Translation Works
To Japanese
The 1st Selected Works
Rivalry: A Geisha's Tale
ENGLISH / Stephen Snyder published
RUSSIAN / Irina Melnikova published
Originally Published by:
Shinchosha (1993)
  • A masterpiece of a leading Taisho era writer that offers a richly emotional portrayal of human relations set in the karyukai demimonde
Love rivalries between old-fashioned and modern-style geishas unfold in an evolving red-light district
Komayo is a geisha belonging to an okiya (tea house and geisha lodging) in Tokyo's Shinbashi district. The book is a tale of romantic rivalries between Komayo, who has inherited the traditional geisha spirit of "integrity and willpower," and the more modern geishas.
Contrasting with the other districts like Yanagibashi, which continue to emphasize the good-old Edo traditions, Shinbashi is a newly thriving red-light district in which money and power are talk. It is populated by geisha who have very little concern or esteem for the traditional geisha spirit. Ranka presents herself as a new kind of woman and takes great pride in being an artist. Kikuchiyo's only trade commodity is her body. Kimiryu has inherited her late husband's fortune and is searching for another wealthy husband. Hanasuke is a realist who seeks security from her bank balance. The customers of these geisha are also unfamiliar with the traditional red-light district pleasure-seeking manners and conventions, and the tale portrays how diverse protagonists are spontaneously driven by their calculations and desires in this evolving social scenario.
Komayo is involved in a renewed romantic relationship with a former lover Yoshioka, a successful and power hungry insurance company employee, but becomes attracted to a female-role kabuki actor, Isshi Segawa. When Yoshioka discovers this, his vanity and lust lead him to become involved with Kikuchiyo and end his relationship with Komayo. Komayo earnestly seeks to be with Segawa, but after being introduced to Kimiryu, he decides to discard Komayo in pursuit of Kimiryu's dowry.
Through the character of the geisha Komayo, Nagai presents a realistic picture of the demimonde's progressive transformation owing to the growing power of contemporary rationalism and economic factors along with the collapse of traditional Edo concepts of refined elegance and human empathy. A Geisha's Tale is a masterpiece that offers an in-depth portrayal of the evolution of Japanese customs during the Taisho era.
Genre: Literary Fiction