Madame Sadayakko: The Geisha who Bewitched the West

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Penguin, 2004 - Biography & Autobiography - 321 pages
4 Reviews
A critically acclaimed author tells the enthralling true story of the real Madame Butterfly, a woman who became the most celebrated geisha in Japan and the first to tour the West.

At twenty-nine, she captivated the world’s stage. From San Francisco to New York, Paris, and Berlin, audiences thrilled to her mesmeric acting and exquisite dancing. She performed for the American President and for the Prince of Wales in London. Picasso painted her. Gide, Debussy, Degas, and Rodin were among her devoted fans. She was Sadayakko, Japan’s most notorious geisha—and its first international superstar.

In Italy, Puccini was working on Madame Butterfly. He had the plot for his opera, but he had yet to see a real live flesh-and-blood Japanese woman—until Sadayakko arrived with her troupe of traveling actors.

Madame Sadayakkois the true story of this extraordinary woman—muse to writers, artists, and fashion designers. Her adventures lift the veil on the secretive world of the geisha and reveal a missing piece of history from the turn of the last century, when Japanese women wore bustles and learned the waltz and women in the West wore Sadayakko kimonos.


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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - missizicks - LibraryThing

Lesley Downer has brought Sada Kawakami to life through the pages of this book. Known as Yakko during her geisha career and Sadayakko during her acting career, Sada had been largely forgotten after ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - briandrewz - LibraryThing

A remarkable look at the life of one of Japan's greatest stars, the geisha Madame Sadayakko. The book begins with her early life and her entrance into the world of the geishas. She rose higher and ... Read full review


In Search of Sadayakko
The Geisha and the Farm Boy 18711885
The Prime Ministers Favorite 18851888
The Liberty Kid 18881896
Setting Sail 18961899
And How This Geisha Dances Lost in America 18991900
The Real Madame Butterfly Europe 19011903
Secrets of a Womans Heart Performing in Japan 19031911
Part III
Wild Chrysanthemum 19111917
In the Shadow of the Peach Tree 19171946
Select Bibliography

The Witchery of Salomes Art Boston to London 1900
An Opium Hallucination of the Far East Paris Swoons 19001901

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About the author (2004)

Lesley Downer is the author of On the Narrow Road, which was short-listed for the Thomas Cook Travel Book of the Year Award; The Brothers: The Hidden World of JapanĀ's Richest Family, chosen as a New York Times Notable Book; and the highly acclaimed Women of the Pleasure Quarters. A frequent contributor to The Wall Street Journal, Ms. Downer divides her time between London and New York.

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