Read Autobiography of a Geisha by Sayo Masuda G.G. Rowley Online

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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 celebrity.Sayo MasuThe 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 celebrity.Sayo 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 mistress.Masuda 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 Japan.Happiness 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....

Title : Autobiography of a Geisha
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ISBN : 9780231129510
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 185 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Autobiography of a Geisha Reviews

  • Molly
    2019-01-25 15:01

    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 more touching, and I liked it much more.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 day.While 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.

  • Arminzerella
    2019-01-29 18:02

    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 more 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 now.Masuda’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.

  • Althea Ann
    2019-02-05 14:13

    Not just a good book, but an important one.Sayo 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.

  • MAP
    2019-02-08 10:55

    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-existent.Sayo 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 time.Masuda 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 more "serious" memoirists.Although, as I said, she only spends about 5 years, and about 1/4 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.

  • Fin
    2019-02-08 10:10

    "Eine Geisha erzählt - ungeschminkte Einblicke in ein hartes Leben."Sayo Masuda ist erst zwölf Jahre alt, alssie an ein Geisha-Haus verkauft wirdund in die Welt des traditionellenjapanischen Amüsments eintaucht.Doch das Lächeln der Geisha täuscht :Die Ausblidung ist hart und unmenschlich,hinter den Kulissen herrschen Rivalitätund Schikane. Aber Sayo Masuda gibtnicht auf und kämpft um ihre Freiheit ....Als Japaninteressierte war dieser Kauf sicher keine Überraschung.Ein paar Bücher über Geisha´s und deren Leben nenne ich mein Eigen.Zumal "Die Geisha" mein unangefochtener Lieblingsfilm ist.Dennoch unterscheiden sich die Geschichten, was der jungen Sayo angetan wurde lies mir das Herz bluten !Wir beginnen die Geschichte und lernen ein kleines Mädchen von 6 Jahren kennen. Welches in fürchterlicher Angst vor menschlichten Wesen und deren grausamer Strafen lebt.Damals als Kind dachte sie nicht über ihre Eltern nach, sie wusste nur Hunger tat weh und vor Menschen hatte sie Angst. Die Kinder und Erwachsenen quällten sie mir großer begeisterung, egal was passierte sie war immer Schuld.Ihr Onkel holte sie im Alter von 12 Jahren von dem Gutshof weg, da erst erfuhr sie wie ihr Name lautete. Bisher hatten sie alle nur Affenkind gennant.Doch das Glück währte nur kur Sayo wurde an ein Geisha-Haus verkauft, da erst begann ihr weiterer Weg ...Das Buch mag nur dünn sein mit seinen 189 Seiten Geschichte, aber mehr hat es nicht gebraucht um mich zu berühren. Die Geschichte lies mich traurig und wütend zugleich zurück. Seite um Seite litt und kämpfte ich mit Sayo, gegen wiederliche Männer,rachsüchtige Frauen und die Wogen des Schiksals ...Japaner haben eine andere Art Geschichten zu erzählen, man muss isch darauf einlassen und sich von den Worten tragen lassen. Worte die ein Kind sprach und zu einer jungen Frau heranwuchs. EIn Buch das die Schattenseiten hinter dem hübschen weißen Gesicht und den roten Lippen zeigt.Abslolut lesenswert !

  • Katie Mcsweeney
    2019-01-28 10:20

    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.

  • Chelsea
    2019-01-20 12:55

    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 income.The 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 so.While Memoirs spends a lot of time talking about the details of everyday life, dress, and custom, Autobiography relates events and reactions in a much more 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 custom.If 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.

  • Sam Still Reading
    2019-01-31 15:57

    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-san.Masuda-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 suicides.But 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 English.This 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.

  • Sally906
    2019-01-21 16:13

    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 houses.G. 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 2005.An interesting insight into another world.

  • BoekenTrol
    2019-01-29 10:09

    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 more 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.

  • Monica Akinyi Odhiambo
    2019-02-04 13:05

    A true reflection of what Geishas went through.Sayo Masuda had a really challenging life,which sometimes would move me to tears.Being forced at an early age of 12 years,into a life where there's no respect or regard for women with very low wages-paying off debts that probably accrued from your parents.Its just sad how someone could sell you off,like that and you get to work for them for years before you even pay it off.Your work is just to entertain and be used as a vessel by your patron.Going through that hard life,of sleeping in the cold ice,sacrifices she made so that her brother could at least read,going through the death of her brother.All I can say is,I admire for her strength and her passion.For never giving up despite how hard and humiliating things got.In the end she got to do what she loved the most,stay with kids,and just live.Very inspirational.

  • Brittany
    2019-02-17 11:08

    What a hard life just at the age of 21. never take anything for granted. this was a sad but very straight forward look at Masuda's life, before and after being a hot springs geisha. Memoirs if a geisha felt like a mixture of this and geisha, a life. You have to give her props for tenacity and never giving up no matter what that entailed. worth a read, but not necessarily a happy book. my main complaint is the translator's intro is a huge spoiler of what is to come. I suggest skipping it and going back to it at the end.

  • Ape
    2019-02-12 14:09

    A little gem I picked up second hand. I read this after reading Memoirs of a Geisha, and it's non-fiction to Memoirs' fiction, as well as portraying the life of a geisha in a hot springs resort as opposed to the very rich and priviliged life of a big city geisha, as the one in Memoirs. The writing style, closely translated from the original japanese, has such an honest charm to it. I really enjoyed this book.

  • Heyrebekah Alm
    2019-01-21 13:01

    A darker, gritter, more honest nonfiction cousin to Memoirs of a Geisha. Sayo Masuda's writing (in excellent translation) is amazingly clear, open and conversational. Her life story struck me as quite unique but also, sadly, probably all too common at the time. At only 160 pages, this is a quick but powerful read.

  • Jim
    2019-02-06 10:19

    Despite the romance that the word "geisha" conjures in the minds of most Americans, the fancy kimonos and painted female entertainers, the reality of the system was often brutal, punishing, demeaning, and even deadly, especially for young girls trapped in the smaller towns and spas, where being a geisha was little better than a life of prostitution or being a mistress. Yet, this existence was often better than the alternative for many girls, who were frequently treated as little more than a product to be sold and forgotten. Still, some individuals, such as Masuda, despite the humiliations and indignities, and occasional thoughts of suicide, were resilient and resourceful despite handicaps of culture and education and never lost their humanity, and fought to stay alive and even help those around them. The treatment of poor young girls, outright child abuse, is chilling and disheartening to read about, even if the times and culture are different. You just wonder how people can be so terrible to children, then or now. And much of this still goes on throughout the world. . .in poorer parts of Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and even in the more economically advanced countries as well. What is also amazing is how open the system was, how men brazenly used the girls and then discarded them, how many mamasans took advantage, how many turned a blind eye. Ans still do, I suppose, especially when times are really tough. For those who like to romanticize about Japan, this book may serve as a good corrective to see that their is often an ugly underside to any culture, even if aspects of it are lauded.

  • Julie
    2019-01-29 11:04

    Agony, despair, and teeth-grinding misery are great words to describe Sayo Masuda's autobiography. In many ways, this account reminds me of the American autobiography of an abused child, "A Child Called 'It'" that was released in the 90s. Each page is filled with so much suffering and gut wrenching misfortune meagerly accompanied by tiny moments of happiness.As depressing as this autobiography was, I think it's an essential read for anyone interested in pre WWII/immediate post WWII Japan. The translator provides handy end notes for further historical study too. I would especially recommend this book to anyone who think's Arthur Golden's "Memoirs of a Geisha" encompasses the lives of all geisha. Not all geisha were so well off as I learned by reading Sayo Masuda's story. I enjoyed this book for it's insight but it did make me gulp and feel thankful for what I have.A memorable passage:"But what about me? A small diamond ring sparkled on my finger. And I had a gold watch. On my feet, a pair of leather sandals. In my purse, I had 4,000 or 5,000 yen left. But, despite this, my soul was starving, thirsting, crazed with agony as it roamed about looking for a place to die."

  • M.M. Strawberry Reviews
    2019-02-10 17:18

    If you want to learn more about the life of geisha, this isn't quite the book for you. Much of this memoir doesn't concentrate on the details of geisha life, which I was sad about. After having read the fictional 'Memoirs of a Geisha' and Mineko Iwasaki's autobiography 'Geisha of Gion', I was hoping to see more into the life of a lower-ranked geisha, because the other books fictional or not were about geisha that were more lucky.Personally I wouldn't have forgiven my mother for what she did if I had a mother like the one in this book, because Masada's childhood was simply heartbreaking. Poor little girl. For a memoir, this was a good book, and the afterword made it even better, I was happy to find out what happened to this geisha in particular. 3.5/5 stars for this book. The writing is clean and the story is interesting, so as a memoir it's a good read. If it had more information on the life of these lower-level geisha, I would have given it a higher rating.

  • Yun Zhen
    2019-01-25 14:14

    It was a refreshingly straight forward read. It provided a realistic look into the lives of geishas and was a good contrast to the glamourous portrayal of geishas in movies and books today. It is hard even to imagine how Masuda managed to surmount every difficulty that life threw at her and she emerged at the end of the account as an woman to be respected. The account of her life itself is inspiring as she sailed through all odds while life didn't treat her well, it still did give her cruel chances to survive on. And a point brought up through Masuda's perspective as a prostitute regarding the criminalisation of prosititution is indeed a point to reflect upon as nobody goes into this business voluntarily, they only do it to survive.

  • Emily
    2019-01-20 17:58

    The most remarkable thing about this book is the author's voice. Although you have to wonder how much was altered in translation from Japanese to English, it is still very compelling. I think with memoirs you can always tell whether the author is trying to gloss over negative aspects of their life, but Masuda is unapologetic and genuine. This is not the soft, lyrical story of Arthur Golden, but the real thing, expressed by someone who was there. A very rich and evocative memoir.

  • okyrhoe
    2019-02-07 17:16

    When I read Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha I found there was a certain falseness to the narrative. Of course it was a fictional account (albeit based on interviews with a former geisha), and therefore removed to a certain extent from reality.I also read Mineko Iwasaki's autobiography Geisha of Gion which gave a more realistic view of the secluded life of the geisha. Even though they have a busy social life, and may develop close/longstanding relationships with their clients, these young women's private lives are marked by the trauma of separation from their biological family. In Geisha of Gion there is a conflicting aspect to Mineko Iwasaki's account. She herself does not write much about this trauma; it's as if she was happy to be separated from her family at a very young age, but she does provide some details about her elder sister's troubled behavior as a result of this forced separation when sent off to a geisha training "family". (Interesting to note that when young boys are sent off to become sumo wrestlers, they join "stables" rather than "families".)Here, in Sayo Masuda's autobiography, we are given a more honest account of the circumstances both social and personal, of the indentured servitude that is called geisha 'training' and 'art'. Difficult as the narrative is to read, for its unflinching account of the rigors and tortures of geisha life during the difficult conditions of post-war Japan, I value this memoir for its emotional honesty.

  • Peter
    2019-01-31 11:15

    Quite a story! This book is recommended reading for anyone interested in what living in wartime and immediate postwar Japan was like. It is also recommended for anyone who has read Arthur Golden’s golden story of that poor Geisha who had such a happy ending by finding her way to becoming a mistress, which I found so disheartening. I found Golden’s story to be unnecessarily uplifting, or at least not bleak, in a similar way that Dickens always seemed to be able to pull the hero out of the muck after dragging him through it. Of course, if you want to write a best seller, it is always important to not veer too close to reality. But for a good strong dose of reality about Geisha (not Kyoto Geisha, but one wonders how different), there is nothing better than this little gem. If you were a girl, you didn’t want to be born to a poor, broken family in Taisho Japan. And yet Ms. Masuda tried so hard to get by, and to be good, even when the most horrible things happened to her. In addition to a highly readable translation, G. G. Rowley (who is a friend on Goodreads) does a wonderful job in tracking down the author many years after her book was published and updating her life and adding some important information on her story. This “autobiography” is therefore both autobiography and biography, and by the end you can feel the warmth that the translator feels for her subject.

  • Gabriel Azevedo
    2019-02-13 18:12

    this was a very touching memoir of a woman whose life had been nothing but pain from the beginning. i wont go into too much detail but here are some things that stuck out to me:- sayo's relationship with her true love and her selfishness when she had to leave him was really heartwrenching. i hope to love as fiercely as she did then.- when she decided to kill herself by freezing to death, sayo was saved by a former member of the communist party hiding out in the mountains. that was when her outlook changed--he said she should do something positive for others and not live so selfishly. - i really hate how she had to sacrifice so much to publish this book. it created some kind of scandal and she had to leave town.- sayo makes a very simple but very effective argument against criminalization of sex work. she says there will always be women who need to perform sex work to survive, and making it illegal wont stop anyone from living that life. despite all her pain from being sold as a child to perform this kind of work, sayo still believes criminalization can only hurt women. (and i agree.)- i really love works translated from japanese to english in general but i really felt like i could hear her voice in every word. i really loved this memoir and i highly recommend it.

  • Dreamtinheist
    2019-01-30 17:12

    Autobiography of a Geisha has none of the glamour usually shown in other books and movies about the life of a geisha. Sayo Masuda endured many hardships from an early age that did not stop when she became a full-fledged geisha. It was interesting to read for awhile; yet, I felt that she was holding something back or discussing certain parts of her life in such a way to emphasize a certain point or moral. After going through and struggling to get out the sex trade (geisha at a hot-springs resort), Masuda stresses the value and responsibility of child-rearing and the importance of family bonds. Maybe I am expecting something different since I am not a huge advocate of adding present thoughts on past events. Anyway, this book is not perfect but definitely profound and insightful. For most of her life, Sayo Masuda could not read or write. Even the autobiography was originally written in simple hiragana. Forget the idyllic image of a geisha in popular culture for the ones described in this book. Poverty, betrayal, and other conflicts offer a more realistic portrait of most lives of those in the sex trade.

  • Eric DeBellis
    2019-01-24 11:19

    To call this book heartbreaking would be to reduce it to a disarming cliche. It's much more compelling than a "woe was me" tearjerker. Masuda's matter-of-fact account of her youth as a girl whose parents sold her to be raised as a product for consumption is at once chilling, humbling, and oddly inspirational. Not that suffering is inspirational. It isn't, but pushing on after repeated blows that would crush most people is. Not that Masuda was a paragon of stoic resolve. She lost her will to live so many times by the time she was my age that I lost count. What makes Masuda's telling of her own story so fascinating, though, is how normal it all was to her. Masuda writes as a grown woman, somewhat numbed by the passage of time but unflinchingly honest about the anger and utter loneliness she experienced without a hint of melodrama. It's striking. After spending her entire youth learning to manipulate people's emotions to get what she wants, the now-grown author doesn't reach for the reader's heartstrings. She doesn't have to. It's a brutal true story told by its author in the most startling manner possible: calmly and plainly.

  • Kaysa
    2019-01-27 17:17

    This heart-touching book follows the story of a struggling girl at the bottom of Japanese society. Abandoned by her family, she suffered as a victim of child labour and abuse (practically a slave); and to make matters worse, was taken to a geisha house to become a prostitute.In the book, we get to read about the different stages of her life and all the tragedies that marked each phase. Her story is filled with hardship after hardship, and you can't help but wonder at her strength to persevere and not allow her horrific experiences to break her.The book is so well-written that the pain the author suffered throughout her years is almost palpable. You empathise with her, and your heart sings sadly to the tune of her sorry tale.

  • Lyndsey Silveira
    2019-02-08 14:57

    Masuda presents an account of her life, starting with her early indenture to a geisha house, and she details some of the more unsavory aspects of the job. Unlike the characters of Memoirs of a Geisha, (which I still haven't read and am not in a hurry to read) which presents a more rosy view of the trade, Masuda was a "hot springs" geisha. In addition to all of the typical geisha skills such as dancing, music, art and conversation, she was also a prostitute in a hot springs town. The book is a wrenching and eye-opening account. I had the sense that something was lost in translation, and I also remember reading that the editors "cleaned up" Masuda's prose (originally written in Japanese phonetic script).

  • Kirsten Benites
    2019-01-31 16:10

    This book is amazing and I want to make everyone read it. The little I knew about geishas before reading this was pretty much limited to Arthur Golden's fictional "Memoirs of a Geisha". This book, on the other hand, is the true account told by a woman who had been a geisha in the first half of the 20th century. She tells of the horrible, heartbreaking things that happen to her (and which she does) in clear, no-nonsense language, without self-pity. Her straightforward, frank approach keeps the book from being too depressing, and by the end of it, I just wanted to be best friends with her.Go read this book! I'll buy you a copy!

  • haley
    2019-02-12 12:07

    Autobiography of a Geisha is the true life story of Sayo Masuda. She was sold to a geisha house when she was twelve years old. She became a full geisha at the age of sixteen. This book is so... raw and honest. My heart ached for Sayo throughout the book. She had a hard life, yet she had the courage to tell her story to others. The writing is simple yet well done. The book ends when Sayo gets a job as a nanny watching children. It ends with a sense of hope, that Sayo's luck was finally becoming better. This was a very interesting glimpse into the world of geisha and I'm glad I read Autobiography of a Geisha.

  • Lilith Noir
    2019-02-04 11:17

    This firsthand account is the perfect antidote to way geisha are often thought of by Americans. The life Sayo had after she was sold to a geisha house shortly before World War II was certainly not glamorous or luxurious. This story is full of hardship and petty cruelty. I enjoyed this story especially since Sayo narrates even the most terrible things that happened to her in a matter-of-fact way. Her voice is worlds apart from the typical "misery memoir" since she never seems to invite pity or admiration, and never shows any sign of "special snowflake" syndrome. This might be a cultural and generational difference, of course.

  • Angela
    2019-02-11 10:59

    I just can't get over how FRANK Masuda is, in this autobiography. She views everything in such a refreshingly straightforward way. Even her romances are simple and straightforward. I love how her experiences are not romanticized or flowery. Masuda's life is grim, and full of troubles, but she lives it as best she can without really giving in to any pressure. She sells her body because she has to, but it's just work; another way to pour tea or laugh at a patron's bad joke. I admire the way she lets herself go mad over her brother's death. I love how she knows she is acting mad, but continues to do it, as it reflects the way she feels about her loss.