Japanese Culture: Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

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A geisha is truly a unique and fascinating individual in the within the Japanese culture. Often times, many individuals do not take the time which is necessary to learn about another person’s culture to understand what incidents occur to shape them into who they are. Americans are primarily guilty of putting the geisha in the same box as prostitutes and placing an identical label on them, when in fact, a geisha isn’t a prostitute at all. However, there are facts about them both that certainly remain true. Geishas and prostitutes are both women who often entertain men; nonetheless, there are undoubtedly unique differences with regard to the style and delivery of their entertainment.
The woman who becomes a geisha “don’t become geisha because we want our lives to be happy; we become geisha because we have no choice” (Golden 409). The woman who lives her lifestyle in the pursuit of becoming a geisha is challenging and a difficult one. Some women are destined to become geisha because their mother was previously a geisha herself. Others become geisha as a direct result of being sold into slavery by her parents with hopes that the young child would eventually have a better life in the future than she currently have with her family. Chiyo stated, “He had taken me from my mother and father, sold me into slavery, sold my sister into something even worse” (Golden 82). The slave child is actually an investment to the household of geisha family. The home where “geisha live is known as an okiya” (Golden 40). The lady of the house purchases the child with a very skilled plan of allowing the little girl to practice the arts of becoming a geisha by allowing her to learn how to dance, sing and play a musical instrument, called the shami...

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...ed to work during the afternoon and evening very much as she always has. And still she sleeps nor more than three to five hours every night” (Golden 144). Many “geishas begin their training as young as three years old” (Golden 141). For many of these women, becoming properly trained as a geisha is a matter of survival! The choice that they’ve made to live a life of a geisha is the simple choice between life and death. If Sayuri had not become a geisha, she likely would’ve lived a boring life being destitute and poverty stricken. Even with her struggles, becoming a geisha allowed her the reality of living out part of her dreams. For Sayuri, becoming a geisha was her destiny! Perhaps it’s the destiny for many other geishas as well.

Works Cited

Golden, Arthur. Memoirs of a Geisha. Vintage Contemporaries Edition, 1999 ed. New York: Vintage Books, 1997. Print.
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