Shelves: nonfiction , autobiography-memoir , japan , women , geisha , s , s , borrowed-from-the-library Sayo Masuda was born out of wedlock, and when her mother would no longer have her because of the associated shame, she was sent to work as a nursemaid. Later, when she was older, her uncle sold her to a geisha house. During this time, no one cared for her or comforted her, and no one taught her anything useful she spent most of her young life fearing other human beings because her interactions with them had always been painful or unpleasant. Masuda, or Little Crane, as she came to be called, Sayo Masuda was born out of wedlock, and when her mother would no longer have her because of the associated shame, she was sent to work as a nursemaid.
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Early life[ edit ] As a child Masuda lived as a nurse-maid in a large farming household near Shiojiri, where she got little to eat, no education, poor sleeping quarters, and was frequently punished. During these years other children gave her the derisive nickname "Crane", as in the winter she was never allowed to wear socks and would lift one leg up and warm her foot on the thigh of the other leg.
This nickname was used even when she started as a novice geisha. She did not learn her real name until she was hospitalized at the age of 12 and the doctors called her Ms. Her uncle retrieved her from the landowners and sold her to an okiya geisha house called Takenoya in Suwa. Due to her illiteracy and total lack of education or understanding of etiquette, the geisha gave her another nickname, "Low", which was short for low intelligence. She was frequently mocked for her dark, sunburned skin, as a pale complexion was highly valued among geishas.
However, Elder Sister Karuta, the second oldest geisha in the okiya, worked with Masuda to help her through her training, starting a lifelong friendship between the two.
This injury landed her in the hospital, where she learned her real name. While Masuda was recovering the hospital, she and Karuta pledged to commit suicide by throwing themselves in front of a train; however, after Karuta had carried Masuda out on her back to the tracks, they backed out before it hit them.
It took several days to heal, nearly requiring amputation and ultimately leaving her with a large scar that she was self-conscious of for the rest of her life. She eventually recovered and returned to the okiya, where she debuted as an apprentice. As she got closer to becoming a full-fledged geisha, her work became increasingly sexual in nature, and she began to get connected with a danna patron. Upon debuting, Masuda underwent mizuage with a man nicknamed Cockeye.
A year later, Cockeye bought out her contract as a geisha and she went to live with him and his mistress. Masuda despised Cockeye, so she convinced him to let her get a job at a factory.
There, she caught the eye of a man named Motoyama and they quickly fell in love; however, she was unable to keep their relationship from Cockeye and had to stop seeing Motoyama.
Upon receiving a letter stating that he was leaving, that same night she again attempted suicide by trying to drown herself; however, she was pulled out by someone who happened to be fishing nearby. Seeking a living[ edit ] After Masuda was released from the hospital, she ran from Cockeye, eventually returning to Shiojiri to look for family.
She located her aunt and a younger brother. She convinced her aunt to get her a job at the sawmill she worked at, but quickly decided to find a job that could pay better. She went to Chiba to find Karuta. When she realized she needed to get money for the train fare, the only person she could get it from was Hii, who made her dance naked in return.
When she arrived in Chiba, the house she and Karuta were staying in was destroyed in a firebomb raid. She worked several jobs until she got a job at a restaurant. While she was there, she received two marriage proposals. She and her brother joined a group of people foraging for food in the countryside to resell in the city, and there she met a Korean man who gave her another job selling soap. She did this for two and a half years, when in the summer of her brother contracted intestinal tuberculosis and was hospitalized.
His penicillin shots were yen each, and Masuda soon realized that the only way to make enough money for them was to start prostituting. Although she kept her prostitution hidden from her brother, he felt he was placing an undue burden on her and committed suicide.
She decided to bury him next to their father, so she returned to Shiojiri. When Masuda returned, she caught a cold and was bedridden with a high fever. Her old lover, Motoyama, had returned to nearby Suwa and was a city councilor; when he heard that she had returned, he sought her out and found her a place to live.
Despite the fact that Motoyama had married and had a child, they began regularly seeing each other. Around this time, Masuda learned to read hiragana and kept a diary of their encounters. She moved to Toyoshina , where Karuta had opened a restaurant, but her longing for Motoyama caused her to start uncontrollably drinking. She became bloated and jaundiced , but continued to drink even after her doctor warned her she would soon die of liver failure if she continued.
Despite the urgings of her doctor and Karuta, Masuda attempted suicide a third time. He convinced her to make one more attempt at having a good living, and she returned to Toyoshina. Ending[ edit ] Upon returning to Toyoshina, Masuda got a job as a waitress, and discovered a love for children.
She frequently told stories to groups of children in town. Paradoxically, she also played tricks on people around town, trying to humble geisha or anyone she saw holding their status over others. Eventually, she heard that farmers in the area were desperate for people to work the rice fields, and over their protestations she went to work there.
When the rice was planted, she was asked by a family to look after their children, where her autobiography ends Later life[ edit ] After being a caretaker for several years, Masuda opened a restaurant and ran it for several decades. She and Karuta, who opened and ran a restaurant until three years before her death, remained friends. However, Karuta, who had fought to save Masuda from alcoholism, herself became an alcoholic.
Her death in the mids was a huge blow to Masuda. On June 8, , Masuda found out she had liver cancer , and she died a few weeks later on June 26, Rowley wrote an afterword detailing her attempts to meet Masuda in person.
Masuda almost exclusively communicated through her publishers. However, in Masuda made a personal request for Rowley to visit her in Nagano, making Rowley one of the only people who she agreed to meet with.
When she found an abandoned six-month-old baby, she felt the desire to quickly kill it so it would not have to suffer a slow death or the ignominy of growing up without parents. Though Masuda never got married and never had children, caring for the children of others was always her favorite way to spend time. She stated that although no one became a prostitute to enjoy it, it was merely human instinct to find a way to make a living when no other venues were open.
Furthermore, she argued that simply banning prostitution would not stop people from engaging in it, as people who wanted it would inevitably find ways. She refused to meet with most people interested in discussing her book. Upon its translation into English, the book received positive reviews from Liza Dalby and Arthur Golden as well as several book reviewers.
Autobiography Of A Geisha
Early life[ edit ] As a child Masuda lived as a nurse-maid in a large farming household near Shiojiri, where she got little to eat, no education, poor sleeping quarters, and was frequently punished. During these years other children gave her the derisive nickname "Crane", as in the winter she was never allowed to wear socks and would lift one leg up and warm her foot on the thigh of the other leg. This nickname was used even when she started as a novice geisha. She did not learn her real name until she was hospitalized at the age of 12 and the doctors called her Ms. Her uncle retrieved her from the landowners and sold her to an okiya geisha house called Takenoya in Suwa. Due to her illiteracy and total lack of education or understanding of etiquette, the geisha gave her another nickname, "Low", which was short for low intelligence. She was frequently mocked for her dark, sunburned skin, as a pale complexion was highly valued among geishas.
Essay on Sayo Masuda’s Autobiography of a Geisha