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How Memoirs of a Geisha Inspired Me

I was touched by this movie, this story, of Nitta Sayuri and her trials and tribulations as a Geisha in Japan.

  Sayuri Narration: A story like mine should never be told. For my world is as forbidden as it is fragile. Without its mysteries it cannot survive. I certainly wasn’t born to the life of a geisha. Like so much in my strange life, I was carried there by the current.

This quote was taken directly from http://www.great-quotes.com/cgi-bin/viewquotes.cgi?action=search&Movie=Memoirs+of+a+Geisha, in which one may find many other beautiful and inspirational quotes from Memoirs Of A Geisha. As I read through this novel written by Arthur Golden, I was instantly enthralled and drawn into Sayuri’s world. A world of geisha. American perspective and views of their mysterious world have been tainted; drawn towards negativity and belief that the geisha was merely a japanese prostitute. This is unfortunate. Geisha were never meant to serve this purpose, they were entertainers; artists.

Above is Zhang Ziyi who portrayed Nitta Sayuri and Chiyo in the 2005 adaptation of Memoirs Of A Geisha. Her emotion was heartfelt and I could easily grasp her pain, her happiness, and the emotion that she expressed on behalf of the geisha that Arthur Golden befriended and based his novel on through his interview with his old friend of the past.

 Narrator (Old Sayuri): She paints her face to hide her face. Her eyes are deep water. It is not for Geisha to want. It is not for geisha to feel. Geisha is an artist of the floating world. She dances, she sings. She entertains you, whatever you want. The rest is shadows, the rest is secret.

This perspective from a geisha really gets one to think. Just as the geisha exists in a world of entertaining, many of us in society today have, at some point, done the same. We have hidden behind this painted mask, one which appears to others as beautiful, as content, as confident. The truth can sometimes be found deeper when we take a look behind the mask. There could be hurt, their could be insecurities, whatever it is we have tried to hide this at some point; whether it be to win over that special job position or to please others and make friends. Our truths have been brushed under the carpet and kept secret before. This is because we seek acceptance as a society, because we have a need to please and entertain ourselves. Geisha should not be singled out, they are merely human as we all are.

Narrator (Old Sayuri): [as Chiyo watches the Chairman leave with geisha] In that moment, I changed from a girl facing nothing but emptiness, to someone with purpose. I saw that to be a geisha could be a stepping stone to something else… a place in his world.

This scene in the movie in which Chiyo realizes that she has found her outlet, a positive influence and a man who represented kindness, really touched me. As a young woman who has experienced loss and cruelty myself, losing loved ones and subjected to ridicule, I found Chiyo’s resiliance to be very admirable. Despite all of her suffering, she still managed to find even the smallest bit of hope in a world of injustice. So when I take a look at my own life, I realize that even if I have been abandoned, abused, and altogether ostracized by the people for whom I have considered family, there will always be a small speck of hope that I can and want to search for. Giving up is not an option. Nitta Sayuri did not become Nitta Sayuri because she lost faith, she was successful because she chose to believe in him, in KINDNESS.

Nitta Sayuri (Zhang Ziyi) and The Chairman (Watanabe Ken) in a Cherry Blossom garden. Throughout the novel and movie, he is her ray of hope.

Chairman: We must not expect happiness, Sayuri. It is not something we deserve. When life goes well, it is a sudden gift; it cannot last forever…

Going through life, it is true, we cannot believe that “some people are just born lucky,” we make our own luck. And like most things, we discover that all good things will eventually be faced with a possible ending of either good or bad. With happiness there will always be sorrow, but we shouldn’t fear loss, we shouldn’t fear regret, we should only learn from them and embrace what has happened so that we can move forward.

For many years, I would stop and focus on how much I despised my family’s negativity and selfishness. They had been the ones that had caused me so much pain; this is what I had believed. After reading Memoirs Of A Geisha, I learned that it is not for one to dwell on the past and learn nothing from it. Being stuck on an issue and doing nothing to change or move forward, to resist being resilient, will only make  you a bitter, lost person. This was not how I wanted to live my life. So I made a change. A positive, optimistic approach to life was taken by myself to always look towards the bright side of things.

Chairman: It is too pretty a day to be so unhappy. Did you fall down? Why so shy? Nothing to be ashamed of, we all stumble from time to time. Do you see that enchanting lady in green? Once when she was just a maiko, she fell clean off her wooden shoes.
Geisha in Green: [laughs] It’s true, I did.
Chairman: And now look at her, so elegant…
Geisha in Green: Mr. Chairman, shouldn’t we hurry? We will miss the beginning.
Chairman: We see the spring dances every year, we can spare a moment. What’s your name? Don’t be afraid to look at me. Do you like sweet plum or cherry?
Chiyo: You mean… to eat?
Chairman: I like sweet plum myself. Come. None of us find as much kindness in this life, as we should. My children wait for these every spring.
[hands her the ice and spoon]
Chiyo: [looks at geisha by the tree, smears some of the cherry ice on her lips] Now I’m a geisha too.
Chairman: [laughs] And so you are. How did you come by such surprising eyes?
Chiyo: My mother gave them to me.
Chairman: Generous of her, wasn’t it?
Chiyo: As you have been to me.
Chairman: Smile for me, won’t you?
[Chiyo smiles for him]
Chairman: There now, that is your gift to me.
[hands Chiyo his handkerchief with the change inside]
Chairman: This will buy your supper. Now promise me one thing, next time you take a tumble… no frowns.
[Chiyo nods]
Chairman: That’s better.
[leaves with geisha]

It should never be forgotten that we only live once; life is too short to lose faith in kindness and love.

Never give up!


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  1. Posted January 26, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    Nice post. Memoirs of a Geisha is a breath-taking film.

  2. Posted January 27, 2010 at 5:48 am

    great share

  3. Posted January 27, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    an awesome article, that movie was touching and unforgettable!

  4. Posted January 27, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    wonderful posting ! The movie is great ! thanks for sharing

  5. Posted January 28, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    What a wonderful and inspiring post. I saw the movie as well. You are right. Never give up.

  6. Posted January 29, 2010 at 9:14 am

    Your review does the movie justice. Beautiful work

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