Study Guide

Memoirs of a Geisha Coming of Age

By Arthur Golden

Coming of Age

An alternate title for Memoirs of a Geisha would be Memoirs of a Maiko or, in English, Memoirs of Being an Apprentice Geisha. The vast majority of the book takes place on Chiyo's journey to becoming a geisha—going to school, taking classes in music and dance, and trying to find her place in the social structure of her town.

It's something we can all relate to…except for the whole "geisha" part.

Questions About Coming of Age

  1. What are the most significant moments in Chiyo/Sayuri's coming of age story?
  2. When do you think Sayuri officially becomes an adult? Or is she unable to fully mature, being trapped in geisha culture?
  3. Are the geisha coming-of-age rituals similar to anything that happens in non-geisha society?
  4. Does Sayuri mature fast as a geisha? Or is her growth stunted by living as a geisha?

Chew on This

Although rituals like the mizuage seem unusual or abusive to outside cultures, for Sayuri, it is a normal part of growing up.

All of Sayuri's growth milestones—like first dance or first kiss—come within the context of being a geisha. She has no outside life.