Lie back and think of Japan

Discussion in 'Japanese News & Hot Topics' started by thomas, Apr 1, 2001.

  1. thomas

    thomas Unswerving cyclist
    Admin

    8,653
    711
    224
    Lie back and think of Japan

    Barbara Ellen
    Sunday April 1, 2001
    The Observer

    The geisha is, and has always been, the pretty painted face of Japanese patriarchy. No amount of waffle about tradition, ritual, art, silken kimonos, tea ceremonies, and all those other things that make ignorant, sensation-greedy Westerners go weak at the knees, has been able to disguise the ethical fungus at the heart of geisha culture. We are always hearing that these white-faced dollies are not 'strictly prostitutes' and Western tourists are happy to snap away at these willow-pattern workers in a way they never would at the women of King's Cross.

    Nevertheless, geishas remain as they always were - satin-slippered throwbacks, trapped in a psychosexual halfway house between companion, hostess, servant and *****.
    Strip away all the trimmings, the beauty, grace and mystery of what Liza Dalby, the first foreigner to become a geisha, called 'the flower and willow world', and you're left with the vulgar reality of a very peculiar brand of a glorified hostess, who is quite happy to bang their married john, and then pour him a nice post-coital cup of tea. Which explains why it would be impossible to transplant the geisha on to Western society. Our prostitutes would do the sex, in a skimpy kimono if necessary (whatever!), but they'd doubtless draw the line at putting the kettle on afterwards.

    Bearing this in mind, if we are to look for geisha-parallels in Western culture, maybe we should stop gawping at the streets of King's Cross and look inside the staid homesteads of suburbia, as well as the 'self help' industry which serves them. For, it seems to me, that, unlike hookers, ordinary women of the West seem more than happy to go a bit 'geisha' if that's what it takes to rescue their sham-relationships. If you don't accept that, then just think about how often we've heard that domesticity is the new destiny, or subservience is the new pashmina? If you still don't buy it, then take a look at the latest of these tomes to be published here, The Surrendered Wife by US housewife and self-styled 'feminist and former shrew' Laura Doyle. Then find me a prostitute who would lower herself to read it.

    Self-help books have long been the amyl nitrite, the gay-disco 'poppers', of the female psyche - addictive in their own way, but decimating millions of brain cells with every sour, hectoring, ill-informed hit. Such tomes like to give the lie that male-female dynamics can be handled like Rubik's Cubes - a few clumsy twists and it's all solved - and The Surrendered Wife is no different. Having read Doyle's book, and seen her ranting on Richard and Judy, I can tell you that she dresses up 'surrendering' very prettily, but, basically, she is arguing that bovine is the new emancipated. In her view, the woman should hand over financial power to the man, obey even if she doesn't agree, and say yes to sex even if she doesn't feel like it. And if the man doesn't feel like sex? 'Put on a negligee and lay on the bed with a book,' purrs Doyle. Down boys!

    When relinquishing financial power, and kowtowing to men is suddenly promoted as the fashionable lifestyle choice, you know it's all gone horribly wrong. Moreover, at least the classic geishas got to exude mystery and history. Now we get twinsetted harridans sitting on daytime-TV sofas telling other women that the way forward is to lie around in baby doll nighties, reading improving literature.

    Indeed, what's really interesting about all this is not how successful The Surrendered Wife is (there's a ****** born every moment and we're all watching Richard and Judy), nor how little it takes to throw generations of hard-won autonomy away, but how mundane and dowdy they have made geisha-style behaviour seem. Not to mention ugly and stupid. Even the dumbest hooker on the street knows where to draw the line between sex and love, and how to build a spiritual wall between her job and her essential self. By contrast, in the case of the geishas, both of the classic Eastern and new-style Western varieties, femininity itself seems to be up for sale.


    Copyright ツゥ Guardian Newspapers Limited 2001
     
  2. thomas

    thomas Unswerving cyclist
    Admin

    8,653
    711
    224
    Geisha are artists not prostitutes

    Reported today by Japan Today and Reuters:

    Geisha are artists not prostitutes fumes "Memoirs" muse

    TOKYO 窶 One of Japan's most famous geisha, who has sued the author of the best selling book "Memoirs of a Geisha", said on Thursday she feels betrayed by the writer who she accuses of violating an agreement to keep her identity secret.

    The book had depicted the skilled female entertainers, renowned for centuries for their ability to dance and to sing, as little more than the playthings of men motivated by money, said Mineko Iwasaki. Iwasaki filed a lawsuit in a Manhattan court this week accusing Arthur Golden, who wrote the blockbuster bestseller, and his publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, of defamation, breach of contract and copyright violation.

    "I told him many things about the geisha world," Iwasaki told Reuters, speaking by phone from her home in Kyoto in central Japan. "I did everything I could for him. But the condition was that he would not use my name or my family's name in the book 窶 it was based on this that I agreed to talk with him. In the end, all those promises were broken," said Kyoto geisha Mineko Iwasaki.

    Iwasaki filed a lawsuit in a Manhattan court this week accusing Arthur Golden, who wrote the blockbuster bestseller, and his publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, of defamation, breach of contract and copyright violation.

    "I told him many things about the geisha world," Iwasaki told Reuters, speaking by phone from her home in Kyoto in central Japan. "I did everything I could for him. But the condition was that he would not use my name or my family's name in the book 窶 it was based on this that I agreed to talk with him. In the end, all those promises were broken," said Kyoto geisha Mineko Iwasaki.

    Iwasaki is seeking an unspecified percentage of the $10 million in sales generated by the book to "be determined at trial", as damages for using her life story as its basis and breaking promises not to reveal her name.

    Golden, who the lawsuit said agreed not to use personal information supplied to him by Iwasaki in more than 100 hours of interviews, identified Iwasaki by her first name in the book's acknowledgments, saying he was "indebted to one individual above all others....Mineko".

    Iwasaki said she is outraged.

    "He made the promise that my name and my family's name would not be mentioned anywhere. But he broke this again and again." A spokesman for Random House Inc., of which Knopf is a division, said on Tuesday that while it had not yet received the court papers, from what it had been told the allegations were "totally baseless and completely without merit".

    Geisha are female entertainers in a centuries-old tradition, renowned for their colourful kimonos, elaborate white make-up and the traditional dancing and singing for which they are hired to perform in exclusive teahouses and expensive restaurants. The ancient city of Kyoto is the centre of this dwindling tradition, known as the "flower and willow world", with geisha from its Gion district regarded as among the most prestigious. Only a few hundred remain in all of Japan.

    It was in Gion that Iwasaki worked from 1965 to 1980, so skilled that she reportedly garnered a reputation as the kind of geisha who only appears "once in a hundred years". "Memoirs of a Geisha" is the story of Sayuri, a girl from a poor rural village sold by her parents to a Kyoto geisha house. She eventually becomes one of the city's most famous and sought-after geisha.

    According to the lawsuit, Iwasaki met Golden in 1992 and agreed to be interviewed on condition of complete anonymity for herself and her family, along with total confidentiality regarding her personal stories and her family's experience. But Golden broke his promise, the suit alleged, and also disparaged her reputation in interviews to promote the book by "repeatedly stating that Ms Iwasaki was sold into the geisha world by her parents, and that her virginity was auctioned to the highest bidder when she came out as a geisha".

    The suit says that both stories are "patently untrue", although Golden represented them as fact in the book. Speculation has long been rife about whether geisha are not actually little more than high-class prostitutes, and one section in Golden's book focuses in great detail on how Sayuri loses her virginity to the highest bidder, a custom called "mizu-age."

    Iwasaki says that while a "mizu-age" ceremony does exist, it is actually a rite of passage to mark a geisha's growing up in which the girl makes presentations of sweets and rice wine to family and acquaintances.

    "The geisha world is not a place where you sell your body," she said. "There is absolutely no truth to this mizu-age story, at least not for me."

    Golden has said his book is wholly fictional. Iwasaki said she understands this, but is annoyed at its mix of fact and what she terms "distorted facts", which she fears give birth to misunderstandings. She is angry at its portrayal of geisha as little more than playthings of men, arguing that while geisha are paid for their services, they work hard to earn this. To tell what she says is the true story of her life as a geisha, she has written her memoirs, to be published in July.

    "This book makes women look stupid," she said of Golden's novel. "All they do is go from man to man, followed around by money. Actually, the geisha system aims at allowing women to achieve independence. We are artists. We dance and perform music 窶 this is how we earn our living. It is not about sex."


    Copyright ツゥ Reuters
     
  3. CFP

    CFP 先輩

    30
    0
    0
    Since this is the only thread that came up when I did a search for Iwasaki Mineko, I'd like to ask, has anyone read her book? Geisha, A life.
    I just finished it and I must say it's one of the best books I have read in a while. Iwasaki is so open and free with her memories you can't help but believe every word she writes.
    It certainly changed my perception of the "willow world". Not that my perceptions were of mainstream misconceptions, (I have long been aware that geisha were not prostitutes, but traditional artists). but I had no idea of the complexities of that part of Japanese society.
    I would recommend this book to anyone who had an interest in the subject.
    Does Ms. Iwasaki have a web site? She should.
     

Share this page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice