Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Jan Bardsley's "Maiko Masquerade"

Jan Bardsley is Professor Emerita of Asian Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She is the author of Women and Democracy in Cold War Japan and the award-winning The Bluestockings of Japan: New Woman Essays and Fiction from Seito, 1911–1916.

Bardsley applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Maiko Masquerade: Crafting Geisha Girlhood in Japan, and reported the following:
The test is 50% effective. Page 99 gives readers a taste of the book’s topic and readability. Page 99 also shows the appeal of books by and about geisha and their apprentices published in Japanese in the 2000s. However, Page 99 does not point to the wide range of popular literature, manga, and movies on the topic, as analyzed in Maiko Masquerade. The book focuses on how this literature depicts the transformation of an ordinary Japanese girl into Kyoto’s idealized apprentice geisha (maiko), revealing assumptions about girlhood in contemporary Japan. Page 99 misses this analysis. This is the first academic study on Japanese representations of the maiko.

Page 99 captures moments in a humorous memoir about a year in the life of Kyoto geisha Kokimi. In public, she presents the glamorous persona of a stylish geisha and star dancer. But her 2007 memoir takes readers backstage, revealing an approachable, comic, and imperfect young woman. Page 99 reveals Kokimi as a diehard Hanshin Tigers baseball team fan, happily losing weight without trying during the busy April dance season, and perpetually trying not to procrastinate. She is a serious dancer, sometimes jumping out of bed in the middle of night to practice if she dreams of making a mistake onstage. The following pages discuss how Kokimi describes “switching on” her geisha persona when preparing for work and “switching off” back home, invoking the notion of masquerade. This chapter also analyzes the memoirs of an older, retired geisha and a teenage apprentice.
Learn more about Maiko Masquerade at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue