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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 January, 2004, 23:45 GMT
Famed geisha girl dies in US
By Nicholas Walton

A former Japanese Geisha-girl who entertained stars such as Charlie Chaplin and Babe Ruth during her career has died at her home in New York City at the age of 90.

Kiharu Nakamura, who moved to the US in 1956, became a well-known exponent of traditional Japanese values.

Born into the family of a wealthy doctor, Kiharu Nakamura had to overcome the objections of her parents to become a geisha at the age of 16.

Kiharu Nakamura
Working in Tokyo's Shimbashi district, Ms Nakamura developed her career as a traditional Japanese female entertainer.

As a geisha she sang, danced and provided conversation to diners in exclusive restaurants. In 1940 she married a Japanese diplomat, but divorced after he married a second woman while serving in Burma.

After the war, Ms Nakmura continued her work as a geisha girl, a career she had great pride in all her life.

They know how to handle men
Kiharu Nakamura on geisha

"I'm a geisha girl. Gei-sha is the two Japanese characters. Sha means entertainer, even person. But Gei means 'with art'," she told the BBC a few years ago at the age of 86.

"And the geisha girl had special dancing, special music. They know how to handle men."

When Kiharu Nakamura moved to the United States, she began teaching traditional Japanese music and dance.

She became well-known and appeared on television talk shows, where she often expressed her disappointment at what she saw as a loss of sensitivity to traditional values in her homeland.

Her fame grew in 1983 when she published her autobiography, The Memoir of a Tokyo-born Geisha.

It became a best-seller, was translated into eight languages and was adapted to both a television drama and a play.

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