Let’s travel the world, one book at a time.

Welcome back to my blog, where I am continuing to retrace the steps of Phileas Fogg in Around The World In Eighty Days by Jules Verne.

The fourth stop on our journey is…. Japan!

  • Title: Memoirs Of A Geisha
  • Author: Arthur Golden
  • Date Published: 1997

This was quite possibly my favourite book of the entire week.

Set in the time of World War 2, Memoirs Of A Geisha is a historical novel about a young girl named Chiyo. She is taken from her home village to Kyoto, the city which used to be the capital of Japan, to train to become a Geisha. She tries to make friends along the way, but makes rivalries amongst the other women in her okiya, particularly Hatsumomo. Chiyo completes her rigorous training regime and becomes Sayuri, a beautiful and influential Geisha.

My Photo [Memoirs Of a Geisha]

I found this book so informative, and I was eager to read on – not only to unravel Golden’s story but to learn more about Japanese culture and history. Golden is certainly an expert on all things Japanese – an extract from the dust jacket on the book says:

‘Arthur Golden… is a 1978 graduate of Harvard College with a degree in art history, specialising in Japanese art. In `1980 he earned an M.A in Japanese history from Columbia University where he also learned Mandarin Chinese. After a summer at Beijing University, he went to work at a magazine in Tokyo.’

The descriptions in this book were stunning and Chiyo was a very imaginative narrator; all she described was linked in some way to nature and the elements, creating a calm and soothing atmosphere.

I liked the fact that retrospective narration was used in places because it was like the narrator was “pressing pause” to explain a certain Japanese custom or character in further detail so we could understand better.

Yet I still found Memoirs Of A Geisha quite shocking to read. I began this book by thinking that a Geisha was just a Japanese prostitute. Once we see Chiyo take part in non-sexual acts such as tea parties, dance and the art of conversation, I thought I was proved wrong. However, once Chiyo reaches adulthood, sex is permitted and finding a Danna (a kind of “sugar daddy”, I think) is actively encouraged by her okiya. Here, the book takes a slightly darker turn as Chiyo effectively prostitutes herself and this was more difficult to read.

Nonetheless, I still found this book incredibly educational and enjoyable, and if you want to learn about Japanese culture, I strongly recommend it to you.

Thanks for reading – leave a comment, click ‘Like or ‘Follow’ if you enjoyed.

The final day of my Around The World Challenge will be uploaded tomorrow!

– Judith


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