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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Memoirs of a Geisha can be found here.
Memoirs of a Geisha (1997) is a novel written by American author Arthur Golden. The novel was adapted for the screen by American screenwriter Robin Swicord.
When Sayuri (Suzuka Ohgo) was still a young girl, the Chairman (Ken Watanabe) saw her crying and wiped away her tears with his handkerchief. Sayuri held onto that handkerchief to provide her with the motivation and hope that she could one day be a companion to the Chairman.
That was rice flour. Having a geisha's hair done was a long and arduous process, so they were taught to sleep on a raised pillow, and rice flour was placed around their head to remind them not to fall off the pillow. If they did, it meant returning to the hairdresser to have your hair done all over again.
That was actually wax. Wax was usually combed into the hair of most geisha in order to maintain their hairstyles. However, because of its obvious texture, the use of wax for hairstyling proved to be an extremely painful process for almost all geisha.
The shamisen, literally "three flavor strings".
It was a ploy to get the doctor hot and bothered enough that he would enter the bidding war for Sayuri's virginity. A true Geisha rarely revealed any skin other than the nape of the neck and a glimpse of wrist, so the revelation of Sayuri's leg is a deliberate enticement.
Sayuri never saw Satsu (Samantha Futerman) again after she successfully escaped from the Miyagawa-Cho District. In the book on which the film is based, Satsu is implied to have returned to their village and then run away with the son of a local fisherman.
After returning from the trip with the Chairman, Nobu, and the Colonel, Sayuri is summoned to the teahouse. She assumes that Nobu wants to see her, to finalize the arrangements to become her danna, since her plan to have him catch her with the Colonel backfired. Instead, the Chairman meets her there. He reveals that he has had feelings for Sayuri all along but hid them when he saw how happy she made Nobu (to whom the Chairman owes his life). Only after he saw her with the Colonel did he realize that she didn't return Nobu's affection--nor did Nobu want her after he found out. They kiss, and the older Sayuri explains in voice-over how she could never become his wife but found happiness nevertheless.
The novel provides a few more details into Sayuri's later life. The Chairman becomes her danna, but moves her into the country so Nobu will not have to see them together. He convinces Mother to release her from the okiya. They live happily for many years, with the Chairman spending a majority of his nights with Sayuri, until she is rumored to have had his illegitimate son, which jeopardizes the future of his business (whether she has truly had his child is never confirmed, though strongly implied). In order to protect his interests (and possibly their child), Sayuri suggests that the Chairman send her to America, where she sets up a small teahouse in New York and lives out the rest of her life in comfort.
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