Memoirs of a Geisha: A small benevolence that changed a girl's life

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

In 1929, because of their financial problem, Sakamoto Chiyo and her older sister Sakamoto Satsu are sent to Gion. Yet, they are soon separated; Chiyo is sold to a place for geisha and Satsu as a prostitute. Although it was heartbreaking for Chiyo, she soon makes a friend named Pumpkin and settles in. With the unusual bluish-gray eye color of Chiyo, she starts her training to become a geisha; however, with the jealousy and the agony by Hatsumomo, one of the most popular geishas, Chiyo shortly loses the opportunity to become a geisha but becomes a servant instead. Nonetheless, luck visits Chiyo; she meets a chairman, who shows benevolence to her for the first time, on a bridge one day. After that day, Chiyo falls in love with the chairman and decides to become a famous geisha to meet him again. Then, once again luck visits her; Mameha who is a rival geisha of Hatsumomo decides to take Chiyo as her “sister.” With the help of Mameha, Chiyo successfully becomes a great geisha with a new name as Sayuri.
Despite the loves from many great men, including Nobu who owns a huge company, Sayuri doesn’t give up her heart from the chairman. However, a large war enters the scene and during her escape from the war, she realizes how although she can earn all the beauty she wants by becoming a geisha but that she cannot earn love.


Descriptive details resulted images in my head

The book approached me with the impression that it involves a large part of culture of Japan and that I first need an understanding of Japanese culture in order to comprehend the flow of the book. The topic of “Geisha” already explains how the book relates to the Japanese history. However, although I was fresh with anything about geisha, the book clarified the “system of geisha” with much detailed explanation; I had no trouble understanding the cultural aspect of Japan while I was reading the book.
At the end of the book, I was surprised with the fact the author of the book is an American man. Even though the book is written in third person’s point of view, the feelings or thoughts that Chiyo or Sayuri feels due to the conflicts that she goes through are specified with detail that it made me to assume that the author is a woman who has a strong Japanese background. The feelings and thoughts that are expressed in the book, such as jealousy between women, seemed to me that they are the feelings that only women would have. In other words, I was fascinated with the fact that although the author is an American man, the details expressed in Memoirs of a Geisha are well articulated that it feels like that I am actually reading a book that is written by a Japanese woman author.
Another feature that I appreciated about the book is that I haven’t had much chance to learn about the culture of Japan even though it is a country that is closely related to Korea. However, with the vivid images and the descriptions of geishas and the specific customs and rituals of theirs helped me to enjoy the book even more. Although I didn’t watch the movie of Memoirs of a Geisha, I still could visualize the colorful beauty of the scenes in my head clearly. Moreover, before I had any idea what “geisha” is, I simply thought that “geisha” is a word to call the prostitutes in Japan; and it was a wrong idea. There is a specific excerpt where explains how geisha is not a prostitute but a piece of art.

Author Biography
Arthur Golden

Arthur Golden was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1956 as under the family of Ochs-Sulzberger. He attended Harvard College where he specialized in Japanese art and received a degree in art history. After his undergraduate school, he studied even more about the history of Japan at Columbia University along with a foreign language, Chinese. These enriching educational backgrounds actually helped him to finalize an amazing piece, Memoirs of a Geisha and to become a bestseller.


More about Arthur Golden