The Electric Geisha
Editor Atsushi Ueda presents short essays by professors and other authorities in fields ranging from architecture and urban planning to economics and ethnology, all discussing the historical development of different facets of Japanese popular culture. The essays are grouped under five headings: “Leisure and Recreation,” “Lifestyle,” “Politics and Economics,” “Trends, Social Institutions, and Human Relations,” and “The Japanese City.” Specific topics include public bathhouses and coffee shops, sex roles and sexuality, and mass media, providing the reader a rich diversity of subject matter.
The authors attempt to explain the often unique qualities of Japanese culture, much of which may be puzzling to outsiders. The “electric geisha” of the title, for example, refers to karaoke, whose historical roots are found in the geisha parties of Japan’s Edo period (1600 -1867). Other areas of Japanese culture familiar to Westerners— from notoriously expensive urban real estate prices to violent comic book pornography—are similarly analyzed as products of identifiable historical and social forces.
The writers treat a scholarly subject in a very accessible way. The chapters are concise, and the writing style is simple, clear, and direct. The book is suitable for readers who have little or no previous knowledge of Japanese history and culture. Basic historical information is provided wherever necessary, terms are defined clearly, and all references are fully explained. THE ELECTRIC GEISHA could serve as an introduction to Japanese culture for a newcomer to the subject, or as a useful reference for those interested in popular culture and/or Asian studies.