This is the memoir of Mineko Iwasaki, one of Gion's most famous Geishas. She introduces us to her story starting at the very beginning of her childhood, still living with her parents and siblings. Soon she learns that some of her sisters have been adopted by an okiya, a Geisha house, because her parents were not able to feed so many hungry mouths.
But Mineko decides to follow her sisters into the okiya, because she is spellbound by this secretive world, which is inhabited and ruled by women only. She is to become first a maiko, an apprentice Geisha, and then a real geiko, which is the name of a Geisha in Gion, the best known Geisha district not only in Kyoto but Japan.
I have read Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden and this book was in many ways similar to Golden's book. But there are differences especially in the way the story is told. Though Iwasaki claims to be the first Geisha to tell her story, I felt like she was holding back, I felt like she wasn't giving me the whole thing. That is because she tells the reader all the training was hard, or she decides to be adopted by the okiya and leave her family, or that all the other girls were jealous as she became a well-known geisha but she never tells what it felt like, she never says she was sad, lonely or exhausted.
On the other hand I am fascinated. Geishas are exotic strangers who are paid to be perfect entertainers with skills in music, dancing, singing and conversation. They live in a secretive world full of intrigue and jealousy, which makes it all the more interesting to read about.
If you are interested in the training of a Geisha in our modern times, I recommend the BBC documentary Geisha Girl, following 15-year-old Yukina as she leaves home and moves to Kyoto to embark on the arduous training needed to become a geisha. Here is a link to the first part on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrDGTUm2vBc
If you can't get enough of the Geisha world read this book.
I read this book for the JLC5.