In this revealing, accessible, and up-to-date portrait of geisha society, an expert on Japanese culture provides persona! insight into a perpetually enchanting underworld. Much has been written about the lives of geishas, but this rich subject has yet to receive the colorful, popular study it deserves. Determined to create a thoroughly entertaining but authoritative account of geisha history, journalist Lesley Downer dedicated years to research and undercover journeys behind doors previously closed to outsiders. In Women of the Pleasure Quarters, she delves deeply into this closed realm, bringing back priceless tales of glamour and romance from some of Japan's most famous geishas, who were the celebrities of their day. From the first geishas four hundred years ago (who were actually men!) to the later rituals and delicate arts that every successful geisha had to master, Women of the Pleasure Quarters transports readers to a place that is as elegant as it is harsh. Through the eyes of those who lived it, Women of the Pleasure Quarters relates lively stories of the personalities behind the customs and costumes, along with intriguing information about protocol, such as how contraception is handled in a country where birth-control pills are still not licensed for public use. Vividly describing the daily activities in a geisha house, Downer also explores matters of the heart-including the reasons girls entered this life, and how it transformed them inside and out. While Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha introduced hundreds of thousands of readers to an exotic new world, Women of the Pleasure Quarters proves that truth can be even more fascinating than fiction.