Chelsea Haywood – 90-Day Geisha: My Time as a Tokyo Hostess (11/32 2017 Reading Challenge)

               Let’s clear one thing first. My feelings towards Japan are rather neutral; I’m not a fan, but I don’t have anything against. Just uninterested in most aspects of this country, I guess. Probably, if I was rich and had a lot of time, I’d like to travel there (not to Tokyo, though), to see “how the other half lives,” but it’s not in my top-20 countries to visit.

               If I had money and time, though, I’d like to visit every country there is. But I digress.

               The institution of Geisha has caught my interest, though, regardless of my feelings for (or lack thereof) Japan. I read one book about Geishas, a long time ago, but I remembered from it that to become a geisha, a girl needs to study hard from a very young age, and it takes years to be a fully-trained, professional Geisha. So how come the author became a Geisha just for 90 days?

               The answer is simple – she didn’t. She just had a 90-days visa and worked as a hostess in Tokyo, in bars for rich, over-worked businessmen, that prefer going to a bar and talking to stranger, than to go home to their wives. Guess that’s part of a culture. Not a part I particularly like, but still a part.

               So let me explain really quickly a difference. A Geisha is a Japanese woman with years of education in arts of floral arrangement, calligraphy, dance, singing, playing an instrument, and so on. They are entertainers, conversationalists, and they mingle/serve at the upper-class society. Geisha from what I read these few years back, reminds me of “a tea ceremony,” where they are serving tea (if I remember correctly).

               A hostess in a Japanese hostess bar, is a Western woman, usually with a sort of Barbie figure, who work in bars and cater to man’s every whip; a hostess laughs at the men’s jokes and listen to their bragging, lights their cigarettes and sings karaoke with them, if asked. She sometimes plays silly games with them, that don’t resemble any sense of culture and art a real Geisha is all about.

              geisha So, once I got this out of my system, let me summarize this book in one sentence. A model, Chelsea Haywood, decides to go to Japan to work as a hostess, only to write her memoirs later in form of a book. End of story. Because, basically, there’s no story. Every guy she meets seems the same to me. Everything she does with them seems the same. And after the beginning, it starts to seem more and more like all she’s doing it complaining. About the men she meets, about other hostesses, about how tired she is, how expensive Tokyo is, and about how unhappy she feels. Unfortunately, it’s all written in a very bad style of a 13-year-old. You might forgive it to a teenager, but not to a published author that’s supposed to be making a real-life documentary.

               I wish Chelsea would have been more diverse in her description of characters. Instead, she makes it seem like all men in Japan frequenting these bars are perverts. And I simply will not believe that. I may be stunned at the sole idea of a man who pays hundreds of dollars just to enjoy a simple, easy-going conversation with a Western girl, or for a creation of fantasy that she offers, but it’s their custom. It’s part of their tradition, and if you’re going to a foreign country to describe a part of tradition, you should be as neutral and fair as can be. Not only whining.

               Generally, this book is as reliable as its title. It’s not about Geisha, and it’s not worth reading. I heard there’s a better book about hostess industry out there (Bar Flower: My Decadently Destructive Days and Nights as a Tokyo Nightclub Hostess by Lea Jacobson), and I am sure I’ll read it someday. I hope it won’t be such a disappointment as this one was.

My Rating: 2/10

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