READING LIST / GEISHA LIFE
Liza Crihfield Dalby (born 1950) is an American anthropologist and novelist specializing in Japanese culture. For her graduate studied, Dalby studied and performed fieldwork in Japan of the geisha community which she wrote about in her Ph.D dissertation. Since that time she has written five books. Her first book, Geisha, was based on her early research. The next book, Kimonos is about traditional Japanese clothing and the history of the kimono. She followed that with a fictional account of the Heian era noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu, titled The Tale of Murasaki. In 2007 she wrote a memoir, East Wind Melts the Ice, which was followed two years later by a second work of fiction, Hidden Buddhas. Dalby is considered an expert in the study of the Japanese geisha community and has acted as consultant to novelist Arthur Golden and film-maker Rob Marshall for the novel Memoirs of a Geisha and the film of the same name
Mineko Iwasaki (岩崎 峰子) also known as Iwasaki Mineko (岩崎 究香), born Masako Tanaka (田中 政子 Tanaka Masako, born November 2, 1949), was a Japanese businesswoman, Geiko and author. Iwasaki was the most famous Japanese Geiko in Japan until her sudden publicized retirement at the age of 29. Known for her performances for various celebrity and royalty during her Geisha life, Iwasaki was also an established heir or atotori to her geisha house (Okiya) while she was just an apprentice.
American author Arthur Golden later used her story to write his 1997 book, Memoirs of a Geisha. Iwasaki later regretted interviewing for Golden, having cited a breach of confidentiality and later sued then settled with Golden for the pararellism between his book and her life. She later released her own autobiography entitled Geisha of Gion in 2002, which became an international bestseller.
An okiya (置屋) is the lodging house in which a maiko or geisha lives during the length of her nenki, or contract or career as a geisha.
A young woman's first step toward becoming a geisha is to be accepted into an okiya (boarding house), a geisha house owned by the woman who will pay for her training. The proprietress of the okiya is called oka-san (the Japanese word for "mother"). The okiya normally pays all expenses, including for kimono and training. The okiya plays a large part in the life of a geiko or maiko, as the women in the okiya become her geisha family, and the Oka-san manages her career in the karyukai (flower and willow world).
Geiko (Kyoto dialect for geisha) live in a geisha house (okiya) and work in a teahouse (ochaya), where there are music, dancing, partying, sometimes food, and always plenty of alcohol. A geisha pays a percentage of her earnings to maintain the house and support all the people living there who are not working geisha, including maiko (apprentice geisha), retired geisha and house maids. Kyoto is the only place where the strict geisha training continues still and the geiko traditions are handed down.
There may be more than one geisha or maiko living in an okiya at any given point. Inversely, there are houses licensed as okiya but without any geisha living there. Generally, a geisha who has fulfilled her financial obligations to the house may choose to live independently, but will remain affiliated with the okiya for the remainder of her career. Inside the small confines of the geiko communities, it is women, not men, who wield power: everyone hopes for girl children, not boys, so that they can carry on the line of geisha, also if a woman has a boy, she must move out of the Okiya, or give him up, as it is forbidden for men to live in an okiya. For all of their focus on men when they are at work, geiko and maiko live in a matriarchal society. Women run the okiya, women teach girls the skills they need to become a full-fledged geisha, and women introduce new maiko into the teahouses that will be their livelihood. Women run the teahouses too and they can make or break a geisha's career. If a geisha offends the mistress of the main teahouse where she does business, she may lose her livelihood entirely.
The Oka-san of the okiya may adopt one of the geisha as her daughter (musume) and heiress (atotori). Henceforth that girl will live in the okiya permanently and all the money she earns will go to that establishment and other various people that help to take care of the geisha's outfits, hairstyles and accessories. Under such an arrangement, the geisha's debts are absorbed by the okiya.