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on September 25, 2017
Good biographies not only tell the story of someone's life, but of the period of time in which the person lived. This was superbly done. Sadayakko lived during The Belle Epoque, but she was born in 1871 and died in 1946. She traveled the world and had unusual experiences that had great impact in the world. Her story is told against the backdrop of profound changes happening in the world and two world wars. I learned a lot about not only American and European cultures during her lifetime, but about Japanese culture and history. Sada was one of those truly modern women as we would define it today. She had to walk a fine line between living in a highly traditional and restrictive society and following her dreams. She accomplished much, loved well, and serves as an example to us all about surviving in difficult circumstances. I loved how the author captured Sada's personality and essence. The world saw her as the epitome of the demure, retiring stereotype of the typical Japanese woman. Unfortunately, stereotypes are limiting and misinformed. The author adeptly shows us that she was strong and able and much,much more.

Learn about the luminaries of her day in government, business, and arts and entertainment. She met and knew many of them. I highly recommend this book.
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on July 13, 2016
Exceedingly well researched and written. However, her descriptions are lovely but I don't understand why there aren't pictures! Clearly Ms. Downer saw pictures. She really needed to include them in this tome.
I had to keep Googling over and over to attempt to see what she was describing. It disappointed me.
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on May 27, 2007
I read this book today, and I couldn't put it down. It is beautifully written and had some happy and sad parts. It is a really great story about the life of Japan's first star who traveled to America and Europe telling of her experiences. It also tells of her lovers, historical events, scenery,family, and geisha life. While I was reading this, I felt like I was in olden day Japan. Very descriptive and a wonderful read. I highly recommend this book.
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on January 9, 2017
Loved it. Fascinating view of interaction between Japanese and western culture.
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on December 7, 2016
Loved the story came in today not rips or anything it was perfect
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on November 15, 2016
Some parts were very interesting and others were on the verge of being boring.
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on February 26, 2017
If you are interested in Japanese culture, strong willed women, or the entertainment industry of the past this is a great read. I picked it up because I love learning about Geisha culture and lifestyle, not as a fiction but as fact. This was a highly enjoyable read because of that.
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on May 2, 2016
I purchased this book for use as reference, because I'm currently doing translation work regarding her husband, Kawakami Otojirou, and to that extent it has been quite informative. If you're interested in her or those related to her, this is a pretty fantastic book to own.
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on August 7, 2003
Sada became a trainee Geisha as a very young girl, soon rising to the highest echelons available to her - her Danna (patron) was one of the most important men in the country, and she was as renowned as a woman could be in Japan at the time. She married an actor, and eventually travelled to the West, where she began acting as part of a Japanese acting troupe, touring their mish-mash version of Japanese dance and theatre through America and Europe. Sadayakko was always the star of the show, and was one of the highlights of the Paris Exposition. Sada returned to Japan and founded an acting school for girls.
This is a well-written book, the author being most famous for her book on Geishas. Many readers will probably come to this book searching for another read on Geishas, and if this is the case, they may be a little disappointed - Downer does not write in too much details about this time in Sada's life, choosing to concentrate on her overseas travels. However, this does not detract from the overall story. What does is the fact that Downer states some things as fact when they must be supposition: "He stood watching until she disappeared from view. He could not help noticing her sweetness and pride and the skill with which she handled her horse." I can almost guarantee that there is no written record anywhere that on the exact occasion in question the man who saw Sadayakko was thinking those exact thought. This is a fault of many biographers, and it will probably be overlooked by all but the nitpickers like this reader.
This is a book I would recommend to the growing number of readers interested in Japanese history and culture, and also to anyone interested in the cultural currents of the late 19th Century, as Madame Saddayakko had a far reaching influence in the realms of drama, dance and fashion for the Japan-crazed period.
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on June 21, 2017
A beautifully done biography of one of the most well known Geisha and actresses of her day. Although forgotten by most today, Sadayakko's story is a tale of tragedy and triumph, love and loss, and ultimately the power of the female spirit. Highly recommended.
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