Study Guide

Memoirs of a Geisha Competition

By Arthur Golden


When Americans think of Japan and competition, they probably think of sumo wrestling, major league gaming, or those crazy obstacles courses that inspired Wipeout and American Ninja Warrior. They probably don't think of geisha fighting and backstabbing in the okiyas of Gion.

But Memoirs of a Geisha shows us that a geisha house is like a sorority, with a house mother, pledges, and the most important geisha—or the ones who think they're the most important—fighting to be the HGIC: head geisha in charge.

Questions About Competition

  1. Why does Hatsumomo want Chiyo out of the okiya?
  2. Why are Mameha and Hatsumomo rivals?
  3. Which men engage in a bidding war for Sayuri's mizuage? Why are they willing to pay such a high amount for it? Who bows out of the bidding war, and why?
  4. In one memorable scene, Mameha and Sayuri attend a sumo match. How is being a geisha like sumo wrestling? How does Mameha use sumo tactics to her advantage in her competition with Hatsumomo?

Chew on This

Because all the geisha are in one district and the clients are limited, they must be very competitive in order to get as much business as possible.

Both Hatsumomo and Pumpkin feel like they are competing with Sayuri because they are jealous of her. Hatsumomo is jealous of her looks, and Pumpkin is jealous of her success.