Autobiography Of A Geisha PDF/EPUB ´ Autobiography Of

The glamorous world of big city geisha is familiar to many readers but little has been written of the life of hardship and pain led by the hot springs resort geisha Indentured to geisha houses by families in desperate poverty deprived of freedom and identity these young women lived in a world of sex for sale unadorned by the trappings of wealth and celebritySayo Masuda has written the first full length autobiography of a former hot springs resort geisha Masuda was sent to work as a nursemaid at the age of six and then was sold to a geisha house at the age of twelve In keeping with tradition she first worked as a servant while training in the arts of dance song shamisen and drum In 1940 aged sixteen she made her debut as a geisha Autobiography of a Geisha chronicles the harsh life in the geisha house from which Masuda and her sisters worked They were routinely expected to engage in sex for payment and Masuda's memoir contains a grim account of a geisha's slow death from untreated venereal disease Upon completion of their indenture geisha could be left with no means of making a living Marriage sometimes meant rescue but the best that most geisha could hope for was to become a man's mistressMasuda also tells of her life after leaving the geisha house painting a vivid panorama of the grinding poverty of the rural poor in wartime Japan As she eked out an existence on the margins of Japanese society earning money in odd jobs and hard labor even falling in with Korean gangsters Masuda experienced first hand the anguish and the fortitude of prostitutes gangster mistresses black market traders and abandoned mothers struggling to survive in postwar JapanHappiness was always short lived for Masuda but she remained compassionate and did what she could to help others indeed in sharing her story she hoped that others might not suffer as she had Although barely able to write her years of training in the arts of entertaining made her an accomplished storyteller and Autobiography of a Geisha is as remarkable for its wit and humor as for its unromanticized candor It is the superbly told tale of a woman whom fortune never favored yet never defeated


10 thoughts on “Autobiography Of A Geisha

  1. says:

    Very recently I read Mineko Iwasaki's Geisha A Life and I had a lot to say about that one I have a lot less to say about Sayo Masuda's personal account of her life as a country resort geisha in the days before WWII in short it's less procedural than Iwasaki's book but far touching and I liked it much Iwasaki's world was one of privileged luxury consummate arts training the glamour of Kyoto's Gion Kobu district and the wealth and prestige that came with being a high class geiko Masuda's story begins with crushing poverty and borderline starvation resulting in her sale by her own family into a crowded low class okiya in the town of Suwa where the geisha practice is only thinly separated from sex work by a transparent veneer of training in shamisen and dance The translator's introduction makes very clear the separation between the city geiko versus the country geisha and having read both autobiographies the difference is as clear as night and dayWhile Iwasaki did elaborate on the extensive training and entertainment work she did in the Kyoto teahouses and theater Masuda chooses instead to focus on her inner life and the people around her Her narrative voice is plain and clear which is perhaps what makes her account so tragic to read By contrast Iwasaki's book read like an extended exercise in self congratulation and her pursuit of fame and prestige is off putting in fact I got the impression that Iwasaki was highly sheltered from the reality of geisha as sex workers outside of wealthy places like Kyoto and at earlier times in history Masuda entertains no illusions about her low status nor does she feel fondly about the geisha tradition in her region Her feelings extend beyond the sex work industry to the very problem of poverty that led her parents to sell their daughter for enough money to feed themselves for a month Her conclusion to the book is a firm admonishment to would be parents not to have a child lightly because in her experience once a child is born into a world that doesn't want it it's better for it to die than to grow up neglected and in misery as she did It's a harsh truth that we still live with in the world and while Masuda's account is very much of its time and place the lessons she learned in her life transcend it The honesty of her voice and refusal to glamourize what she sees as a harmful practice is much appreciated It can be easy for readers who know little of the geisha tradition to decide that it's one of two extremes a sex free elite form of artistic entertainment as shown in Iwasaki's autobiography or else the glorified form of prostitution Masuda recounts but indeed as with any cultural institution in any place the practices of geisha can't be considered a monolithic entity and one can easily find accounts by real practicing geisha from both sides of this perceptual divide or even somewhere in between the two


  2. says:

    Not just a good book but an important oneSayo Masuda's memoir gives an unembellished unromanticized view of what it was really like to live and work as a geisha It's a story of extreme poverty and oppression but her resilience spirit and humor shine through It feels to me as though translator Rowley truly captured her authentic voice the tale seems honest and sincere The author never flinches from telling the bad along with the good and the result is a story which truly shows the universality of humanity at our best and worst regardless of time period or culture


  3. says:

    Sayo Masuda was born out of wedlock and when her mother would no longer have her because of the associated shame she was sent to work as a nursemaid Later when she was older her uncle sold her to a geisha house During this time no one cared for her or comforted her and no one taught her anything useful – she spent most of her young life fearing other human beings because her interactions with them had always been painful or unpleasant Masuda or Little Crane as she came to be called was sent to geisha school and spent several years learning the geisha’s art as well as serving in the geisha house Geishas are essentially indentured servants to the proprietors of the house until such time as they are able to pay off the fees incurred by their purchase their training their room and board clothing etc While Masuda enjoys at times the perks of being a geisha gifts plenty to eat some power over the men she entertains she hates that she remains powerless to change her circumstances Even when she leaves the geisha house the stigma of what she has been is still upon her People look down on her there are no opportunities for her Masuda’s life is a string of unfortunate events – unwanted and unloved by her mother sold into a sex trade loses the brother she loves to suicide declines in health lost love and on and on She attempts to kill herself several times – by drowning through alcoholism by neglecting her health – but in the end she finds a new purpose at the tender age of 30 It’s interesting to note that Masuda considers her life basically over when she’s in her early 20s I’m not sure if this is because she was thinking in geisha terms as beauty fades with youth most geisha retire and take up other work or because she really thought that she had nothing to contribute She finds that she can make children feel important and appreciated and that they come to value her company She tells them silly stories and brings them gifts and most importantly spends time with them – all of the things she never got as a child And this is where her story ends although not her life She’s still alive according to a translator’s note and in her late 70s as of 2003 But she wants no contact with publishers or people who know anything about her former life as a geisha She wants to be the person she is nowMasuda’s autobiography is just as readable and fascinating as Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha It’s a bit less glamorous however Masuda definitely drives home the point that no girl chooses to be a geisha – it is thrust upon her and how each girl learns to cope with that reality determines what her life will be Masuda overcomes a lot of obstacles and it would be interesting to know if she has found love or happiness – things she sought and thought she would never find when she was a young woman


  4. says:

    There are two kinds of Geisha There of the Geisha of Gion and Tokyo who pride themselves as being not only social entertainers but also artists Sex is almost always implied never overt Then there are the Hot Springs Geisha For these geisha shamisen and dance are not an art unto themselves they are a means to an end Sex is the ultimate goal and the line between artist and prostitute is so blurred it is almost non existentSayo Masuda wrote about her experiences as a pre WWII hot springs geisha and her life afterwards in the mid 1950s Although a best seller in Japan it wasn't translated into English until 2003 when the mythology of the geisha entered western thought with Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha Although Masuda only spent about 5 years as an actual hot springs geisha she shows how the experience affected her life both in terms of the talents she picked up there and the stigma she earned for the next several years In the afterward the translator even mentions that just the publication of the book ran her out of the town she had been living in at the timeMasuda writes with a simplicity brought on by the fact that she wasn't taught to read or write until her 20s and the tense often switches from past to present and back again But the simplicity also means there's no room for deceit and the plain truth of her words jump off the page with an easiness not found in serious memoiristsAlthough as I said she only spends about 5 years and about 14 of the book as an actual hot springs geisha this book is still a fascinating account of what it was like to be a woman living on the margins of society in the early 20th century Japan Most women like her could have never told their story since most of the them would have been as illiterate as she started out So this book uniquely preserves an unexamined strata of society in Japan


  5. says:

    I really enjoyed this very quick read I picked it up in Oxfam because it looked so beautiful a slim volume with a cherry blossom kimono print on the inside and back cover I think I loved it before I even started reading I love Masuda's style she is clear and her prose is precise She tells her story without hyperbole or self indulgence Her life was tough but not without joy her biography is a testament to the human ability to endure Her description of life as a geisha is surprising my only knowledge of Geisha comes from Memoirs of a Geisha and this account has a totally different focus While Golden is crafting a story with romance intrigue and suspense Masuda is recounting her litany of let downs Amazingly she does this with almost a total lack of indulgent self pity To me she seems to have amazing strength of character Her life was very tough she was constantly so poor that prostitution was her only way to survive and yet that really isn't what the book is about at all Her story is about what she had to do to survive being indentured as a nursemaid and then as a Geisha When she has earned her freedom it becomes the story of how she attempts to escape the stigma of having once been a geisha Though I loved the book it is incredibly sad the mother the uncle the brother the lover and then the most heart wrenching bit of all the children's story about the hawk It's all so sad and yet there is so much beauty in Masuda's character and her descriptions that rather than being left with a broken heart when you finish you are left marvelling at the power of one woman to never really let the bastards get her down


  6. says:

    This one's depressing I read Autobiography of a Geisha at my roommate's insistance after I read Memoirs of a Geisha Yes I know it took a long time As opposed to Memoirs which is based on a retelling of the life of a geisha Autobiography is the life of Sayo Masuda in her own words translated by G G Rowley She originally wrote a short version to enter in a contest because she needed the prize money When contacted by a publisher she wrote a longer version to help supplement her meger incomeThe way that Masuda relates the story of her life is very simple and matter of fact Some of this stems from her small amount of education and some from the simple look she has on life Either way her language is simple and plain the text itself is short at only 170 pages or soWhile Memoirs spends a lot of time talking about the details of everyday life dress and custom Autobiography relates events and reactions in a much narriative style She frankly accounts her grinding poverty physical abuse and emotional hardship It's incrediably moving and frank portrayal of an old and often mis understood customIf you've read Memoirs you should read this If you haven't you probably should read Memoirs first just to get an understanding of the lifestyle the details that help flesh out Masuda's story It'll give you an incrediable case of middle class guilt but it's good to have that experience occasionally to keep things in perspective


  7. says:

    As the title states this is a true story of a Japanese geisha in the 1940s and 1950s Beware though it’s not the beautiful sweetness that you read or saw in Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha No life as a geisha was not about that for Masuda sanMasuda san was sold by her parents to act as a nursemaid as a child not much bigger than the children she was meant to look after and then again by an uncle to a geisha house She had little education and could barely read and write There she and her ‘elder sisters’ gradually rose up the ranks to become geishas They learned the dancing and the shamisen but the main objective was money for sex The girls were indentured to the geisha house forced to collect ‘points’ to pay out their contract There were pregnancies deaths from diseases and suicidesBut life after being a geisha was harsh Masuda san did many jobs to try and look after her brother mistress collecting and selling food selling soap on the black market and waitressing The poverty after WWII is tangible Masuda san only told her story to a women’s magazine to try to win a prize She did and fifty years later her book is still in publication and translated into EnglishThis story is poignant as it tells of the stigma forever attached to geisha at this time will people find out Masuda san’s history? and the running away from love as to avoid that stigma for her beloved It’s not a pretty picture but a very compelling one


  8. says:

    Masuda Sayo was a geisha in a rural part of Japan Her story starts when she was six years old Rejected by her mother as she was an illegitimate child Masuda was sent to be a nursemaid at an age where she should still have been in the nursery herself When she was twelve she was sold to a geisha house Masuda relates her training years – then describes how she was sold to an elderly man when she was only sixteen He had a wife and a mistress already This is a terrible story to read – in that it is not made up – it really happened Masuda never went to school but related her story to expose the geisha industry from the fairytale status that the western world seems to hold it She is frank and hold nothing back Geisha’s are an integral part of Japanese society and yet the women who work in the industry are scorned by society when they leave the protection of the Geisha housesG G Rowley translated the story directly from the original Japanese in 2003 – she then was able to meet Masuda in 2004 when she was 81 years of age – and added an epilogue in 2005An interesting insight into another world


  9. says:

    Despite it is a very sad book I liked to read it Not because I love to read about other people's misery but because this autobiography gave a better look into the reality of a geisha's training It was not easy to read about the difficulties Matsuda faced as a child being sent away again and again lacking a loving family and when she was a grown up the circumstances of war Reading about what she had to do to survive how desperate she has been was not pleasant but I am glad I did read this book for it takes away a bit of the glamour glitter that geisha hood is surrounded with for foreigners Although I knew that the training is hard that young girls are often sold to geisha houses out of poverty than out of free will of the girl I had no idea that there was a geisha world like the one described by Matsuda


  10. says:

    Check this out and also check out its author who apparently has bibliographies of Japanese lit on her website somewhere and who focuses on literature by Japanese women this year's Japanese reading list is too light on women and this might help