Wednesday, 8 August 2012

The Barbarian and the Geisha

Date of Reading: 23/10/2007
Author: Robert Payne
Based on: the screenplay by Ellis St. Joseph

         The story is based on the true story of American diplomat Townsend Harris, his life in Japan in 1850's and 60's, and his romance with a 17 year old Geisha named Okichi. Their story is one of the well known folk tales in Japan.
        What the book promises is a love story, but nothing of that sort is going on here. Instead we see the political tug of war between America and Japan. Author has tried to make a detective novel type atmosphere, which doesn't help much. So don't get fooled by the word 'Geisha' in the title -- she doesn't have much of a role -- if it is Geisha that you are interested in, better seek something else.
         Townsend Harris is sent as American Consul to Japan; his intention is to sign a treaty of trade between the two countries. He stays at Shogun with his faithful friend and interpreter, Henry Heusken. Japanese has inserted a spy in the household, a Geisha named Okichi, and they love each other.

The film poster of 'The Barbarian and the Geisha'

        He had to go to Yedo for his purpose, where his interpreter is Moriama, a prince. Harris soon finds out someone behind the King is really pulling the strings and after three years of stay there, it turns out to be Moriama. His men kill Heusken mistaking him for Harris and the Geisha is nowhere to be seen.
         The real Harris died in New York in 1878, and the real Kichi committed suicided in Shimoda in 1892.  

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