as a fashion stylist) who dresses her and sees to it that every detail is correct.  So much time is spent with the dresser that they become a geisha's friendly confidant.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018


I loved this film, not only for its artistry but its story, its "reveal" of a life we modern women probably could not imagine. Based on the novel by Arthur Golden, who interviewed Mineko Iwasaki, and he says other Geisha as well, it is assumed to be close to her life story.

One of my platonic men friends said that he felt sorry for the girl in this story.