Saturday, September 06, 2008

'A Geisha's Journey: My Life as a Kyoto Apprentice'

by Komomo
Photographs by Naoyuki Ogino
Non-Fiction/Auto-biography/Photography, 2008
Kodansha International, hardback, 139 p.
This is the story of a contemporary Japanese teenager who, in a search for an identity, became fascinated with the world of geiko-as Kyoto's geisha are known-and discovered in herself the will and the commitment to overcome the many years of apprenticeship necessary to become one.

It is a story related by a young Japanese photographer who grew up overseas, and who also was captivated by the lives led by these women who choose to dedicate their lives to their art. He began following and documenting the life of the teenager, Komomo, as she studied and grew into her role.

The photographs are accompanied by autobiographical text and captions by Komomo, as she shares her thoughts and emotions, and describes the life of a Kyoto apprentice. It is an illuminating view of seven years in the life of a very unique young woman.
Given my fascination with traditional Japanese arts and my interest in photography, when I came across this book in the bookstore earlier this year, I knew that it had to come home with me!

The focus of the book is certainly the beautiful photographs, so the text is a bit sparse, but we still get an idea of the girl who eventually became the geiko, Komomo, and the journey that took her there. I’ve read some other books on geisha, like Liza Dalby’s Geisha, or Geisha of Gion (US title, Geisha: A Life) by Mineko Iwasaki, but it was very interesting to get a more modern look at the hanamachi (geisha district) through the eyes of a “twenty-first century geisha”. I’m sure I’ll return to this book often to admire the gorgeous photos. Highly recommended.

Photos © Naoyuki Ogino

Short interview with Komomo
Naoyuki Ogino's online photo gallery
More photos from the book can be seen here.

My Rating: 4/5

Also reviewed at:
If you've read and reviewed this title, let me know and I'll link to it here.


  1. This looks good and I love the idea of pictures. Some of the Geisha books give a lot of information, but with pictures - you just can't compare.

    I haven't read Liza Dalby’s Geisha, or Geisha of Gion by Mineko Iwasaki, but I've read Autobiography of a Geisha by Sayo Masuda. If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend it.

  2. Popin- I love pictures, what can I say! I have Autobiography of a Geisha on my shelves but I haven't read it yet. One of these days...
    Glad to hear you recommend it.

  3. Thank-you Nat for the link. Such a beautiful Geisha, this is the first time I seen a geisha laugh, how lovely.
    I wish you a great Sunday, here the storm moved on, it was a real mess

  4. This is an area I've never really explored. Geisha have such a rich and varied cultural history and the photos you included in your post are so beautiful. I think I need to add a book or two to my Mountain!

  5. Madeleine- We've had some stormy weather this weekend too. Some sudden downpours with thunder and lightning. Glad your weather is improving.

    Heather- I'm a bit fascinated by them so I'm always interested in reading more about them. And this was a really lovely book.

  6. This sounds like a really interesting book. I loved Memoires of a Geisha which gives a good insight to many aspects of the life. The photos look beautiful.

  7. I don't know very much about Geishas, but I'd like to learn more. I'll look into this book and also the other two you mentioned. Thanks!

  8. Rhinoa- I loved Memoirs of a Geisha too. I think I read that first and that's what peaked my interest in geisha.

    Nymeth- This would be a great introduction, not too long, beautiful photos. Then if you want to know more, you can read some of the longer non-fiction books like the two I mentioned.

  9. Those photographs are fascinating. I saw that the photographer also had some pics of Mexico so I'm thrilled to see those :)

  10. Iliana- I've looked at some of the pictures in his gallery but not all yet. I believe he lived in Mexico on and off for several years.


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