“At the temple there is a poem called “Loss” carved into the stone. It has three words, but the poet has scratched them out. You cannot read loss, only feel it.” – Arthur Golden, Memoirs of A Geisha
When I was 13 my aunt brought me a book. It was called Memoirs of a Geisha. It was the old, version that was very bulky and nearly 500 pages long yet still, once I got my hands on it and started reading, I couldn’t put it down. I received this book during my half term holidays so each night I ended up going to bed really late, staying up past 3 am just to read it. When I heard my parents get up to go to the bathroom, I would quickly turn my light off and pretend to be asleep and as soon as they went back to their room, I would go back to reading.
I fell in love with that book since the first page and I just couldn’t get enough. That was the first time I ever experienced such love for a book. When I literally wanted to do nothing else but just read it and each word was like the best thing I’ve read and will ever read in my life.
It was this book that truly sparked my love for Japan. After I read Memoirs of a Geisha all I would do on our family computer would be research Geisha life and Japan. I even wrote a few school projects about it and corrected teachers in class when they would say something incorrect about Geisha.
Some time later, my mum brought me another, slightly smaller, film edition of the book, as my other one got too worn out. The new copy was easier to carry and so I took it with me everywhere. I still have it today, resting on my bedside table.
The film is a masterpiece too… It’s so beautiful I cried throughout the whole film the first time I watched it. I’m not in the least bit surprised that it won Academy Awards for best cinematography, best art direction and best costume design. Honestly, I lost track of how many times I’ve seen it…
Of course later in my years I found out that that book I love so much to this day is not perfect. There are some significant inaccuracies, sexism and exoticism and of course the law suit deal between Arthur Golden and Mineko Iwasaki (the Geisha Golden interviewed when writing the book). But I can’t help it, I still love that book so much, and it helped me open my eyes to a whole new world and helped me shape who I am today. Also because of this book Kyoto is one of my top ‘must see’ locations for when I finally go to Japan.
I’m so grateful that I got to experience that book and that after all these years I still love it so much. It’s a book I never stop reading, because the second I finish I just start it again. I don’t ever want it to end.