Iwasaki Mineko (岩崎究香)

Mineko IWASAKI (1949 -) is an author and former Gion Kobu geisha (Japanese professional female entertainer at drinking parties) from Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture. She is better known for her former and geisha name, Mineko. Her childhood name was Masako TANAKA.

She was born as the youngest child of the family descending from Minamoto clan, and her family moved to Yamashina Ward.
When she was young, her father took her to visit her two older sisters (one of the sister was Yaechiyo IWASAKI) at an okiya (dwelling of geisha) in Gion, where the owner, Ima IWASAKI, took a liking for her and she had her adopted by her adopted daughter, a local geisha named Fumichiyo IWASAKI (at the time of adoption, she changed her name to Mineko, because her adopted mother's real name was Masako.)

At the age of 6, she was trained at the Inoue school of dance, made her debut at the Miyako Odori (dance performance held in April by geisha and maiko in Kyoto's Gion district), and began performing as a maiko (apprentice geisha) at the age of 15.

In 1971, she went through erigae (promoted to a full-fledged geisha) and became a Geisha.

Since her time as a maiko, she showed an outstanding performance and never took a day off from the ozashiki (banquets in which guests are attended by geisha). During that time, there was a rumor of her dating an actor, Shintaro KATSU, and she also appeared in the Suntory Whiskey commercial.

In 1979, she retired and closed her okiya. Thereafter, she planned to renovate the building and open an esthetic salon, however she married a budding Japanese artist and had two children (one of them died early).

In 2003, she published the autobiography entitled "Hana Ikusa" (Flower Battle) which was a big hit.

She holds lectures every year to tell the story about the culture of Hanamachi (geisha districts in Kyoto), and she has also lectured about Hanamachi at overseas locations, using her excellent English skills.

Her books, including her autobiography, containing circumstances characteristic of the Hanamachi, made her unwanted in the local area.

She changed her kanji character to 究香 (Mineko) in 2006.

Her major writings

"Geisha, a life"

"Geisha Mineko no Hana Ikusa" (Flower Battle by Geisha Mineko)

"Teachings of Gion"

"Extracurricular Lessons in Gion"

"Back Streets and Main Streets in Gion A woman's Stage Reasons for being First Class"


"Kurenai Niwofu" (Scent of Crimson) (Waki YAMATO, Kodansha)

[Original Japanese]