How well do you know "Memoirs of a Geisha?"

By: Torrance Grey
Image: tmdb

About This Quiz

This vivid and colorful epic took us into the world of pre-war Japan and a young girl's difficult climb to the top of a mysterious profession! Now, revisit this dazzling film with our quiz!

What kind of town did Chiyo grow up in?

Chiyo tells the story of how, when their mother became ill, their father threw the day's catch back into the sea and let his daughters go hungry. So they would learn the feeling of emptiness, he said.

Chiyo's mother compared her older sister Satsu to wood. To what element did she compare Chiyo?

Water can carve through stone, Chiyo's mother told her. And when trapped, "water makes a new path."

Chiyo is taken by the proprietress of an okiya (geisha house). What is Satsu's fate?

Chiyo is chosen because of her good looks and blue-grey eyes. Her older sister isn't so lucky.

What is Chiyo's older sister's name?

The movie opens with the two daughters spying on negotiations their father is making with a man, Tanaka-San, while their mother lies dying. The girls don't know it, but they are about to be sold to Tanaka, to be taken to the entertainment district in Kyoto.

Who tells Chiyo where her sister is living?

Hatsumomo sees Chiyo as a threat and is trying to destroy her. But tells Chiyo where Satsu is -- perhaps predicting that Chiyo will then run away with her sister, which is what almost happens.

What ruins Chiyo's plan to escape with Satsu?

Mother locks up the okiya because Hatsumomo has been sneaking out to see her lover, Koichi. Chiyo has to try to flee over the rooftops, but falls and is injured.

What is Chiyo's punishment for trying to run away?

Previously, Chiyo was going to geisha school with Pumpkin. But now, she loses her chance at being a geisha and will be a slave -- indefinitely, since she can never earn enough money in that role to pay back her debt to the okiya.

What kind of sweet ice does the Chairman buy for Chiyo?

When he meets Chiyo crying on a bridge, the chairman asks her what kind of ice she prefers. But then he buys both -- and gives her money for supper as well.

What does Chiyo do with the money that the chairman gives her?

Chiyo gives the money to a temple, praying to become a geisha. Her change of heart happens because she realizes that becoming a geisha will allow her to see the chairman again.

Who unexpectedly champions Chiyo?

Mameha is Hatsumomo's great rival. She was played by Chinese-Malaysian actress, Michelle Yeoh.

What did Chiyo do to Mameha, earlier, that makes Mameha's kindness to her surprising?

Chiyo didn't do this on her own. Hatsumomo made her do it, back when Chiyo was still doing everything Hatsumomo commanded in hopes that Hatsumomo would tell her where Satsu was.

What new name does Mameha give Chiyo?

The renaming of girls who become apprentice geisha is implied to be traditional. But Pumpkin remains Pumpkin -- perhaps to not confuse the audience.

What is a maiko?

The maiko has a "big sister" geisha: Pumpkin's is Hatsumomo, and Mameha is Sayuri's. Unfortunately, this makes the two maikos, formerly friends, rivals.

What is a danna?

The movie protrays a danna as the closest thing a geisha will have to a husband. Sayuri guesses that Mameha had special feelings for her patron, the Baron.

What is Mameha's ultimate goal for Sayuri?

Mameha knows that if Mrs. Nitta "adopts" Pumpkin and leaves the okiya to her, Pumpkin will just be Hatsumomo's puppet. More power in the hands of a woman who hates Mameha and Sayuri would be disastrous.

Where do Mameha and Sayuri meet the Chairman and Nobu?

The Chairman's business partner, Nobu, doesn't like geisha. But he loves sumo. Sayuri softens him up by asking him to explain the rules of the match to her.

Why does Mameha cut Sayuri's leg?

Dr. Crab is a potential bidder on Sayuri's mizuage. By giving Sayuri a flesh wound, Mameha has created an excuse for Crab to see more of her body than he normally could have, hopefully stirring up his interest.

At the sakura (cherry blossom) viewing party, how does the Baron get Sayuri alone?

The Baron also says that he has a present for her, a kimono. But Sayuri balks when he wants her to try it on in front of him, leading to a wrestling match in which he partially undresses her by force.

Why is Mameha angry at Sayuri after the party?

Mameha must know that if the Baron had sex with Sayuri, it would have been rape, yet she doesn't seem sympathetic at all. The only thing that matters to Mameha is keeping Sayuri's reputation safe until her mizuage (ritual deflowering).

What price does Dr. Crab pay for Sayuri's mizuage?

The "mizuage" is the honor of deflowering a geisha, at least in the film. But other sources note that "mizuage" is simply a coming-out party for a maiko when she becomes a full geisha.

Who was the actual highest bidder for Sayuri's mizuage?

Mameha says that she let everyone believe the highest bidder was Dr. Crab, for reasons Mameha says Sayuri will understand. It's likely that her reason was her personal feelings for the Baron. Or perhaps she didn't want to give Sayuri to a man who'd treated her so roughly at the sakura-viewing party.

Whom does Mrs. Nitta adopt, making her the heiress to the okiya?

This devastates Pumpkin, who had counted on inheriting the okiya to secure her future. Kind-hearted Sayuri suggests that Nitta could adopt both of them, but Mrs. Nitta rejects this idea.

How does the fire in the okiya start?

Hastumomo and Sayuri fight over the Chairman's handkerchief, which Hatsumomo is threatening to burn. But even after the fire starts, Hatsumomo makes it worse by shattering lamps on the floor. It's her letter of resignation!

What happens to Hatsumomo after she is kicked out of the okiya?

Actually, any of the previous three answers seem like a likely possibility. But we never learn Hatsumomo's fate.

When the war comes, to what city are Sayuri and Mameha supposed to be relocated?

The Chairman says that Osaka will be a target in the war, and he and Nobu arrange for Mameha and Sayuri to be sent elsewhere. When looking for the two women, the Chairman asks people, "Have you seen Sayuri?" not "Mameha and Sayuri," indicating his deep feelings for the geisha that his friend Nobu likes.

What does Sayuri do up in the hills, during the war?

We see Sayuri at work, rinsing dyed material in a creek and hanging it up to dry. She describes her life as "work ... rice ... work ...rice." (We've had days like that, except with us it was coffee).

Who comes to visit Sayuri after the war is over?

Nobu probably has ulterior motives for coming to see Sayuri (like being in love). But his purpose is to ask her to put on her geisha kimono once again and entertain American military men who can provide funding for the Chairman and Nobu's factory.

Why does Sayuri arrange to meet Colonel Derricks privately?

Sayuri asks Pumpkin to "accidentally" bring Nobu to the spot where she'll meet Derricks, knowing Nobu could never love her again if he saw her having sex with the American colonel. She wants to dissuade him from becoming her danna, to clear the way for the Chairman.

What happens when Sayuri arranges the tryst with Derricks?

Pumpkin claimed earlier that she wasn't carrying a grudge over Sayuri, taking Nitta's okiya from her. But we learn that she was lying. She tells Sayuri "Now you know how it feels" to lose the one thing you really want.

Who is waiting for Sayuri at the teahouse, at the film's end?

The film comes to a surprisingly happy ending. The Chairman isn't angry about what Sayuri did with Colonel Derricks, although Nobu is. This gets Nobu out of the way, and the Chairman and Sayuri can, at last, be together.

In addition to confessing his love, what else does the Chairman tell Sayuri at the teahouse?

The Chairman never forgot the girl on the bridge. He arranged for Mameha to train Sayuri to become a geisha -- but then he stepped aside when it seemed that his friend, Nobu, might find happiness with Sayuri.

What was controversial about the film "Memoirs of a Geisha?"

One of the producers of "Memoirs" said that no Japanese actresses turned up at an open casting call for the film (which sounds odd, given the demand for any role in a major Hollywood production). The real issue might have been finding stars as bankable as Gong Li and Michelle Yeoh for the roles of Hatsumomo and Mameha.

The word "geisha" most literally translates to what?

The kanji that make up the word "geisha" are "art" and "doer." Geisha learn several arts -- including conversation, which definitely counts but is rarely practiced as such anymore!

Who wrote the book, "Memoirs of a Geisha?"

Arthur Golden is related to the Sulzberger family, who own the New York Times. Mineko Iwasaki, incidentally, was a former geisha whom he interviewed for the book, and on whom he modeled many aspects of Sayuri.

Ted Levine, who played macho Colonel Derricks, had which very different role earlier in his career?

Ted Levine generally plays straitlaced, masculine characters, like his long run as Captain Stottlemeyer on "Monk." But early in his career, he was the creepy serial killer keeping girls in a well in "Silence of the Lambs."

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