Japan has held an air of mystique very successfully and is known to be a very closed and rigid society. The exotic women with stark white painted faces with heavily lined eyes and the pouted red mouth are so the antithesis of everything one is used to, that they greatly inspire curiosity and interest.
But having read the book, the story seems very familiar and unfortunately too real. A young girl from a small fishing village, Chiyo Sakamoto, is sold to a Okiya, a house of the Geishas, for training to be its principal source of income in the future. This is her story, of her trials and tribulations, her falling in love with the Chairman, her apperenticeship, her debut as a Geisha and how she eventually gets her man.
The part of the book that got me sore was her mizuage (look it up if you need to know) being sold off to the highest bidder.A story that in some concentrated or diluted version lies behind every exploited woman in the world.
Also the point all throughout the book that Sayuri (Chiyo's Geisha Name) gamely accepts what she has to do like someone who has to do like it were a humdrum yet necessary household chore. She'd rather sleep with someone she doesnt care for rather than a man who loves her (and saved her life a couple of times), because she does not want to screw up her chances of getting together with his bosom buddy.
At that point, I really felt she was doing the exploitation.
Of late, I'm getting to read a lot of Japan based books like- Crichton's "The Rising Sun" and "Angel Eyes". Crichton's book is basically based on a whole lot of research on the part of a paranoid United States, who believe that Japan will financially take over them someday and that day may not be in the far too distant future.
"Angel Eyes" gives a lot of insight about the seedy underground of Tokyo, the Yakuza and how there is a nexus between them and the corporations.
The more titbits of info emerge about this very fascinating country, the more it seems unreal and unknown.
The point that was consistent across all the 3 books was the very strong emphasis on the way people to people contact happens in a typical Japanese society. Gestures are so vital there, body language is so full of meaning that actual talk seems clipped in comparison. And just how painfully polite the people are how remarkably high their threshold of patience is.
There is a whole lot to look up to Japanese for apart from electronics, cars, Pokemon and Bey Blade franchise, for example how as a nation they bounced back from the devastation of the WWII. True Grit and determination seems to be into woven into everyone there.
All this said, when I look at the cartoons in Animax, I see that most of the stories feature this really young teenager, with a whole lot more endownments than is usual for a Japanese girl, very short swishy skirt and lots of getting dressed or bathing scenes. Some dark, disturbing obsession with young girls, in some level, continues to exist, even if there are no more 15 yr old Geishas around to bid for anymore.
But who are we to talk when so very many young girls are sold into prostitution for paltry sums in almost every major city or town in India? Atleast Sayuri's story has a happy enough ending.
Definitely worth reading, if atleast to get a sneek peek into Japanese culture.
PS: Now in posish to watch the movie and Comment on that. [Yaaay, me!! I Heart Ken Watanabe and I like Michelle Yeoh(who's malaysian not japanese)]