Translator’s Note and Chapters 1–3
The novel opens with a prefatory chapter written by a fictitious professor of Japanese history named Jakob Haarhuis. He explains that the book is the result of his interviews with a retired geisha named Sayuri.
Chapter 1 opens in the first-person voice of Sayuri, which will be sustained throughout the entire novel. She tells about her childhood in the small fishing village of Yoroido, where she (then called “Chiyo”), her older sister (Satsu), and her parents live a simple life. When Chiyo is nine and her sister is fifteen, their mother becomes deathly ill. On an errand, Chiyo falls and hurts herself. Tanaka Ichiro, the wealthy owner of the Japan Coastal Seafood Company that sustains the town, tends to her. He knows her family’s difficult situation.
Tanaka visits Chiyo’s father, and she is certain that he plans to adopt her and her sister after their mother dies. But instead, they go on a train to the faraway big city of Kyoto, where they are separated.
Chiyo’s new home is a geisha house (called an “okiya”), whose resident geisha is Hatsumomo. She soon learns that Hatsumomo’s beauty is equaled by her wickedness. Auntie, Mother, and Granny are the owners of the house. Chiyo also meets another girl, who is her age and who is currently working as a servant while she awaits geisha training. If Chiyo works hard, she may have the same opportunity.
(The entire section is 1461 words.)
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