'Geisha' Author and Publisher Sued

ByABC News
April 24, 2001, 5:46 PM

N E W  Y O R K, April 24 -- One of Japan's most famousgeisha has sued the author of the best-selling book Memoirs ofa Geisha, accusing the writer and his publisher of defamation,breach of contract and copyright violations.

Mineko Iwasaki, of Kyoto, Japan, filed the lawsuit today infederal court in Manhattan. She is suing Arthur Golden,seeking a percentage of the $10 million in sales generated byGolden's book as damages for allegedly using her life story as its basisand violating an agreement to keep her identity secret.

The lawsuit also named publisher Alfred A. Knopf, adivision of Random House Inc.

According to the lawsuit, Iwasaki, who was one of the most famousgeisha in Kyoto's most prestigious geisha district upon herretirement in 1980, met Golden in 1992 and agreed to beinterviewed on the condition of complete anonymity for her andher family and total confidentiality regarding her personalstories and her family's experiences.

But Golden broke his promise, the suit alleged, and alsodisparaged her reputation in interviews to promote the book,which remained on the best-seller list for 58 weeks, by"repeatedly stating that Ms. Iwasaki was sold into the geishaworld by her parents, and that her virginity was auctioned tothe highest bidder when she came out as a geisha."

Both stories, the suit said, are "patently untrue,"although Golden represented them as fact in the book, whichsold more than 4 million copies.

Publisher Ready to Fight

Golden, who the suit said agreed not to use personalinformation supplied to him by Iwasaki during more than 100hours of interviews, named her by her first name in the book'sacknowledgments, saying he was "indebted to one individualabove all others Mineko."

He also acknowledged her contributions during interviewsand speaking engagements, the suit alleged.

The suit charges breach of contract, unjust enrichment andcopyright infringement and asks for unspecified damages of apercentage of the book's $10 million in sales "to be determinedat trial."