Mineko Iwasaki


Mineko Iwasaki

Mineko Iwasaki (岩崎 峰子 a.k.a. 岩崎 究香 Iwasaki Mineko?), born Masako Tanaka (田中 政子 Tanaka Masako?, born on November 2, 1949 in Kyoto), was Japan's number one geiko (geisha) until her sudden retirement at the age of 29. Arthur Golden later used her story to write the book Memoirs of a Geisha.[1]

Contents

Geisha

Iwasaki left home to begin studying traditional Japanese dance at the Iwasaki okiya (geisha house) in the Gion district of Kyoto when she was only five years old. She was legally adopted by the okiya's owner, Madame Oima, and took on the family name Iwasaki. She had been chosen as the house's atotori, or heir. Iwasaki became a maiko (apprentice geiko) at age 15. By age 21 she had earned a reputation as Japan's best dancer and maiko. She officially became a geiko at this time.

Iwasaki worked herself to her limit, both physically and mentally. She developed a kidney condition that nearly killed her, but recovered and made a strong re-entry into the geiko community. She entertained numerous celebrities and foreign dignitaries such as the United Kingdom's Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles. Her fame and success earned her many admirers, and she generally enjoyed life in the Iwasaki okiya. Yet her fame also made her the subject of jealousy and gossip, and she was sometimes faced with physical harassment both when performing and in public. In her autobiography, she describes having to defend herself with a sharp piece of bamboo from a basket she was carrying when a group of men assaulted her on the street.

Iwasaki became frustrated with the tradition-bound world of the geiko, particularly what she saw as inadequacies in the education system, and unexpectedly retired at the height of her career. She had hoped that this would shock Gion into reform, but instead, over 70 other ranking geiko emulated her and retired as well. In her autobiography, Iwasaki speculates that she may have inadvertently doomed the profession. She transitioned to a career in art and married an artist named Jin'ichirō Satō, had a daughter named Kōko (sometimes called Kōsuke because of her tomboyishness), and now lives in a suburb of Kyoto.

Memoirs of a Geisha

Iwasaki was one of several geisha author Arthur Golden interviewed while researching his novel Memoirs of a Geisha. According to Iwasaki, she agreed to speak with Golden on the condition that her involvement would be kept confidential, but Golden revealed her identity by mentioning her name in the book's acknowledgments,[2] as well as several national interviews. After Memoirs was published, Iwasaki received criticism and even death threats for violating the traditional geisha code of silence.

Iwasaki felt betrayed by Golden's use of information she considered confidential, as well as the way he twisted reality, and denounced Memoirs of a Geisha as being an inaccurate depiction of the life of a geisha. Iwasaki was particularly offended by the novel's portrayal of geiko engaging in ritualized prostitution. For example, in the novel the main character Sayuri's virginity (called mizuage in the novel) is auctioned off to the highest bidder.[3] Iwasaki stated that not only did this never happen to her, but that no such custom ever existed in Gion.

Part of Iwasaki's displeasure with Memoirs may also have been because the character Sayuri seems obviously modeled on Iwasaki, with many of the book's main characters and events having parallels in Iwasaki's life. These people and experiences are often portrayed negatively in Memoirs, even when their real-life counterparts were positive for Iwasaki.

Iwasaki sued Golden for breach of contract and defamation of character in 2001.[4] The lawsuit was settled out of court in February 2003.[5]

Her own story: Geisha of Gion

Geisha of Gion, Mineko Iwasaki's international bestseller

After the publication of Memoirs of a Geisha, Iwasaki decided to write her real autobiography, contrasting with the fiction of Golden's book.[6] Her book, co-authored by Rande Gail Brown and published as Geisha, a Life in the US and Geisha of Gion in the UK, detailed her experiences before, during and after her time as a geiko to the outside world. It became a worldwide bestseller.

References

External links


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Look at other dictionaries:

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