The geisha culture is often associated with prostitution, although that could not be farther from the truth. The term geisha actually means “one trained in the arts” which is exactly what geisha are. Geisha go to school from a very young age to practice dancing, playing musical instruments, singing, and many more which are skills they will later use to entertain men. In Arthur Goldens’ book Memoirs of a Geisha , a young impoverish girl, Sayuri, is taken from her home and rises to become one of Gions most prominent geisha. Sayuris success was created through Sayuris natural beauty, a few very kind men, and women who made her yearn to be successful.
Sayuri was first noticed by many people by her stunning physical features, but people remembered her by her amazing personality. The first thing most people noticed about Sayuri was her eyes. Instead of being a dark brown like most Japanese people hers were a pale gray. The first time Sayuri met Mr. Tanaka, the man who would later sell her as a geisha, he said to her, ” But what I really want to know is how you came to have such extraordinary eyes” (16). Sayuri was a very attractive girl anyway, but her eyes set her apart from all of the other girls. Sayuri had more then just beautiful features, she had a kind personality also. As Granny says, ” There are too many pretty girls in Gion. What we need is a smart girl. That Hatsumomo is as pretty as they come, and look what a fool she is !”(43) There is no doubt that Sayuris wisdom and kindness is what set her apart from other geisha, and what ultimately helped her rise up and overcome Hatsumomo.
Men make a huge impact in any woman’s life, but unlike most women Sayuris career depended on them. Nobu contributed to her success in many ways, although he was a frequent costumer Sayuri thought of him as a good friend. She greatly enjoyed his company, just as he enjoyed hers. Sayuri says about him:
“Nobu’s touch had made a deeper impression on me then most. No one could tell me whether he would be my ultimate destiny, but I had always sensed en between us. Somewhere the landscape of my life Nubo would always be present. But could it really be that of all the lessons I’d learned, the hardest one lay just ahead of me” (295- 296)
The Chairman made the biggest influence on Sayuris career because she wanted to please him so badly. Sayuri says of the Chairman, ” I’d set my sights on becoming a geisha only to win the affection of the chairman”(421). Although she wanted to become a geisha for many reasons the chairman came first. That truly shows how deeply she cared about the chairman. That she would put him as a reason before even herself is a sign she would have done anything for him. Another man who was important to her acheivment was Dr. Crab, the man who was the winner of her mizuage. He played such an important role because he paid a record price for her mizuage, which lead to Mameha winning her bet with Mother. Sayuri could have never become successful without the help of Nubo, the Chairman, and Dr. Crab.
Sayuri would have been nowhere near as acomplished as she was without the women who made her want to be famous. Hatsumomo was very cruel to Sayuri for many years, and Sayuri knew the only way to overcome her was to become more powerful then her. She eventually rose and became the daughter of the okiya and got Hatsumomo kicked out. She would have never been able to do that, or would have even wanted to if she didn’t feel like she had to escape her. On the other hand, Mameha was very kind to Sayuri. She contributed to her rise as a Gion geisha by offering to be Sayuris older sister, and making the offer the mother so she could start her lessons again. Even when Hatsumomo forced her out of the social scene Mameha came up with a plan to make her even more popular then Hatsumomo or Pumpkin. Mother, although she was not very nice, helped Sayuri out in a lot of ways. She made that purchase of Sayuri when she was brought by Mr. Tanaka, she also gave the money for her lessons, even though Sayuri would eventually have to pay them back. Mother also made the decision to adopt Sayuri which gave her a permanent place in Gion. All of these women in some way made Sayuri the powerful geisha she was.
Sayuri was taken out of a small fishing town, with barley a penny to her name but buy the time she was twenty had risen to become one of Gions most prominent geisha. She, of coarse, couldn’t have done this all on her own. She owes her success to her natural beauty and her wise personality, to all of the men who had helped her along the way, and to the women who made her want to be an accomplished geisha. Reading Memoirs of a Geisha helps make known the hidden culture of the geisha.