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The Demimonde in Japanese Literature: Sexuality and the Literary Karyûkai By Cynthia ...

Chapter :  Introduction: The Demimonde as Genre, Metaphor, and Space
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The Demimonde in Japanese Literature:


The Demimonde as Genre,
Metaphor, and Space

What is socially peripheral may be symbolically central.1

Early one evening, I took in a curious double feature: Mizoguchi Kenji's 1936 Gion no shimai (Sisters of the Gion) and Rob Marshall's 2005 Memoirs of a Geisha. Two films that treat the space of the early twentieth-century Kyoto karyûkai (literally, “the flower and willow world” of the pleasure districts), they invite a parallel reading, even as it may seem to be disallowed by their disparity in time and provenance—the first film was directed and written by Japanese, whereas the second is an American director's treatment of an American imagining of the geisha of pre– and post–World War II Gion. Perhaps the most striking contrast between the two lies in their visual representation of the space of the Gion pleasure quarters: Mizoguchi concentrated on still interiors and defines the narrow roji, or alleyways, of Gion with deliberate, moving-camera long shots, whereas Marshall privileged exteriors and motion, depicting the karyûkai