Memoirs of a Geisha Summary
A young girl with beautiful eyes named Chiyo lives in Yoroido, a raggedy little fishing village, in a raggedy little house with her raggedy little family—mom, dying of bone cancer; sister, who is older but not attractive; and dad, who is basically useless. Because dad can't raise two girls alone, he sells them to a local businessman, Mr. Tanaka. Chiyo thinks she is being adopted, but she ends up with a family she never expected—a family of geisha in Kyoto, a long way from Yoroido.
Chiyo lives in an okiya, which is a fancy word for geisha boarding house. The okiya is run by Mother, a stern, often cruel, businesswoman. What's her business? None of your business.
Actually, it's geisha, and since we're reading the Memoirs of a Geisha, we get to hear all about it. Little Chiyo starts as an indentured servant, doing housework and following the orders of the house geisha, Hatsumomo. When she isn't cleaning toilets or being bossed around, she attends geisha school with her young friend, Pumpkin. Here's the geisha school curriculum: dancing, Japanese guitar playing, tea service.
Jealous Hatsumomo is desperate to get Chiyo out of the okiya. She tells Chiyo where her sister has been taken—to a whorehouse across town. Chiyo attempts to escape, but injures herself in the process. She is removed from school and doomed to be a maid in the okiya forever. And she never sees her sister again.
One day, while running errands for Hatsumomo, Chiyo meets a kind businessman: the Chairman. He gives her some spare change and a handkerchief, and she sniffs that square of cotton so much we're surprised it doesn't get stuck up her nose. With each whiff of Chairman's musk, she hopes he will one day adopt her. It doesn't happen, but she gets an adoption of a different kind—Hatsumomo's rival, Mameha, comes to the okiya and adopts Chiyo as her little sister. She also teaches her how to stun men with just a look from her gorgeous eyes.
Mameha doesn't help Chiyo because she has a big heart. She does it because she wants a big purse. Mameha makes a bet with Mother: Chiyo will pay off all her debts, or else Mameha gets nothing. If Chiyo does it, Mother will pay Mameha double. Mother needs a new pair of okobo (those are shoes) so she makes the wager.
Chiyo returns to geisha school, and she excels at all of it. She dances, she plays music, and she pours tea like a pro. She becomes a geisha and gets a new name: Sayuri.
But being a geisha isn't all pouring drinks and dancing. To earn a big paycheck, Mameha auctions Sayuri's mizuage to the highest bidder. She orchestrates a bidding war between Nobu, who is a business partner with Sayuri's beloved Chairman, and Dr. Crab.
What's mizuage? It's a fancy term for "virginity." Dr. Crab wins the bidding way—like eBay for underage girls—and Sayuri grits her teeth through the process. Once that is done, the next step is to find a danna. A danna is a man who purchases exclusive rights to a geisha. Nobu wants to be Sayuri's danna, but Sayuri hopes the Chairman will purchase her.
Throughout all this, Hatsumomo continues smearing Sayuri's reputation. Mameha turns the tables on Hatsumomo, though, spreading rumors that she is mentally unstable until she actually goes crazy and is expelled from the okiya. Sayuri never sees her again.
Neither Nobu nor the Chairman becomes Sayuri's danna. World War II breaks out, and Sayuri takes a general as her danna, so that he may help the okiya during the war. But the war is worse than expected, and the entire geisha district is shut down. Sayuri flees to the estate of Nobu's friend until the war ends and Nobu brings her back to Kyoto.
Nobu wants to be Sayuri's danna, but Sayuri still wants her precious Chairman. She formulates a plan to betray Nobu and get him to hate her. She will sleep with a sleazy Minister and have Nobu catch her. She asks Pumpkin to bring Nobu to the rendezvous point, but Pumpkin brings the Chairman instead. Sayuri is humiliated.
But her plan still works. Nobu hates her, and the Chairman doesn't care that she was with another man, because that's what geisha do. Also, he's glad Nobu is out of the picture, because he wanted Sayuri ever since he first saw her (when she was still a child, so: ew). It was he who asked Mameha to adopt her and mold her into the geisha she is today.
He becomes her danna, she has his illegitimate child, and she asks to move to New York City. The Chairman complies, and Sayuri opens up her own teahouse in the Big Apple and lives happily ever after. Well, she lives, at least, which is more than she can say for anyone else. She closes her memoirs reflecting on all her friends and family whom she has lost over the years, but she retains her hopeful outlook. And her awesome kimono.
- A Westerner named Jakob Haarhuis includes this note as preface to the main attraction: the memoirs of a geisha. (The translator has the most hard-to-pronounce name in the whole book.)
- He tells us that in 1936, he saw a dance performance in Kyoto.
- One of the geisha captivated him that day. And years later, he became her friend in New York City.
- Her name is Nitta Sayuri, and we're about to hear her story.
- Geisha are notoriously secretive, but now that she lives outside of Japan, Sayuri wants her story told.
- She dictated her memoirs to Jakob, and now we have them.
- So let's get to it.
- Our narrator, Chiyo, begins with a little Dickensian foreshadowing.
- She says she will soon meet someone, and it will be "the best afternoon of my life, and also the very worst afternoon" (1.1).
- But before she gets to the best of times and the worst of times, she tells us about the stinky little fishing village where she grew up: Yoroido.
- There, she lives inside a "tipsy house" (1.10) with her older sister, Satsu, and her mother and father.
- Her mother is sick, and her father doesn't think mama will make it.
- Daddy asks young Chiyo to walk to the village to get incense for a prayer ritual.
- In the village, Chiyo falls flat on her face in front of a businessman, Mr. Tanaka Ichiro.
- Her lip is bleeding, and he tends to it.
- After taking care of her, he compliments how beautiful she is, especially her striking blue-grey eyes, and asks where she lives.
- At home, Chiyo and her sister are washing dishes, and the pot is cracked. It's a bad sign.
- After a swim in a pond, Chiyo stumbles upon her sister, Satsu, getting her "Mount Fujis" (2.2) felt up by a village boy.
- Mr. Tanaka conveniently shows up with herbs for Chiyo's mother. He says they will ease her pain.
- He tells Chiyo that he led a hard life, but he was lucky that someone adopted him. It gave him the opportunity to make a life for himself.
- Maybe someone will adopt Chiyo, too.
- She fantasizes about Mr. Tanaka adopting her, and one day, it comes true.
- Well, maybe. Mr. Tanaka makes an arrangement with Chiyo's father to take Chiyo and her sister to his house for a day.
- But first, they stop in the town of Senzuru at the company Mr. Tanaka owns: the Japan Coastal Seafood Company.
- They're not there for seafood, though. What happens is worse than a bad night at Red Lobster.
- A weird old woman undresses the sisters, pokes them, and declares them healthy and "intact" (2.59).
- After that invasive, humiliating procedure, Satsu and Chiyo spend the night at Mr. Tanaka's fancy house.
- He has a daughter, Kuniko, and Chiyo fantasizes about having Chiyo has a sister.
- That night, Kuniko and Chiyo sneak out of the house to spy on Mr. Tanaka. He's at a teahouse! It's not a place for a cup of Earl Grey; it's where men go to be entertained by geisha.
- Chiyo is back at home, but soon, Mr. Tanaka's assistant comes to the house to fetch Chiyo and her sister.
- They follow him to the village, where they discover they'll be taking a train…but not to Mr. Tanaka's house.
- The woman who examined the girls is on the train. So is a man named Mr. Bekku, who complains that the girls smell and tries to fix their appearance.
- He tells the girls they're going to Kyoto.
- The train arrives and the group takes a rickshaw to the neighborhood of Gion, in Kyoto.
- Chiyo is dumped out in front of a large house, but her sister, Satsu, is taken away somewhere else.
- A glamorous woman answers the door, and we're told this is Hatsumomo, "the most renowned geisha" in Gion (3.58).
- She calls Chiyo "garbage" (3.59). She's obviously not renowned for her personality.
- An older woman, who asks to be called Auntie, brings Chiyo inside.
- The building is an okiya, where geisha live and train.
- Along with Hatsumomo is a girl with the nickname "Pumpkin," who will one day be an apprentice geisha.
- The house is run by a woman known only as Mother, as well as another woman: Granny.
- They're not related by blood. But Granny "adopted" (2.90) Mother and Auntie years ago, as part of the geisha business.
- Granny is old and mean, and Mother isn't exactly nice, either. Chiyo realizes she needs to do what they say to make her own life as easy as possible.
- Even though she's upset after being separated from her sister, Chiyo must attend geisha school.
- That's right: geisha school. Lessons in music, dance, and tea ceremony.
- Before school starts, Chiyo has plenty of chores around the okiya to keep her busy—like cleaning Hatsumomo's room.
- Hatsumomo may be a glamorous geisha, but her room is messy enough to frighten even the messiest teenager.
- Hatsumomo is also cruel, telling Chiyo not to touch her makeup because she smells so bad that it makes the makeup stink.
- And she slaps her. Dang, girl. Chill out.
- Mother and Granny let Hatsumomo get away with her diva attitude because she brings in all the money. She's a very successful geisha.
- School begins, and Chiyo tags along with Pumpkin to classes.
- Along the way, Pumpkin eats octopus on a stick that she finds on the ground. That must be one yummy tentacle.
- Chiyo realizes that Pumpkin is terrible at school. She's a nice girl, but a terrible dancer and shamisen player. (The shamisen is a Japanese guitar.)
- At school, Chiyo searches for her sister, but never finds her.
- After school, Hatsumomo takes Chiyo to the Gion Registry Office.
- Being a geisha isn't all cool hairstyles and fluttering fans. There's a lot of paperwork.
- An ex-sumo named Awajiumi registers Chiyo, like you'd register your car.
- She asks him if he's seen her sister, and he says no.
- Hatsumomo looks angry that Chiyo would ask him such a question.
- At home, Chiyo is bathed, dressed in a lovely kimono, and sat down to watch Hatsumomo apply makeup.
- Have you ever seen a bricklayer slather mortar on a wall? It's like that.
- Hatsumomo is pretty, but geisha wear a lot of makeup.
- After the makeup procedure, Mr. Bekku enters to dress Hatsumomo.
- Geisha need help dressing because their obi—the rope around the kimono—is tied in the back. It's like buckling your belt from behind.
- When everything is done, Hatsumomo, as mean as she is, is stunning to look at.
- As the most junior tenant of the okiyo, it is Chiyo's job to wait on Hatsumomo hand and foot.
- And to keep her secrets.
- Hatsumomo brings her boyfriend to the okiyo, even though she isn't supposed to have one. Chiyo must keep their trysts a secret.
- Hatsumomo says she knows where Chiyo's sister is, and she'll only tell her if she obeys her every whim.
- One night, Hatsumomo brings home her friend Korin, and they force Chiyo to deface a stolen kimono.
- If Chiyo won't do it, Hatsumomo will never tell her where her sister is.
- The kimono belongs to a rival geisha, Mameha, and Hatsumomo makes Chiyo paint on it, then return the defaced garment to Mameha.
- The next morning, Mameha has informed Mother about the kimono.
- Hatsumomo blames Chiyo. "I tried to stop [her] before she put ink on it, but it was too late" (6.67). Not cool, not cool.
- Mother adds the debt from the kimono to what amounts to Chiyo's bill—all the expenses she incurs she must eventually repay.
- Later, Chiyo confronts Hatsumomo, wanting to know where Satsu is.
- Hatsumomo actually tells her—Satsu is in the district of Miyagawa-cho in a jorou-ya.
- What's a jorou-ya? Not even Chiyo knows.
- When she is asked to deliver Hatsumomo's shamisen to her at a teahouse, Chiyo takes the opportunity to find her sister.
- She finds the building where Satsu should be…but the building is populated by women who tie their obi in the front, not behind. "The mark of a prostitute" (7.24).
- To Chiyo's surprise, Satsu is there. She is a prostitute now, but she has been saving money to run away.
- She tells Chiyo to meet her Tuesday night, and they'll run away together.
- Chiyo returns late to the okiya and is caught by Hatsumomo.
- But instead of tattling, Hatsumomo gives Chiyo money to escape. She never wants to see Chiyo again.
- However, Hatsumomo being Hatsumomo, she tells Mother that Chiyo stole her emerald brooch and sold it. That's where she got that wad of cash.
- Mother frisks Chiyo and takes back the money.
- But then Mother turns on Hatsumomo, telling her she knows about her boyfriend. She slaps the geisha across the face. She's going to need extra makeup to cover that up.
- All the maids are punished for not telling on Hatsumomo for having a boyfriend.
- The front door is locked at all times. But it's Tuesday night, and she's supposed to meet her sister. How will Chiyo escape?
- She decides to escape by climbing onto the roof.
- That's not a good plan, because she doesn't think how to get down.
- It's slippery up there, and she falls off the roof onto the street. That's one way to get down.
- A woman finds her and returns her to the okiyo.
- Chiyo has broken her arm, which only adds to her ever-growing list of debts.
- And because she tried to escape, Mother says she will no longer let Chiyo go to geisha school.
- She'll be a maid forever.
- Soon, Chiyo gets a package. More bad news in a letter from Mr. Tanaka: both Chiyo's parents are dead.
- However, he does reveal that Satsu passed through. At least she got away.
- Two memorial tablets are included, and Auntie puts them on display. "They're all that's left of your childhood" (8.64), she tells Chiyo. That's grim.
- Chiyo mourns for a long time about her parents and her sad fate.
- But she feels her fate is about to change.
- One day she is asked by Auntie to return some hair ornaments to a girl at geisha school.
- She does, and on the way back, she bumps into a kind, older man known as the Chairman.
- The Chairman gives Chiyo some money for a treat and a handkerchief.
- Chiyo buys some shaved ice and throws the rest of the money into a shrine as an offering.
- But she keeps the handkerchief and sniffs it occasionally to remind herself of the kindly Chairman.
- Granny is dead.
- She was electrocuted by her space heater, which she fell on, and her face melted off.
- What a nice way to begin a chapter.
- Many geisha come to pay their respects, including Mameha, the geisha whose kimono Chiyo vandalized at Hatsumomo's demand.
- Mameha compliments Chiyo's eyes and sends a maid with a message a few days later.
- Mameha wants to meet her.
- Even though Chiyo is nervous to meet this other renowned geisha, she sneaks away to meet her.
- Mameha wants to humiliate Hatsumomo, and she plans on doing so by making Chiyo into the best geisha ever.
- But before they can do that, Mameha must convince Mother to let her resume geisha training.
- Chiyo apologizes for vandalizing Mameha's kimono—even though she knows it was Hatsumomo's fault—and returns to the okiya to wait for Mameha's plan to take shape.
- Mameha visits the okiya to have a little chat with Mother.
- Chiyo eavesdrops on the visit.
- Inside Mother's room, Mameha tells Mother that she wants to make Chiyo her "younger sister" (11.40).
- Mother drives a hard bargain, though, so Mameha makes a bet.
- If Chiyo manages to repay all her debts by the time she's twenty, Mother will pay Mameha double everything Chiyo made.
- But if Chiyo fails, Mameha will make nothing. Zilch. Nada. Zippo.
- Mameha warns Chiyo not to let Hatsumomo trick her and to never tell her anything.
- Soon Chiyo resumes geisha school, but she's so behind by this point she has to study extra hard.
- Subjects include drums, shamisen (Japanese guitar), and tea ceremony.
- Chiyo has fun practicing with Pumpkin…but Pumpkin is Hatsumomo's younger sister now, and Hatsumomo tells Pumpkin to stop associating with Chiyo.
- Hatsumomo also tries to sabotage Chiyo's education by turning her dance teacher against her.
- But Mameha smooths things out and helps her practice her dance.
- It's time for Pumpkin's official debut as an apprentice geisha.
- Her new geisha name is Hatsumiyo, but everyone "just called her Pumpkin as we always had" (13.3).
- Meanwhile, Mameha dresses Chiyo up in fine kimono and parades her around town to get people talking about her.
- She teaches her to be more expressive with her eyes. Perhaps Tyra learned to smize from Mameha.
- One afternoon, Mameha gives Chiyo a test: make an unsuspecting boy drop a tray, with only her feminine wiles.
- By simply making eye contact, Chiyo makes the boy drop his tray.
- She's well on her way to becoming a geisha, and she hopes to one day meet the Chairman again and use her new tricks on him.
- Chiyo prepares for her debut as a geisha.
- She is given a fine silk kimono and a hairstyle assisted by a big Jersey Shore-style bump.
- At night, Chiyo must sleep on a funny wooden prop, instead of a pillow, to protect her bumped-up hairdo.
- Finally, Chiyo and Mameha perform a ceremony to bind them as sisters.
- There's a lot of clapping at a shrine, followed by sipping sake at a teahouse. It's like the geisha version of that "Cups" song.
- With the ceremony comes a new name for Chiyo: Sayuri.
- Mameha teaches Sayuri to pour sake while seductively revealing her inner arm.
- Then it's time to work. Sayuri must attend many parties, chat with men, pour tea, and otherwise be entertaining.
- A party at the Komoriya Teahouse is going swimmingly…until Hatsumomo and Pumpkin crash the party.
- Hatsumomo tries to humiliate Sayuri at the party with a crude remark about her lack of hair under her kimono.
- Sayuri turns it into a joke. "Oh, but I do! A good deal of [hair]!" (15.29), she says, and pats her head. Ha ha: geisha humor.
- Back at the okiya, Hatsumomo slaps Sayuri for her remark.
- Over the next few nights, Hatsumomo manages to show up everywhere Sayuri does.
- Mameha soon finds out that Hatsumomo bribed a maid in every teahouse to tell Yoko, the receptionist at the okiya, when Sayuri shows up.
- Mameha decides to lay low while she works on a plan to avoid Hatsumomo.
- One day after school, Sayuri attends a private party with Mameha and her danna (like a benefactor with benefits), the Baron.
- Even though Sayuri is nervous, and almost drops a scroll, the Baron seems impressed by the new young geisha.
- Pumpkin wins "the apprentice's award" (16.3). No, it has nothing to do with Donald Trump.
- But Mameha tells Sayuri not to worry.
- Hatsumomo has been taking Pumpkin many, many places, which earns her the award, but they don't stay long, which will damage her reputation in the long run.
- However, Mameha is worried about one thing: that Mrs. Nitta will adopt Pumpkin.
- If she does, Hatsumomo would have control over the okiya, and Sayuri would never be rid of her.
- Mameha has a plan, though: an engagement where Hatsumomo won't be.
- It's a sumo wrestling competition attended by the President of Iwamura Electric: Nobu Toshikazu.
- Nobu has burns all over his body and is missing an arm.
- Nobu brought a colleague: the Chairman. Sayuri almost swoons at the sight of him.
- Mameha introduces Sayuri to Nobu and Chairman Iwamura.
- Sayuri is so flustered to again be in the presence of her beloved Chairman that she pours tea from an empty pot.
- Nobu is kind of a grump. He makes fun of geisha traditions and their beliefs in superstition.
- However he compliments Sayuri as being prettier than Mameha.
- When the sumo wrestling begins, Sayuri notices a surprise in the crowd: Hatsumomo.
- She infiltrated the exclusive event somehow and she's amused to see Sayuri with Nobu.
- Hatsumomo often makes fun of Nobu because of his injuries. Very classy.
- But Sayuri won't let Hatsumomo embarrass her. She turns on the charm for Nobu.
- They all watch an impressive sumo match, which gives Mameha an idea on how to handle Hatsumomo. (Feed her protein bars and make her big like a sumo wrestler?)
- Sayuri is obsessed with the Chairman.
- Like a young girl searching for her favorite celebrity in Tiger Beat, Sayuri buys all the business newspapers and magazines looking for info on him. Does the Wall Street Journal have a centerfold?
- She learns that although the Chairman founded Iwamura Electric, he "owe[s] Nobu a great debt" (18.6) and it's really Nobu in charge.
- Later, Mameha has another of her weird plans.
- She dresses Sayuri in a torn kimono, then stabs her leg with a knife to make it look like she cut herself. Yikes.
- They take her to a man named Dr. Crab to look at the wound.
- When she's all patched up, Mameha takes her to an artist named Uchida-san to show her off (and hope he will paint her someday).
- Sayuri continues to entertain Nobu and the Chairman on a regular basis.
- One evening, Nobu presents Sayuri with the gift of an antique hair comb.
- She also entertains Dr. Crab, but he doesn't give her any gifts.
- One night, Dr. Crab surprises them by not wanting to be entertained by Sayuri. He says she "misled" him (19.38).
- They're not sure what he's talking about, and Sayuri still isn't sure what Mameha's plan even is, having her entertain both these men.
- Mameha tells her what the deal is: she is hoping to encourage a bidding war between Dr. Crab and Nobu for Sayuri's mizuage.
- Men bid on mizuage—which is taking a geisha's virginity.
- Dr. Crab once paid a record amount for Mameha's mizuage.
- But now that he's angry at them, the plan won't work. They must fix this.
- Sayuri asks Pumpkin what Hatsumomo said to Dr. Crab.
- It turns out she told Dr. Crab that Sayuri had a secret boyfriend.
- In other words, her "cave had already been explored by someone else's "eel" (20.42).
- Mameha has Sayuri present her suitors—Nobu and Dr. Crab—with a sweet-rice cake called ekubo, which means she is ready for mizuage.
- When she gives it to Dr. Crab, they assure him that she has never had a boyfriend.
- Mameha says that Hatsumomo was jealous because Sayuri won a prized role in the spring production of Dances of the Old Capital, which is like Kyoto's Best Dance Crew, so she sabotaged Sayuri.
- Sayuri is surprised that Mameha is telling the truth. She will be dancing in the role.
- Mameha and Sayuri attend a party at the Baron's estate.
- Dr. Crab is there, along with a kimono-making master named Arashino.
- Sayuri works the crowd, flirting and geisha-ing with all the men.
- At the end of the day, the Baron invites Mameha to another party.
- But she refuses to attend. She is having a "medical procedure" (21.72) that day.
- The Baron is offended that Mameha mentioned her abortion in public, so he disinvites her and invites Sayuri instead.
- Mameha tells Sayuri she must attend, but be careful: the Baron could endanger her mizuage.
- At the Baron's party in Hakone, Eastern Japan, Sayuri walks with all the men. We hope she's wearing sensible shoes.
- Nobu and the Chairman are there, so she gets to walk with them, too.
- When the party is over, though, the Baron forces Sayuri to stay behind.
- He says he has a gift for her. Uh-oh.
- He brings her into his bedroom, and presents her with…
- A kimono.
- Oh, that's not sketchy at all. That's nice.
- Not so fast. He wants to undress her and put it on.
- So he strips her and puts the new kimono on her.
- He doesn't force himself on her, though, although he does seem to be quite busy with himself under his own bathrobe.
- When he's done, Sayuri puts her original kimono back on and leaves with the fancy new kimono.
- Sayuri feels awkward returning to Kyoto from the Baron's. Being stripped by a perv will do that to anyone, even a geisha.
- Her strange mood is lifted slightly by a poster for Dances of the Old Capital. The dance she'll be in.
- Not only is she in the dance, she's on the poster. That's why the artist Uchida has been drawing her.
- The dance festival begins a few weeks later.
- The first piece is called "The Morning Sun on the Waves." Geisha portray wind, sunlight, and water. (Sayuri plays the role of Captain Planet.)
- Nobu and the Chairman are in the audience, and Sayuri performs her role perfectly.
- During the final week, Nobu brings Sayuri a gift: a luscious red ruby to give to Mother to settle some of her debts.
- Mother is shocked the ruby was for Sayuri, not Mameha.
- A few days later, the bidding for Sayuri's mizuage begins.
- Mother calls a doctor to verify that Sayuri is intact. She is.
- That's no surprise to us, but what happens next is: Mother says she will not adopt Pumpkin; she will adopt Sayuri. Whoa.
- Hatsumomo is furious at the news.
- Sayuri feels bad for Pumpkin, though, and she asks if Mother can adopt them both.
- Short answer: nope.
- The bidding war turns out to not be between Dr. Crab and Nobu, but Dr. Crab and the Baron.
- Dr. Crab wins, if you can call it that, with a record-breaking bid of 11,500 yen, "Much more than, say, a laborer might have earned in a year" (24.8).
- Mother's adoption of Sayuri takes place the next week, and with it, a new last name.
- She is no longer Sakamoto Chiyo; she is Nitta Sayuri.
- In July 1935, Sayuri prepares for her mizuage with Dr. Crab.
- As if a man bidding an exorbitant amount of money for a young girl's virginity weren't weird enough, Dr. Crab out-weirds everyone by pulling out a vial and saying he plans to save some of her blood after it's over.
- The doctor plays doctor while Sayuri lies there and tolerates it, then he saves a wad of bloody cotton in the vial with her name on it, misspelled.
- After that, the world returns to normal. Sayuri resumes her geisha-ing duties, including parties for the Chairman and Nobu.
- Yet one night, Nobu is ill and cannot attend the party. With only the Chairman in attendance, he cancels Sayuri's invitation.
- She worries he doesn't care about her after all.
- Two years pass, and Sayuri is ready for "turning the collar" (25.8).
- This is the ceremony held at age eighteen, when an apprentice becomes a geisha.
- Her collar is changed from the red collar of an apprentice to the white collar of a geisha.
- Now it's time to search for a danna, a man who will pay a great sum for exclusive privileges with a geisha.
- It is rumored that Nobu will be Sayuri's danna.
- Hatsumomo thinks this is funny, but even Sayuri isn't excited about it. She still wants the Chairman.
- Mameha tells Sayuri that love has nothing to do with it. She should be happy that Nobu will be her danna, even though she doesn't have fond feelings for him.
- Sayuri feels like her life is "burning down" (25.64) around her. Not a good metaphor to use about a man who has burns over half his body.
- Mameha collects her debt from Mother, which is like pulling teeth, and then she proposes another plan: a bidding war for Sayuri's danna between Nobu and General Tottori Junnosuke.
- She suggests that the General would be a better danna. He may not pay as much, but with war on the horizon, having a general as an ally would be an invaluable asset for the okiya.
- While Mother thinks this over, Sayuri continues business as usual, including entertaining at parties for Nobu, who glares at her as if he's angry.
- The General becomes Sayuri's danna.
- With him, she has to undergo an "unpleasant twice-weekly routine" (26.4).
- One night, Sayuri has a secret one-night stand with another man, so she can experience sex as something actually enjoyable for a change.
- Weeks later at a party, Sayuri encounters the Chairman.
- She tells him that she hasn't seen Nobu in a long time.
- He advises her where to find Nobu and says she should repair their friendship.
- One night, she bumps into Nobu outside a teahouse.
- He says he is angry with her because her danna is "a little man in a uniform whom no one admires" (26.77).
- She says she has no choice who her danna would be.
- They argue a bit about fate and free will, and he refuses to ask for her. He is still angry that he could not have her, like a kid at a toy store where what he wants is sold out.
- Sayuri learns that in six months, she has earned more than Hatsumomo and Pumpkin combined.
- That means she gets to kick them out of the big bedroom and take it for herself.
- While switching rooms, Hatsumomo finds Sayuri's journal.
- Or you might call it her memoirs of a geisha.
- Geisha are not supposed to talk about their business, so this journal is a big no-no.
- Hatsumomo takes it, planning to blackmail Sayuri with it.
- Sayuri follows Hatsumomo to get the journal back, and she finds something else: the emerald brooch Hatsumomo said Sayuri stole years ago.
- Sayuri takes the brooch and the journal.
- Hatsumomo tells Mother about the journal anyway, but Sayuri has hidden it where it won't be found.
- Sayuri, in turn, gives Mother the brooch, and Mother orders Hatsumomo to pay back the money that Sayuri had to pay for it when she said it was stolen.
- Things get steadily worse for Hatsumomo. Mameha spreads rumors that she is mentally unstable, and Hatsumomo all but confirms them when she gets into a scratching and biting fight with an actor at a tearoom.
- And just like that, Hatsumomo is banished from the okiya.
- Sayuri says she never saw Hatsumomo again.
- As World War II heats up, the okiya does well, thanks to the instructions by General Tottori to leave them alone.
- However, one day he is taken into custody, likely for being shady, and the okiya must struggle to survive along with everyone else—growing vegetables, rationing food, and wearing the same underwear for days.
- Soon, the government closes the geisha district. No fun allowed at war, not even fun with geisha.
- Many teahouses have one last farewell party.
- At one, Sayuri bumps into Nobu, who says he can help Sayuri.
- Nobu's friend, Arashino the kimono maker, will take her in. She can live with him and make parachutes during the war, instead of kimono.
- Sayuri agrees to go to safety there, and she wonders if she'll ever see Gion again.
- While Sayuri lives with Arashino, she gives us the death toll during the war.
- A fellow geisha named Raiha: dead.
- Sumo wrestler Miyagiyama: dead.
- Mameha's dresser, Mr. Itchoda: dead.
- The Baron: dead (of suicide).
- Mameha: don't worry, she's fine.
- Sayuri's life at Arashino's residence is a-okay. He is able to sell kimono when the family needs money, and they make it through.
- The war ends (in less than a chapter, making this the shortest World War II ever) and Arashino begins to make kimono again.
- Sayuri has a brief affair with a tatami mat maker, and their romance is even shorter than the war.
- One cold November, Sayuri has a visitor: Nobu.
- He's alive, and he wants Sayuri to return to Gion and geisha it up like in the old days.
- He gives her a piece of concrete, and says one day he will exchange it with her for a gemstone.
- She decides to go back…if she can persuade Mother to take her back.
- Sayuri writes a letter to Mother, and Auntie comes to bring her back to the okiya. That was fast.
- In Gion, Sayuri visits Mameha, who has downsized to a tiny studio apartment.
- There are many American soldiers in Gion now, which means lots of opportunities for a geisha to work.
- At a party, Sayuri meets up with Nobu, who has brought a guest: Deputy Minister Sato.
- Nobu seems to be sucking up to the Minister for some reason.
- Sayuri entertains the men, and maybe the Minister is a little too entertained.
- He gets so drunk, he throws up all over the garden. Yuck.
- Sayuri and Nobu tidy the man up and agree to have another party later, this time with more geisha.
- She relays the idea to Mameha, who suggests they bring Pumpkin too.
- After the war, Pumpkin became a prostitute.
- But Sayuri says Pumpkin "look[s] quite lovely" now (30.75). She brings Pumpkin some tea and says she hopes she can rebuild their friendship…and entertain Nobu and the Minister on Saturday.
- It's been five years since Sayuri saw the Chairman, and she wonders what he might look like.
- She finds out soon when she meets him at the teahouse.
- He's aged, but still has his dignity.
- Pumpkin and Mameha soon arrive, and the Chairman introduces them to the Deputy Minister of Finance, Sato Noritaka.
- Pumpkin is super-crass, and says she remembers a prostitute the Minister was once with.
- She sounds rude, but the Minister likes her attitude.
- The geisha and the men play a game. It's like Two Truths and a Lie, but with only one truth and one lie.
- The Minister gets drunk, again, and seems to enjoy himself.
- The geisha continue entertaining the men once or twice a week.
- One night, Pumpkin is sick, and the Chairman excuses himself from the party. Sayuri wonders if the Minister likes Pumpkin more than he likes her.
- Dances of the Old Capital begins again, and Mameha and Sayuri prepare for the dance.
- Because of rehearsals, Sayuri is late to the teahouse, where she encounters an angry Nobu and the Minister.
- Nobu sends the drunk-as-usual Minister home early, leaving himself alone with Sayuri.
- She tries to cheer him up, and she finds out why he's upset:
- The Minister wants to be her danna.
- It seems the Minister kept Iwamura Electric from closing during the war, and Nobu owes him.
- But he's going to turn the Minister down, because he doesn't want him to have her.
- She says that, if he asked, she would let the Minister become her danna.
- This offends him, because he doesn't think she should be the type of woman who would do that. (Um, does he not know what a geisha does?)
- Even though he's angry, he still wants to be her danna. Angry is his default setting.
- He tells her to go and fetch her chunk of concrete, so she does.
- He will soon be her danna, and she doesn't want that.
- Sayuri is sick with stress that Nobu will be her danna instead of the Chairman.
- Nobu invites all the geisha to a party on the island of Amami.
- It will be Sayuri's first plane trip.
- She is nervous, but the world is pretty from the plane, and Sayuri tries to relax.
- On the plane, she comes up with a plan to turn Nobu away from her.
- At the island, the men and geisha flirt and bathe with one another.
- Pumpkin and her floating Mount Fujis are quite popular with the men.
- Later, she asks Pumpkin for a favor: to bring Nobo to the old theater on the island. "Not the Chairman, for heaven's sake" (33.69).
- She then takes the Minister for a walk around the island.
- When they arrive at the old theater, they go inside.
- Alone, Sayuri insinuates she wants to have sex with him.
- Without any further ado, the Minister mounts her.
- As if this weren't gross enough already, he drools all over her while he's thrusting. Ick.
- Pumpkin shows up as planned…
- But she didn't bring Nobu. She brought the Chairman. Pumpkin is not good at following instructions.
- Sayuri is humiliated that the Chairman caught her with the Minister.
- That evening, she confronts Pumpkin.
- Pumpkin says she brought the Chairman as revenge. She is still angry that Mother adopted Sayuri instead of her.
- Pumpkin says she told Sayuri what Hatsumomo said to Dr. Crab, and that's how she repaid her.
- What little friendship they had is officially over.
- After returning to the mainland, Sayuri receives word from Iwamura Electric to meet at the teahouse.
- She expects Nobu, but she gets the Chairman instead. Upgrade!
- The Chairman has a lot to say.
- He knows she is the girl from many years ago, because he could never forget her striking eyes.
- He always wanted her, but Nobu wanted her too. As his friend, the Chairman felt obligated to be Nobu's wingman.
- But Nobu learned what Sayuri did with the Minister on the island, and now he hates her guts.
- So this means the Chairman can have Sayuri to himself.
- He kisses her, which is all Sayuri has wanted for, like, a decade, and she feels like he has caught her from a long, dangerous fall.
- Now that Sayuri has ended up with the Chairman, what else is there to talk about?
- Sayuri says it's now forty years later, and she fills us in on her major life events of the last four decades.
- The Chairman became her danna.
- She no longer works as a geisha, because the Chairman doesn't want her to accidentally cross paths with Nobu.
- So he puts her up in a nice house away from Gion. She can't live with him because he's married. How…romantic?
- She accompanies the Chairman on a few business trips (or should we say bizness trips?) to New York City.
- She gives birth to his illegitimate child and asks the Chairman to relocate her to New York permanently.
- In the city, she opens her own teahouse and lives in the Waldorf Towers.
- Now, forty years later, most geisha are gone from the world, and the Chairman is dead. Mr. Tanaka is dead. Nobu is dead. Her mother is dead. Her father is dead. She never saw her sister again.
- Man, that's a downer.
- But Sayuri believes all these people live on inside her heart, and without them, she wouldn't exist.
- She knows nothing in the world is permanent, and all our sufferings eventually wash away, "just like watery ink on paper" (35.37).
- The end.