An Imperial Concubine’s Tale: Scandal, Shipwreck, and Salvation in Seventeenth-Century Japan

An Imperial Concubine’s TaleA noblewoman born in sixteenth-century Japan had three possible life courses: marriage, palace service, or a convent. Women also often moved from one status to another, becoming nuns after the death of a husband, lover, or powerful male protector. Nakanoin Nakako (1591?-1671) could have been just such a model woman. As a child of about ten, she entered service in the imperial palace, where her duties included waiting upon Emperor GoYōzei (1571–1617; r. 1586–1611). If her life had gone according to plan, she might have brought honor to her family one day by giving birth to an imperial child, then retiring to a convent after the emperor’s death. Instead, Nakako became embroiled in a sex scandal. […] Read more

Autobiography of a Geisha

Autobiography of a Geisha - UK Paperback

Autobiography of a Geisha is my translation of a memoir by the former hot spring geisha Masuda Sayo (1925-2008). Accounts of geisha and their world tend to focus on the entertainment districts of Kyoto and Tokyo, and the geisha life is depicted as glamorous and devoted to the pursuit of art. Sex, some would have us believe, takes place only within the bounds of a long-term relationship with a patron. Masuda Sayo wrote against the view that the geisha life is glamorous or aesthetic […] Read more

Yosano Akiko and The Tale of Genji

Yosano Akiko and The Tale of GenjiYosano Akiko (1878-1942) has long been recognized as one of the most influential literary figures in twentieth-century Japan, famous for the passion of her early poetry and for her contributions to debates about women. A major part of Akiko’s career was also devoted to work on the Japanese classics—especially the great eleventh-century novel The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu. […] Read more