OB40mukEXQ6QZ1740xdjwF1LEQ4 Quote to Remember: MEMOIRS OF GEISHA [2005]


Sunday, May 12, 2013


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.
The first time I knew my mother was sick, was when my father threw the fish back into the sea.
That night we went hungry, to understand emptiness he told us.
Mother always said that my sister Satsu was like wood, as rooted to the earth as a sagura tree.
But she told me I was like water.
Water can carve its way, even through stone. 
And when trapped, water makes a new path. 

Young Pumpkin: I cried too at first.
You know it is easier if you just forget everything that happened before you came to the okea.
If you impress mother and do exactly as she says, she will send you to school to be a geisha.
Chiyo: A what?
Young Pumpkin: A geisha, like Hatsumomo.
You will get to drink sake and sleep until noon.
Chiyo: Where is my sister?
Young Pumpkin: Probably in another okea in Hanonoke.
Your family sold you to this house, you live here now.

It's not flesh we're selling here, this is a geisha house.
Remember to always honor this okea.
You listen, you learn.

By the time she was 20, she had already earned back her purchase price.
She has been the talk of the Hanamachi ever since.

A geisha needs an elegant wardrobe, just like an artist needs ink.
If she's not properly dressed, then she is not a true geisha.

At the temple there is a poem called "Loss", carved into the stone.
It has 3 words, but the poet has scratched them out.
You cannot read loss, only feel it.
My father and mother had left this life, my sister I never heard from again.
I had dishonored the okea, so Mother had other plans for me.
I would pay back my debt, year after year, after year, not as a geisha, as her slave.

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.
~Mr. Chairman, to Chiyo

Now promise me one thing, next time you take a tumble, no frowns.
~Mr. Chairman

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.

The money the Chairman had given me, could have bought fish and rice for a month.
But I gave it back in prayer, keeping only his handkerchief.
I asked one day to become a geisha, and then somehow, to meet him again.

Mameha: I will cover Chiyo's schooling, all her expenses, until after her debut.
Mother: Now I am confident that you are teasing.
Mameha: I could not be more sincere.
If Chiyo has not repaid her debt within 6 months after her debut...
Mother: Impossible, too little time!
Mameha: Then I will pay you twice over.
Mother: What?
No geisha could ever...
Mameha: I am certain you will not object to one trivial condition.
If Chiyo erases her debt in the time allowed, you will not have any part in her future earnings.

This is how it was, this tiny world of women, friend turned against friend.
And now the 2 greatest geisha in Myoko at war over me.
Hatsumomo at my back, Mameha calling,
offering me the chance to become one of those elegant women I had seen on the bridge,
floating in a silk kimono, the Chairman at my side.

Mameha: I see water in you.
Chiyo: Does that displease you?
Mameha: Water is powerful.
It can wash away earth, put out fire, and even destroy iron.
But you have not drawn on those strengths, have you?

Mameha: Tell me, Chiyo, does Mrs. Nita ever speak of the future?
Chiyo: Not to me.
Mameha: Well, someday soon she will have to name an heir.
One of her own geisha to succeed her.
Strange, isn't it, that she hasn't adopted Hatsumomo?
Chiyo: That would be like releasing a tiger from it's cage.
Mameha: You have a gift for expression.
And if Mrs. Nita adopts Pumpkin, that is hardly a threat.
But a young girl with eyes like rain...
Chiyo: But Mrs. Nita would never choose me.
Mameha: On the contrary, that is our goal.
Chiyo: It is?
Mameha: If you do not inherit the okea, then we will be all be at the tiger's mercy.

We must transform you. And what takes years, you must learn in months.

Say I'm entertaining the baron.
Like so many clients he's trapped in an arranged marriage.
So in the tea-house when he's seeking my company instead, 
I reward him like this with a glimpse of my wrist.
Seeing this demure little trace of naked skin, well, it gives him pleasure.
Or when you're sitting down, for the briefest moment, press your leg against his.
Always by accident, of course.

Remember, Chiyo, geisha are not courtesans, and we're not wives.
We sell our skills, not our bodies.
We create another secret world, a place only of beauty.
The very word geisha means artist, 
and to be a geisha is to be judged as a moving work of art.

Agony and beauty, for us, live side by side.
Your feet will suffer, your fingers will bleed.
Even sitting and sleeping will be painful.

You cannot called yourself a true geisha until you can stop a man in his tracks with a single look.

This binds us together forever as sisters.
Today you leave your childhood and cast away your name.
From this day forward you will be known as Sayuri.

When Mameha granted me my new name, 
I felt little Chiyo disappear behind a white mask with red lips.
I was a maiko now, an apprentice geisha.
From that moment I told myself when I make tea, when I pour sake, when I dance, when I tie my obi, it will be for the Chairman, until he finds me, until I am his.

Hatsumomo: I'm afraid that these days even a common chambermaid can call herself a geisha.
So it's nice to see such a sincere young maiko, isn't it?
Mameha: Surely you would like to thank Hatsumomo for her gracious compliment.
Sayuri: There is so much I would like to say to Hatsumomo.
Hatsumomo: Sometimes the smartest remark is silence.
Sayuri: What better advice to follow you than your own?
Hatsumomo: I was a maiko myself once.
Sayuri: Of course.
But it's been such a very long, long long... long, long time.

Sayuri: Perhaps Nobu-san would be kind enough to explain the rules of the match.
Nobu: 3 things matter in life... sumo, business and war.
Understand one, you know them all.
But why should a geisha care?
You spend your time plucking strings and dancing.
Sayuri: I humbly beg to differ.
What is sumo but a dance between giants?
What is business but a dance between companies?
I'd like to know about every kind of dance.

Your honorable sister says cut your leg? You cut your leg.
She says follow me, you follow her.
My life had turned into a game and only she know the rules.

Sayuri: I want to trust you, I do, but you have to tell me what's going on.
Mameha: I am ensuring your future.
Sayuri: But tell me how, I beg you.
Mameha: I am trying to orchestrate a bidding war.
Sayuri: What for?
Mameha: Your most precious attribute.
Sayuri: And what is that?
Mameha: Your misuage.

Mameha: Did Mother ever tell you about the eel in the cave?
Well, every once in a while, a man's eel likes to visit a woman's cave.
Sayuri: Yes, I know.
Mameha: You do?
Sayuri: I live with Hatsumomo.
Mameha: Your cave is untouched, men like that.
We call this misuage.
And to become a full geisha, we must sell this to the highest bidder.
Sayuri: Did you sell yours?
Mameha: It was the largest sum ever paid. 10,000 yen.
I freed myself from debt, and so will you.
When you slip the rice-cake to Dr. Crab, it is a sign that says your misuage is ripe for sale.

Sayuri: Can't you adopt us both?
Mother: Quiet, Sayuri. I'm no fool.
Pumpkin would only be Hatsumomo's puppet.
How long would it take before you kick us out onto the street?
Hatsumomo: I have given you my life.
Mother: Yes, and your impudence, your vile temper.
Hatsumomo: Who paid for that kimono on your back, the tobacco in that paper of yours? WHO?
Mother: Don't exaggerate! You have never even had a patron.
Hatsumomo: Don't say it! Don't say it!
Mother: You chose that no good Koichi.
Peeking through your window at all hours of the night.
Hatsumomo: Quiet!
Mother: Not like a geisha, like a common prostitute.
Besides, you are getting old.
But Sayuri, Sayuri's destined to become a legend.
Hatsumomo: My dear, okasan, we will see, won't we?

I could be her. Now I am geisha to this house.
I could be her. Were we so different?
She loved once, she hoped once.
I might be looking into my own future, until the real future came falling from the air.

Nobu: Somewhere, under those rags, are you still the greatest geisha in Myoko?
Sayuri: If a tree has no leaves or branches, can you still call that a tree?
Nobu: With nothing but rubble at my feet, can I still call myself a businessman?

Col. Derricks: So, what is the protocol?
Sayuri: Excuse me?
Col. Derricks: Suppose I wanted to see you in private...
Sayuri: I beg your pardon, Colonel, that is not a geisha's custom.
Col. Derrick: If it's a question of price?
Sayuri: If they were a price, you could never afford it.

Mameha: You cannot refuse him, you must not.
Sayuri: But Mameha...
Mameha: What is he to think? He safeguarded your life!
Sayuri: So he owns it?
Mameha: Sayuri, I know what it is like to try to scrape by without a patron.
Sayuri: I would do something, anything else.
Mameha: Lenting rooms? Scrounging for every meal? Is this the life that you want?
Sayuri: I want a life that is mine!
Mameha: Nobu has never treated you with another other than kindness.
Sayuri: I don't want mere kindness.
Mameha: What? What more can we expect? We're geisha.
Sayuri: You had feelings for the Baron, didn't you?
Mameha: I never allowed myself that.
Sayuri: Don't lie to me.
Mameha: In time, you learn.
Sayuri: I don't want to learn!
Mameha: Sayuri!
We don't become geisha to pursue our own destinies.
We become geisha because we have no choice.

A long time ago, you took something from me.
The only thing I ever truly wanted.
Now you know how it feels.

The heart dies, a slow death, shedding each hope like leaves, until one day there are none.
No hopes.
Nothing remains.
She paints her face to hide her face.
Her eyes like 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.

Chairman: I hope... it is not too late.
Don't be afraid to look at me, Chiyo.
Sayuri: Can't you see?
Every step I have taken, since I was that child on the bridge, has been to bring myself closer to you.

You cannot say to the sun 'more sun', or to the rain 'less rain'.
To a man, geisha can only be half a wife.
We are the wives of nightfall.
And yet to learn of kindness after so much kindness.
To understand that a little girl with more courage than she knew, would find that her prayers were answered,
can that not be called happiness?
After all, these are not the memoirs of an empress, nor of a queen,
these are memoirs of another kind.


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