Tuesday, January 3, 2006



The word geisha means "artist" in Japanese. Geisha are professional hostesses who entertain guests in teahouses called O-chaya. They are not prostitutes. A geisha will have a patron (“danna”), with whom she is involved emotionally, economically, and sexually. Unpaid romances as a geisha are strictly forbidden and if she gets married she must quit. Geisha do not prepare or serve food. They also never have a one-night stand.

To become a geisha, you either had to be the daughter of a geisha or more often, a beautiful little girl from a poverty stricken family and sold to an O-chaya by relatives. The okamisan ("mother") runs the house and oversees the girls. They perform various chores until their mid-teens when they become "maikos", geisha apprentices. A maiko accompanies a geisha on her appointments to learn and become accustomed to the job. Around the age of 20, a maiko decides if she wants to continue her training to become a geisha.

Geisha are trained in a number of traditional skills such as ancient dance, singing, the playing of instruments, flower arrangement, the tea ceremony, calligraphy, the serving of alcohol, how to engage in conversation and more. The initiation ceremony used to revolve around the girls losing her virginity to the highest bidder. This does not take place anymore.

Geisha women are not perceived as a threat to a marriage in Japanese culture. Traditionally, the wife and geisha have completely separate roles in society. Usually, the relationship between a man and his geisha is not based on love and is not meant to disrupt the marriage between a husband and wife.

Wives usually know whom their husbands geisha are, and in fact, there are some times when their paths cross. For example, during the Obon Festival and during the New Year's celebration, geisha will typically visit the homes of important customers and bring gifts to their wives. Because a Japanese wife is not allowed to influence her husband, she may at times request that the geisha try to persuade her husband to do something that may be in the best interest of the family. In addition to acting on the wife's behalf, a geisha may also offer business advice to her danna, as she is likely to hear the details of important business deals while performing or serving the tea house customers.

Suzuka Ohgo: Chiyo, a poor fisherman’s 9-year-old daughter, sold as an unpaid servant
Kaori Momoi: cigarette-smoking Mother, head of the geisha house where Chiyo works
Gong Li: Hatsumomo, Mother’s number one geisha
Youki Kudoh: Pumpkin, another novice who becomes Chiyo’s best friend
Ken Watanabe: The Chairman, a wealthy businessman
Michellle Yeoh: Mameha, head of a classier geisha house, who buys and trains the teenage Chiyo following The Chairman’s suggestion
Ziyi Zhang: Sayuri, Chiyo’s name when she becomes a geisha
Kôji Yakusho: Nobu, The Chairman’s disfigured colleague

The story is simple, but the movie isn’t. Adapted from a best-selling novel, for anyone who has not read the book it requires a serious rewrite to clear up several areas of confusion. Some attempt to clarify the situation has been made above in describing the principal cast members but questions remain. The acting often seems forced and unnatural because the dialog is entirely in English, which is the second language of the cast. It is also too long at 2½ hours.
Nevertheless the movie does provide us with an insight to the world of the geisha and has some beautiful moments.

for mature subject matter and some sexual content.

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