Memoirs of a Geisha


Chapter 6, Page 115
          Hatsumomo arrives drunk with her friend Korin shortly after Chiyo’s arrival at the Okiya, with a package in hand. Hatsumomo had caught the maid of her great adversary, Mameha, in a situation with the theater director. She blackmails the maid into first buying her a kamono to add to her collection, and then taking one of Mameha's most legendary kimono out to her. Hatsumomo, true to form, forces Chiyo to ruin the dear kimono out of envy and as an effort to get Chiyo in trouble. Hatsumomo tells Chiyo to practice her calligraphy and ruins the kimono irreversibly with ink. Then she makes Chiyo hand the ruined kimono to the shamed maid who was at the beginning responsible. Chiyo is, naturally caught, but though not a soul doubts it was Hatsumomo who actually ruined it, the technicality of Chiyo being the one holding the brush is what everyone is fixated on. The cost of the kimono is added to her debts, which Chiyo soon finds out are extensive - she has to pay for her education, her provisions, and even her purchase price to the Okiya when she becomes a geisha. Debts she can never repay as a mere maid.

            What this scene shows is the Japanese material culture. Mother, the one charging Chiyo with her debts, has nothing more than money and greed on her mind; elements of material culture. Hatsumomo suffers from the same illness; she values her own kimono so highly it rates above many of the people in her life. Though there are elements of non material culture as well. The kimono itself is a treasured cultural piece as is the calligraphy Chiyo writes upon the silk. Chiyo as Sayuri later has many incidents involving kimono, no to pleasant ones at that. These elements helped me understand the way Sayuri acted towards the kimono wearing people around her. The kimono showed wealth and beauty, it was there for every one to see, for everyone to long after it. Chiyo did just that, though she was more awed than anything else.The kamono was also a important part of many of there stories, plays and dances. As for Sayuri clinging to her trinkets like mother and Hatsumomo, acting like the daughter of a poor low class laborer, she never did. It help me to understand the differences in rank in their foreign society. Over all highly important stuff.