A literary sensation and runaway bestseller, this brilliant debut novel presents with seamless authenticity and exquisite lyricism the true confessions of one of Japan’s most celebrated geisha.
In Memoirs of a Geisha, we enter a world where appearances are paramount; where a girl’s virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder; where women are trained to beguile the most powerful men; and where love is scorned as illusion. It is a unique and triumphant work of fiction – at once romantic, erotic, suspenseful – and completely unforgettable.
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
I wasn’t born and brought up to be a Kyoto geisha. I wasn’t even born in Kyoto. I’m a fisherman’s daughter from a little town called Yoroido on the Sea of Japan. We lived in a tiny house, high above the sea, and my father smelled like the sea even after he washed.
One day, many years ago, I was entertaining at a party in Kyoto and a man said he was in Yoroido only last week. I felt like a bird that has flown across the ocean and finds another bird that knows its nest. I couldn’t stop myself-I said:
“Yoroido! That’s where I grew up.”
The man didn’t believe me.
“You can’t mean it,” he said, and laughed. “You, growing up in Yoroido! That’s like making tea in a bucket.”
Well, I’d never thought of Yoroido as a bucket, though it’s not pretty. In those days, the early 1930s, it had only one road leading to the Japan Coastal Seafood Company, which sold all the fish that my father and the other fishermen caught.
My father was a very old man. I was twelve then, but from the day I was born I never looked like him at all. I always looked like my mother. We had the same strange eyes; you hardly ever saw eyes like ours in Japan. Instead of being dark brown like everyone rise’s, my mother’s eyes were a shining gray and mine are just the same. It’s the water in both our personalities. My father had wood in his personality; mother and I were full of water.
But all the water was running out of mother because of her illness. You could see every bone in her face getting harder and harder as the water dried out. Dr. Miura visited her every time he came to our village.
“Chiyo-chan,” my father would say to me, “get the doctor a cup of tea.”
My name back then was Chiyo. It was many years before I was known by my geisha name, Sayuri.
“Sakamoto-san,” said the doctor to my father, one time, “you need to have a talk with one of the women in the village. Ask them to make a new dress for your wife. She shouldn’t die in that old dress she’s wearing.”
“So she’s going to die soon?” asked my father.
“A few more weeks, maybe,” said Dr. Miura.
After that I couldn’t hear their voices for a time. And then… “I thought I’d die first,” my father was saying.
“You’re an old man, Sakamoto-san. But you might have another year or two.”
One afternoon I came home from school and found Mr. Tanaka Ichiro walking up the path to my house. Mr. Tanaka’s family owned the Japan Coastal Seafood Company. He didn’t wear peasant clothes like the fishermen. He wore a man’s kimono with kimono pants…