Wednesday, September 13, 2023

90-Day Geisha Book Review

90-Day Geisha

90-Day Geisha

by Chelsea Haywood

Pegasus Books LLC (2009)

ISBN: 978-1-60598-071-3
Paperback, 309 pp

90-Day Geisha Book Review.

After being an international model and becoming bored with that, what is a 19-year-old girl to do?

How about move to Tokyo on a 90-day tourist visa and get a job in a hostess bar? Bring your newly-wedded husband along and start taking notes so that you can write a book about your experiences. Oh, and call yourself a geisha instead of a bar hostess to give yourself some allusion of charm, grace or class.

The goal of the book is to describe what life is like being a Tokyo geisha, er, hostess, ie what hostesses do, what kind of girl/woman signs up for it, and what kind of man visits these bars.

Much of the book is spent talking about the author's customers, and let's just say that none of them come off looking very good, despite being, if she is to be believed, among Japan's very upper crust. She dubiously claims her clients were billionaires. At the time the book was written, Japan had only thirty some billionaires. Haywood seems to want to make the reader think she is tempted to dump her husband and run away with a coke head customer, but this appears, even on the surface, to be highly contrived.

The author can be forgiven for some of her ignorances of Japan as she supposedly lived in the country for only three months (the length of her visa), but annoyances pop up a bit too often for readers who know Japan well. She translates gaijin as "foreign devil" when the word means merely "outside person." The area Shin Okubo is repeatedly called Shin Okobo. There are a few others missteps, too.

Three or four times, Haywood tries hard to impress the reader with overly flowery language, and it seems likely that these sections were ghost written. She thinks of herself as an intellectual giant, but most readers probably won't buy it. Her husband is also held up for his great brainpower. At one point she says of him, "He is the E to my mc2."

So, what was husband Einstein's job? Well, he was walking the streets of Roppongi trying to get girls to sign up to be hostesses and strippers. I am not sure what academic qualifications are needed for that rigorous profession.

While this review has tended towards the negative, some readers, especially those with only a basic knowledge of Japan and hostess bars, might find the book interesting, informative and insightful. Throw in a little salaciousness and some will be clicking on the "buy now" button. The book does get numerous inexplicably positive reviews on some web sites.

At 309 pages, 90-Day Geisha becomes a bit repetitive. If the author just took out the lines reading, "Chelsea, you are the most intelligent and beautiful woman I've ever met," and sentences approximating that, perhaps the book would only be about 250 pages. Haywood tries to partially camouflage her pretentiousness and arrogance, but her ego won't let her try very hard.

In short, the book has its merits, but long-time Japanophiles will likely want to give it a miss.

Final note: In an interview with a Canadian weekly news magazine in December, 2009, not long after the book was published, Haywood says that she and her husband were in the process of getting divorced. What a shocker.

Review by Marshall Hughes.

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