Memoirs of a Geisha - INOUE Yuki

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Memoirs of a Geisha - INOUE Yuki

Post by IG Team » Tue Jul 05, 2016 1:00 am

Tomoe:

Hi!

Last july, I had the chance to travel to Lyon (France). One day, I went to a bookshop called Fnac and I found a book called Memoires d'une Geisha (Memoirs of a geisha) by INOUE Yuki. I hadn't heard about this book before, so I decided to buy it. It's the biography of a famous geisha called Kinu Yamaguchi. I haven't read it already, but I think it's quiet nice. It has old postcards and photographs from this geiko who belonged to an okiya from Kanazawa. This book was first published in Japan in 1980, though it is about a geisha who was born in 1892.

Do you know this book? Did you like it?

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I own the Piquier poche edition (in French). Wish this looks interesting for you! :con

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Re: Memoirs of a Geisha - INOUE Yuki

Post by IG Team » Tue Jul 05, 2016 1:01 am

Mango Lion:

Hi guys,

This is exactly the book I have been translating! I got it a couple of years ago and have read it many times, and find it to be one of the most detailed geisha biographies that I have read. This book is particularly interesting as it mainly depicts the karyukai during the Meiji/Taishō era, and is unusual in that Kinu (the subject of the book) is a geisha from Kanazawa, not Kyoto. Unfortunately I don't speak Japanese, so I'm obliged to translate straight from the French, but the French translation itself is extremely good.
It's a very long book, so it will take a long time, but I think it would be worthwhile, as it doesn't already exist in English for some reason.

Here's some of what I've translated so far (without the benefit of the footnotes which I am also faithfully translating in my fair copy):

Chapter One
Memoirs of a Geisha

The Plumtree Bridge


In olden days at Kanazawa there used to be many bordello districts, one of which, Higashi-Kuruwa, “the Eastern pleasure quarter”, was comparable to the famous Gion of Kyoto. Two parallel rivers, the Saigawa to the south and the Asanogawa to the north, pass through this town in the province of Kaga before peacefully flowing into the Japanese sea. The Plumtree Bridge was built over the Asanogawa, the waterway which borders Higashi-Kuruwa, following a suggestion from one of the regular visitors to this quarter. He wished for a new hanamichi , a suspended walkway which would allow the clientele to frequent this pleasure district without having to mingle with the city crowds.
“A bridge just for us,” he said “What a luxury! Every man could cool his flushed face in the breeze, accompanied by his favourite geisha.”
After the war, the Plumtree Bridge was washed away in a flood that had been caused by torrential rain. It was rebuilt twenty-five years later on the 16th April 1978.

On that day I walked to the bridge for its inaugural “first crossing” with the patron of the okiya Suzumi, a geisha house in Higashi-Kuruwa. Aged eight-six, Kinu Yamaguchi proceeded slowly and unsteadily. Walking next to her, I supported her with my arm about her waist. In her impeccably styled white hair shone a large green jade hair ornament.
I looked at Kinu and the river. When the snow melts, the petals of cherry blossom cover the surface of the water in their millions. They fall from a row of trees planted on the right-hand bank and whirl about in the wind. The bridge, exuding a pleasant wood fragrance, was sprinkled with tiny pieces of paper which had fallen out when the enormous festive kusudama ball had let drop its contents on opening. At the end of this first crossing ceremony, multicoloured paper and cherry blooms were dancing about together. Despite her advanced age, Kinu had kept a very straight back. In the semblance of somebody braving a strong wind she looked along the river. But suddenly she lowered her head. She had just noticed that a coloured length of petals and artificial flowers had gathered at her feet, plastered against the crossbeam of the bridge decking.
“Oh! Doesn’t that look like a silk yuzen cord…how pretty…”
I remained silent for a moment. For Kinu, this brightly coloured and intricately plaited ribbon resembled the fine binding which ties a kimono in place. Before my eyes appeared a neck, with a long and slender nape. Kinu lived in the days when having untidy hair was a true disgrace. But due to the wind blowing in from the river she now appeared slightly ruffled. Stealthily I lightly touched her hair and discovered how thick and hard it was to the touch. Emerging from the very open-necked collar, the wizened white neck gave the appearance of having been sculpted from stone. Under the fixed collar which harmonised perfectly with the dark brown and white striped kimono, I could see the lines of deep wrinkles.

The Plumtree Bridge had been inaugurated for the first time in 1910, on the 28th of June, to be more exact. Kinu remembers it perfectly well.
“I remember everything, to the way the sky looked that day. We were in the middle of the rainy season and a shower was threatening. However, the weather stayed fine. On the riverbank, the Fushimitei tea pavilion had been set up for the public. Boom! Boom! went the cannon. After having passed through the red and white silk curtain emblazoned with the Yuda coat of arms – the most successful draper’s back then – you could see the faces of the distinguished guests, side by side.
After the first crossing had been made, a festival banquet was given in the community hall, and there was a great crowd and lots of excitement there as well. It went on all night. There was a kabuki dance. It was sanbaso. Three dancers had drawn lots. I lost, but my best friend, Tsuruko, from the Kichiriki geisha house, won. She was the youngest; the two others were called Misao, from the Yamaya geisha house, and Ichiro, from the Mihama. Scarcely twenty years old, they were beautiful to see. Tsuruko danced the old man, okina. Over a plain red silk kimono she was wearing a wine-coloured kimono, also of silk, with fans embroidered on the top half and, on the lower half, the motifs of the three trees which symbolise happiness: pine, bamboo and plum. I think that was it…. I was eighteen.”

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