Initially, “One Hundred and One Ways” seems to travel along the same path as “Memoirs of a Geisha,” detailing the traditional life of the traditional Japanese entertainers. However, it quickly deviates into a description of the connection between a woman and the grandmother she has never met.
Yukiko Takehashi, nicknamed Kiki, was named after her geisha grandmother. Kiki lives in New York City, where she studies English literature, while her grandmother still lives in Japan.
The contrast between the lifestyles of Kiki and that of her grandmother is not as steep as expected, as the culture and time periods differ so greatly.
Author Mako Yoshikawa expertly shifts between Kiki’s life and the renditions of her grandmother’s experiences. The story begins with an unexpected vision in Kiki’s apartment, one that haunts her and unravels throughout the novel.
The haunting by a deceased love threads throughout the novel, making Kiki question what loves her grandmother faced and how she dealt with them. An undertone of dependence involving the grandmother Kiki hasn’t even met creates an emotional attachment that draws on readers.
The novel progresses as Kiki is involved with another man and discovers how to deal with her lost love on her own. Her decisions often being or are followed by questions she will pose to her grandmother, who’s traveling from Japan to America for a visit.
Yoshikawa’s writing is interesting, but there is an overwhelming sexual tension that flows through the novel. This seems to be associated with the geisha lifestyle, as it is rumored that they know how to love a man 101 ways.
But the undertones seem smothering, overshadowing the other emotional attachments associated with Kiki’s relationships. The geisha lifestyle is also portrayed as very nonchalant, posing sex as a simple act.
This sly attention to sex seems slightly to refer to current society, showing how sex is now viewed as more acceptable outside of marriage. Rather than a geisha lifestyle being dishonorable, it is displayed as something respectful — a lifestyle choice. Kiki’s lifestyle in regards to sex is compared to that of a geisha and thoroughly accepted.
Beyond the sexual encounters, the relationships Yoshikawa creates are very interesting to discover. She also inserts a reference to Asian fetishes, supposedly afflicting the main male character.
The societal implications of an Asian fetish is left for interpretation, as Yoshikawa does not directly address what occurs in society.
The potential questions for Kiki’s grandmother are interesting, giving an insight into Kiki’s mind set about society and how she relies on the supposed replies of a woman who went through the same love and relationship problems.
Time is of little significance, as Kiki expects her grandmother to have experienced the same heartbreak and confusion she is going through, despite living in a different country and society.
Overall, the novel is well written and enticing, but emphasis could have been placed on other aspects than sex. By developing the relationships between Kiki, the men and family members in her life, the novel could have been developed more thoroughly and been much more intense.