February 2, 2004 by

Kiharu Nakamura


Categories: Artists, Musicians, Writers/Editors

knakamura.jpgKiharu Ihara Nakamura, the Japanese geisha who wrote a best-selling book about her experiences, died on Jan. 5. Cause of death was not released. She was 90.
Born to a privileged and educated family, Nakamura decided to become a geisha when she was 15 years old. Although Japanese culture embraces the artistic entertainment provided by geisha, her parents resisted this plan. The following year, however, she entered the Shimbashi Geisha Association, an elite geisha sect, and studied the arts of dance, repartee, music and song. She learned English as well, which made her a favorite of foreign dignitaries who visited the tea houses of Tokyo.
In the course of her career, Nakamura entertained scores of men, including Charlie Chaplin, William Randolph Hearst and Babe Ruth. Her experiences were later chronicled in the 1983 biography, “Edokko Geisha Ichidai-ki” (Biography of a Tokyo Geisha), a best-seller that was translated into eight languages.
During World War II, Nakamura was asked to spy on one of her foreign clients. Instead she married Japanese diplomat Shintaro Ota and moved to Calcutta, India. They later divorced, and when a second marriage to photographer Masaya Nakamura ended, Kiharu immigrated to America, and settled in Queens, N.Y.
For the next 30 years, Nakamura taught music students to play the samisen, a Japanese stringed instrument. She also consulted on movies and theater productions, such as “M. Butterfly” and “Pacific Overtures.” Author Arthur Golden included her in the acknowledgments of his 1997 bestseller, “Memoirs of a Geisha.” And Jean Cocteau made her his muse when he wrote the poem, “Geisha.”

14 Responses to Kiharu Nakamura

  1. Fernando Vidal

    Poor woman. She was like a cherry tree flower. The world is is empty without her beauty. The gods will bless her. She was a the most sofisticated wore i

  2. Karin

    I am at page 266 in her book, and I wonder – what about her son??? Did she care? When she left Japan,she wished that N would not suffer… but what about her son? She doesn

  3. Clark Griffith

    Kiharu was a wonderful woman and a great friend. As a resident of New York, she was an ambassador of everything good about Japan. She wore a Kimono daily and often spoke of her desire that the younger generation embrace and maintain Japan

  4. Prof B B Rajapurohit

    I, as a former visiting professor at the Tokyo University of foreign Studies, Tokyo, feel thrilled by reading the articles written by Kiharu Nakamura, and enjoy looking at the photos taken by her. She should have lived loger to serve the cause of Geisha. As a tribute to her wonderful work on Geisha of Japan, I would like to write an article on Geisha of Japan, in Kannada language of India, in which I intend to use the information contained in the web site Geisha of Japan, and some of te photos by Kiharu Nakamura. The article would be published in Taranga Weekly magazine, and I would acknowledge Kiharu Nakamura thankfully. Concerned person may please permit me to do so.

  5. yiannii

    “Poor woman. She was like a cherry tree flower. The world is is empty without her beauty. The gods will bless her. She was a the most sofisticated wore i

  6. annribertt

    Terminé de leer el libro hace 2 días. Quedé fascinada, era una gran persona. No sabía que había muerto. Recién me enteré por la web, mientras decidí buscar acerca de ella. Lindo libro, me encantó.

  7. Lyudmila

    Я прочитала її книгу, глибоко вражена, яке велике серце мала ця жінка.
    (I have read her book. I was so amazed. She had a big loving heart.)

  8. Concha Perez

    He terminado su libro y me parece una persona que vivió plenamente, inconformista no se dejó llevar por la vida, ella la decidió paso a paso. Espero que sus últimos momentos los pasara en compañia de sus amigos y se sintiera muy querida.
    De todos los libros que he leido sobre Geishas, me parece el más autentico de todos, por su sinceridad y valentia ante la vida, teniendo en cuenta la epoca en que se desarrolla.
    Descanse en Paz y viva en el recuerdo de sus seres queridos.

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