Quinn, Susanna - 'Glass Geishas'
Steph, a beautiful young English girl has travelled to Japan to find work as a hostess. Her school friends, Annabel and Julia have told her how easy it is to earn money, with all the free drinks that she can manage. The money will give Steph the opportunity to pay for the acting classes that she needs to get her career on track. Let down by a boyfriend who posted revealing pictures on line and scarred in the accident that he was killed in, Steph feels that it is her chance for a new start.
When she arrives in Tokyo, she is dismayed to find that all her money is needed to secure a bed in a run-down, dirty lodging house. There is no trace of Annabel and Julia doesn't want to know her, and Steph has no idea how to set about getting a job in Rippongi, the district of the hostess clubs. She manages to persuade the owner of Sinatra's to give her a trial but she must take a customer.
As she wanders around Tokyo, she faints and is rescued by an old lady, elegantly dressed in a kimono. Mrs Kimono helps Steph but warns her that she will become see through - glass - if she carries on with the lifestyle of the hostesses in Rippongi. Steph learns that the old lady was a Geisha and persuades her to teach Steph how to attract men and to keep them happy. The role of the modern hostess.
As Steph is drawn deeper and deeper into the world of the hostess, she realises that Mrs Kimono is right, the drinks, drugs, late nights and poor food are what wear out the young girls and make them transparent. She continues to search for Annabel and to worry for Julia who seems very ill and often passes out in the club.
The story is told partly from Steph's point of view and partly from the point of view of George, a reporter. George is researching the life of Mama San, the owner of Sinatra's. She and her club are well known and she has decided to tell her story to raise money for her ailing club and for her daughter. As the story is told, it becomes obvious that the mistakes one generation makes does not necessarily help the next to avoid them.I found this a very uncomfortable read. I am really interested in Japan, its history and its culture so was prepared to enjoy it and perhaps that was the problem. This story is about a part of Japan that is hidden to many tourists and I recognise that my notion of Japan is romanticised because I am fascinated with the art of the culture. There is an obvious link with the history and world of the Geisha and the modern Japanese hostess as detailed in this book. Although women are abused everywhere in the world, often they are in no position to change their life. Here the women or girls have chosen to travel to Japan and have chosen to live the life described in these pages and I cannot understand why intelligent, educated women would do that. So I put down the book feeling quite angry and depressed with little sympathy for Steph.
Susan White, England
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