Nitta Sayuri reveals how she transcended her fishing-village roots and became one of Japan's most celebrated geisha.


Rob Marshall


Robin Swicord (screenplay), Arthur Golden (book)
1,037 ( 1)
Won 3 Oscars. Another 29 wins & 47 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Suzuka Ohgo ... Chiyo
Togo Igawa ... Tanaka
Mako ... Sakamoto
Samantha Futerman ... Satsu
Elizabeth Sung ... Sakamoto's Wife
Thomas Ikeda Thomas Ikeda ... Mr. Bekku
Gong Li ... Hatsumomo
Tsai Chin ... Auntie
Kaori Momoi ... Mother
Zoe Weizenbaum ... Young Pumpkin
David Okihiro David Okihiro ... Shamisen Teacher
Miyako Tachibana Miyako Tachibana ... Dance Teacher
Kotoko Kawamura Kotoko Kawamura ... Granny
Karl Yune ... Koichi
Eugenia Yuan ... Korin


In the 1920s, 9-year-old Chiyo gets sold to a geisha house. There, she is forced into servitude, receiving nothing in return until the house's ruling hierarchy determines if she is of high enough quality to service the clientele -- men who visit and pay for conversation, dance and song. After rigorous years of training, Chiyo becomes Sayuri, a geisha of incredible beauty and influence. Life is good for Sayuri, but World War II is about to disrupt the peace. Written by Jwelch5742

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


A world of mystery threatened by destruction. See more »


Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for mature subject matter and some sexual content | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


The sumo wrestlers depicted in the film all had character and sumo names for the film. It was decided in the final credits to just call them sumo wrestlers. See more »


When Chiyo/Sayuri and Pumpkin are listening on Mrs. Nitta and Mameha's discussion of Chiyo's future, and the camera zooms in on the girls' eyes peering through the crack in the door, Chiyo's eyes move very fast and you can clearly see Chiyo's blue contact, since it does not move with the rest of her eye. See more »


Narrator (Old Sayuri): The winter I turned fifteen I saw the chairman again, but that wasn't the only surprise fate brought me that season. Along with the snow came a most unexpected visitor.
Mother: Why is she here? Chiyo, Chiyo, open the gate!
[motioning for her to open the door and straigtening herself before going to her table]
Mameha: Now that your beloved granny has gone you have no need for a maid.
Mother: I would never question the great Mameha, but you could choose anyone in the Hanamachi.
Mameha: You flatter me, truly.
See more »

Crazy Credits

No studio logos are shown at the beginning. They however appear shortened after the end credits and are accompanied by the film's score. See more »


Referenced in RuPaul's Drag Race: Once Upon a Queen (2010) See more »


Kanjincho (The Subscription List)
(ca 1840)
Written by Rokusaburo Kineya (as Kineya Rokusaburo)
Performed by Ensemble Nipponia
Courtesy of Nonesuch Records
By Arrangement with Warner Music Group Film & TV Licensing
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User Reviews

A work of art, beautifully shot, acted and scored
6 December 2005 | by glenno-4See all my reviews

Just saw a Writers Guild screening. I feel like I just walked through a museum packed with gorgeous Japanese art and paintings of Japan (Kyoto), all set in motion. Rob Marshall has done it again. So have director of photography Dion Beebe and production designer John Myhre -- for the story is told as much through their work as the writers' and actors'.

Without revealing anything of the plot: The story unfolds gently, at a pace all its own, pulling you along its unexpected paths with a sense of mystery. Emotions simmer beneath the surface for a long time -- I felt a bit of distance from the characters for a long time, which seems quite intentional. This is how the geisha must live, emotionally distant. But this only serves to heighten the impact when emotions pour forth at climactic moments. Another director could easily fallen into the trap of melodrama. Thankfully Marshall never did

The experience of watching this film is mesmerizing. Not only is it beautiful, but the acting is terrific all around. I didn't want it to end. Can't wait to see it again to soak in the atmosphere and story more deeply. The use of color alone is worth studying closely. Later revelations paint certain characters in whole new lights, so I look forward to watching those performances again more omnisciently, to see nuances I'd missed.

Many epics have simple stories at their core, and while this story is ultimately in that vein, it plays against a grand backdrop of a little known world and fascinating historical period.

I must also mention the music. Beautiful. It does not sound at all like John Williams -- he lost himself in the place and period, and created a score of haunting simplicity that matches the visual beauty and evokes the world of the geisha. No grand orchestral melodies. It's all mood. Yo-Yo Ma's cello and Itzhak Perlman's violin are of course amazing, joined by traditional Japanese instruments (played by artists who did so from memory because they did not read the Western notation). Lovely blend of East and West.

BTW: After the screening, there was a Q&A with screenwriter Robin Swicord who generously spoke at length about the rewarding development and film-making process, working with Marshall, the production designer, the actors, etc., as well as discussing the novel and adaptation with author Arthur Golden. One key change Swicord made toward the end of the movie (without giving anything away) was something he said he wished he'd done, something it turned out he'd cut out of an earlier draft. Interesting.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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USA | Japan | France


English | Japanese

Release Date:

23 December 2005 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Memoirs of a Geisha See more »


Box Office


$85,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$682,504, 11 December 2005

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS



Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
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