Saturday, July 22, 2006

Zatoichi's mistress

Did you know Zatoichi's mistress was the basis for the book and movie Memoirs of a Geisha?

Actor Shintaro Katsu (1931-1997), who played the blind swordsman and masseur Zatoichi in one of the longest movie series in Japanese cinema, had an affair with a real-life geisha named Mineko Iwasaki. In her day, she was the most famous geisha in all of Japan. She entertained President Ford, Queen Elizabeth, and other luminaries.

Long after retiring, Ms Iwasaki was also one of the primary real-life geisha whom Memoirs author Arthur Golden interviewed for his book. In Japan, the film version was heavily criticized by geisha traditionalists, who blamed Iwasaki for what they felt were grievous mischaracterizations of the geisha world. In fact, according to this article in Wikipedia, "Iwasaki received criticism and even death threats for violating the traditional geisha code of silence."

It's hard out there for geisha.

So she did what any self-respecting woman would do under such circumstances: She wrote her own book. To tell her side of the story, of course.

I wonder if she ever said to anyone, "Mister, if you have to ask, then you can't afford it."

—Mellow Monk

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