Being the last geisha in Yoshiwara, the only licensed pleasure quarter in megalopolis Edo, which became present-day Tokyo, means she stood at the end of a 400-year-old lineage of women entertainers. From childhood she trained daily in the traditional arts of music and dance, and though she had to sacrifice the kind of domestic bliss most Japanese girls longed for, she built an incredibly full, fiercely independent career before, during and after WWII, “all for the best.” The Madame is sharp—sharper than most of the men she performs in front of—and we’re lucky to have her and the age she outlived together on film. by Robert Campbell, Professor of Japanese Literature, University of Tokyo
I started filming Madame Minako in 2005. I happened to live near her and given her schedule we often encountered each other at the end of the work day. I usually had the camera with me. As the interviews progressed, I wondered what it would be like to be a guest at a banquet with geisha, so we decided to recreate the special atmosphere of a Yoshiwara banquet. Since there are no geisha in Yoshiwara other than Minako, we also requested the assistance of two geishas from the neighboring Asakusa geisha district. The record we took was quite valuable and the occasion itself memorable. But the filming did not continue for long. Minako became ill and died one month later. It was 2010. The Yoshiwara culture that led the culture of Japan completely disappeared with her death.