Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

Life story

Wednesday, 30 March 2011
Memoirs of a Geisha

Image via Wikipedia

28. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Right from the beginning this reminded me of Geisha of Gion by Mineko Iwasaki, which I last read in 2008. Then in the acknowledgements at the end I discovered that Mineko Iwasaki was actually Golden’s primary informant about the lives and customs of the the Geisha, or Geiko of Gion, in Kyoto, Japan. She was a primary member of that circle in the 1960s and 70s, while the heroine of Golden’s novel was there in the 1930s, but one stressed point in both books is the importance of the continuing tradition.

So, the novel. Well the first thing to remember is that this is a novel, historical and researched as it may be. As a story, it works, as the first person tale of a woman’s life among men and women of power, wealth and prestige. (Outside Gion, all those with power are men.) In a way, although the story is very different, it reminds me in that of Moll Flanders (which I haven’t read in many years) and Pamela (which I’ve admittedly only read about). This certainly isn’t a love story.

It’s a good book, but having read Iwasaki’s book I actually found the parts of this about Japan just after WWII the most interesting, as that’s a topic I really feel I’d like to know more about. The rest was more (in the words of a reviewer on fairytale-ish. Yes the lifestyles of the very very wealthy in Japan, as well as those who served them, is interesting, but it’s simply outside the realm of anyone I’m likely to come across, and yet wasn’t new enough to me in novel form.

Book to game to book

Saturday, 15 January 2011

NaBloPoMo Jan2011We’re just finished setting up for my first game of Samurai Swords and it reminded me I hadn’t discussed this book yet. The game was originally titled “Shogun” itself, until the Clavell estate apparently objected and it was renamed. It is decidedly set at the time and along the theme of the book. We also have another game with a related theme, Ran, as well as a few real classic Japanese games, but we haven’t played the former yet, nor the latter in awhile.


Cover via Amazon

50. Shogun by James Clavell

I must say I liked this book. I feel like it’s awhile since I’ve read a historical novel where I knew so little of the ‘real’ history being referenced, so I really can’t comment on its authenticity. I would now like to learn more about 16th century Japan, but don’t really know where to start. Suggestions are welcome!

One thing I liked is that while there is a central Western character, the book really isn’t about him. What it is about is power and politics at a time of technological change and increasing outside influence. At its core, though, is how much will and can the Samurai leadership use and accept non-Samurai ideas, inventions, manners and people, while definitively retaining their own culture and powerbase.