Memoirs of a Geisha

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The novel’s antagonist, Hatsumomo is the most beautiful and the cruelest geisha in the book. Though she hides her cruel nature from the men she entertains, Hatsumomo insults or sabotages anyone she dislikes. Jealous of any geisha who might be prettier than her, Hatsumomo fears that Sayuri will replace her as the most popular geisha in Kyoto. As a result, Hatsumomo tries to ruin Sayuri’s career by spreading malicious rumors about her. When Sayuri does surpass her as a geisha, Hatsumomo loses confidence in her abilities as a geisha and begins to drink heavily. After damaging her own reputation beyond repair, Hatsumomo leaves Kyoto in shame, most likely to become a prostitute.

Hatsumomo Quotes in Memoirs of a Geisha

The Memoirs of a Geisha quotes below are all either spoken by Hatsumomo or refer to Hatsumomo . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of Memoirs of a Geisha published in 1999.
Chapter 4 Quotes

“I’ve found a place to spend my life. I'll work as hard as I have to so they don't send me away. But I'd sooner throw myself off a cliff than spoil my chances to be a geisha like Hatsumomo.”

Related Characters: Pumpkin (speaker), Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto, Hatsumomo
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Chiyo gets to know Pumpkin, one of the young women in the okiya. Pumpkin is an young woman who aspires to do nothing in life but be a geisha. She looks up to geishas in the okiya, such as Hatsumomo, a proud, cruel, but beautiful geisha. Pumpkin even claims that she'd rather die than give up on becoming a geisha: it's the best life she can imagine for herself.

The passage is tragic because it underscores how imprisoned and hopeless some of the residents of the okiya are. Pumpkin is a kind young woman, but she's been convinced that her only chance for success in life is to become a geisha. Even more tragically, Pumpkin might be right: while it's demeaning, sexist work in some ways, working as a geisha affords young women from poor backgrounds an incredible opportunity for social mobility. In short, being a geisha means both freedom and imprisonment.

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Chapter 5 Quotes

You see, when a geisha wakes up in the morning she is just like any other woman. Her face may be greasy from sleep, and her breath unpleasant. It may be true that she wears a startling hairstyle even as she struggles to open her eyes; but in every other respect she's a woman like any other, and not a geisha at all. Only when she sits before her mirror to apply her makeup with care does she become a geisha. And I don't mean that this is when she begins to look like one. This is when she begins to think like one too.

Related Characters: Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto (speaker), Hatsumomo
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Chiyo watches as a popular geisha, Hatusomomo, wakes up and puts on her makeup. As she watches, Sayuri notes that a geisha first waking up is just like any other woman: greasy skin, bad breath, etc. A woman becomes a geisha, however, when she puts on her makeup and uses artifice and decoration to make herself look beautiful in a certain way. Being a geisha isn't just a combination of appearances, though--it's a state of mind. As Sayuri implies, geishas are highly trained professionals, taught how to be civil and charming at all times; in other words, taught to think like geishas. Even though being a geisha is largely about outward appearances, it's also about cultivating a certain mental image of oneself, too.

In fact, a geisha leaves a tiny margin of skin bare all around the hairline, causing her makeup to look even more artificial, something like a mask worn in Noh drama. When a man sits beside her and sees her makeup like a mask, he becomes that much more aware of the bare skin beneath.

Related Characters: Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto (speaker), Hatsumomo
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:

Chiyo watches as the popular geisha Hatsumomo puts on her makeup; as she watches, she describes the way that a geisha decorates her own face. A geisha wears extremely thick makeup, to the point where the contours of the face are largely hidden. And yet the geisha also doesn't try to pretend that the thick white makeup is the same color and texture as her skin; on the contrary, she makes it clear that the makeup is artificial, leaving a thin layer of naked skin around her forehead.

The geisha's makeup is highly erotic, though the eroticism of the makeup could easily be lost on readers. Paradoxically, the whole point of thick, heavy makeup isn't to disguise the skin so much as it is to encourage the client to think about the skin underneath. Appearances are important to geishas, but not just as ends in themselves; rather, they're designed to communicate something about what lies beneath, either literally or metaphorically.

Chapter 7 Quotes

Auntie took Hatsumomo by the arms and held her from behind, while Mother began to pull open the seams of Hatsumomo's kimono at the thigh. I thought Hatsumomo would resist, but she didn't. She looked at me with cold eyes as Mother gathered up the koshimaki and pushed her knees apart. Then Mother reached up between her legs, and when her hand came out again her fingertips were wet. She rubbed her thumb and fingers together for a time, and then smelled them. After this she drew back her hand and slapped Hatsumomo across the face, leaving a streak of moisture.

Related Characters: Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto (speaker), Hatsumomo , Mother/Ms. Nitta , Auntie
Page Number: 91
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Mother accuses Hatsumomo of having spent time with her boyfriend; i.e., having had sex with a man who wasn't a client--a major no-no for a geisha. To Chiyo's great surprise, Hatsumomo doesn't resist when Mother feels her genitalia to determine if she's been having sex. Hatsumomo's passivity suggests that after years of working as a geisha, she's become numb to the idea that her body and sexuality belong to somebody else, whether it's Mother or a client.

Mother seems to determine that Hatsumomo has, indeed, been having sex with someone who's not a client, as she immediately slaps Hatsumomo--a major event, as Hatsumomo is usually the favorite of the okiya, and the one in the position of power. Mother, however, is concerned only with money, and she treats her geishas like objects or products that must be kept in good condition.

Chapter 12 Quotes

“When I say successful, I mean a geisha who has earned her independence. Until a geisha has assembled her own collection of kimono – or until she's been adopted as the daughter of an okiya, which is just about the same thing –she'll be in someone else's power all her life.”

Related Characters: Mameha (speaker), Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto, Hatsumomo
Page Number: 146
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Mameha tells Chiyo about the importance of independence in a geisha's life. A geisha can be extremely popular and well-liked, but she might not be very successful. A successful geisha is one who's gained some measure of independence from her clients and patrons--i..e, a geisha who's earned enough money to support herself. A geisha with her own source of money doesn't have to rely on her clients to support her and feed her, and therefore she can be choosier with her clients, and more selective about what they do together.

In short, Mameha complicates our understanding of geishas so far. A geisha, in Golden's previous descriptions, was basically a slave. Now, we're told that geishas have a way out, at least up to a point: if they make enough money they can take some control over their destinies. Mameha is wise enough to realize that popularity counts only in the way it can bring in richer clients, which can then lead to greater independence. By passing on such a lesson to Chiyo, it's implied, she trains Chiyo to think long-term and value her own freedom.

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Hatsumomo Character Timeline in Memoirs of a Geisha

The timeline below shows where the character Hatsumomo appears in Memoirs of a Geisha. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
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...Chiyo has ever imagined. Little did Chiyo know at the time that this woman was Hatsumomo, a geisha renowned in Kyoto for her beauty and cruelty. As Hatsumomo walks out, she... (full context)
Chapter 4
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Around three weeks after her arrival at the okiya, Chiyo is cleaning Hatsumomo’s room when Hatsumomo comes in. Hatsumomo says that Chiyo shouldn’t touch the makeup containers, because... (full context)
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...by the slap, Chiyo stumbles out of the room and falls to the ground. Seeing Hatsumomo slap Chiyo, Mother calls Chiyo into her room. Mother scolds Chiyo, saying that she must... (full context)
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...jokes that she’ll teach Chiyo how to sing as long as Chiyo survives living with Hatsumomo long enough to learn. (full context)
Chapter 5
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That afternoon, Hatsumomo brings Chiyo to the Registry Office for geisha who reside in the Gion district of... (full context)
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That evening back at the okiya, Hatsumomo lets Chiyo watch her put on the geisha makeup as part of the tradition. Chiyo... (full context)
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Hatsumomo then puts on the many layers of the kimono. Every okiya has a professional dresser... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...junior geisha in the okiya is to stay up late into the night, waiting for Hatsumomo to come home from entertaining men, so that Chiyo can help her undress. While waiting... (full context)
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...whom Chiyo thinks looks like a workman comes into the okiya. A few minutes later, Hatsumomo arrives. Hatsumomo says that she has yet to make Chiyo’s life really miserable, but if... (full context)
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Once a week, Hatsumomo and the man – who is a chef at a nearby noodle restaurant – come... (full context)
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On another night, Hatsumomo comes home drunk with her geisha friend Korin. Hatsumomo shows Korin a beautiful kimono that... (full context)
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Hatsumomo and Korin walk Chiyo to Mameha’s home so that she can return the ruined kimono.... (full context)
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The next day, after Chiyo returns to the okiya from school, Mother and Granny tell Hatsumomo and Chiyo that they had a visit from Mameha. Before Mother can say anything else,... (full context)
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...her life can’t get any worse. Every time the pole hits her bottom, Chiyo sees Hatsumomo smiling down at her. In tears at the end of the beating, Chiyo lies on... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...what the word means the next day. Auntie says that it’s the sort of place Hatsumomo will end up if she gets what she deserves. Chiyo wants to look for Satsu... (full context)
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...Chiyo receives an order one night from a senior maid to go out to give Hatsumomo her shamisen (instrument). Chiyo decides that this is her chance to see Satsu. Not telling... (full context)
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...in a side room. Thinking it’s a rat, she goes to investigate, only to find Hatsumomo on her back with her boyfriend between her legs. Hatsumomo glances at Chiyo, but the... (full context)
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Taking her anger out on Chiyo, Hatsumomo says that Chiyo wasn’t at the okiya when she came home. Hatsumomo accuses Chiyo of... (full context)
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Waking up all the maids, Hatsumomo bangs on Mother’s door until she comes out. Hatsumomo says she saw Chiyo selling Hatsumomo’s... (full context)
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Mother then turns to Hatsumomo and accuses her of having her boyfriend over. When Hatsumomo denies it, Mother makes the... (full context)
Chapter 9
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At that moment, Auntie tells Chiyo to go to the geisha school to bring Hatsumomo a hair ornament. Hatsumomo is at the school because geisha continue to take lessons for... (full context)
Chapter 10
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...tomorrow afternoon. At her apartment the next day, Mameha offers Chiyo tea. She says that Hatsumomo must treat Chiyo terribly, because Hatsumomo is jealous of anyone she thinks is prettier than... (full context)
Chapter 11
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...portion of the apprentices’ income. Chiyo, however, had no one to be her older sister. Hatsumomo would never have done it, and few other geisha would risk Hatsumomo’s wrath by taking... (full context)
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...Mother asks her why Mameha would want to be her older sister. At that moment, Hatsumomo comes into the room and casually says that Mameha is just trying to annoy Hatsumomo... (full context)
Chapter 12
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...shamisen together at the okiya everyday, laughing and enjoying each other’s company. But one day Hatsumomo finds them together practicing. She tells Pumpkin never to say another word to Chiyo again,... (full context)
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Mameha explains that Hatsumomo hasn’t had a danna in a very long time. Generally, the female managers of teahouses... (full context)
Chapter 13
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...Dressed in the kimono of the apprentice, Pumpkin heads out to perform a ceremony with Hatsumomo that will bind them as sisters. Seeing them going off, Chiyo feels jealous that she... (full context)
Chapter 14
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...beautiful tinkling sound more lovely than a waterfall.” After Mameha concludes the story, Pumpkin and Hatsumomo come into the teahouse and sit down with the group. (full context)
Chapter 15
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Hatsumomo laughs and says she just remembered the funniest story about Sayuri. Hatsumomo says she was... (full context)
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...at the okiya after bathing and removing her makeup, Sayuri is talking to Auntie when Hatsumomo comes home and slaps Sayuri across the face. Sayuri is so stunned by the slap... (full context)
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The next night, Mameha and Sayuri go to another party, but Hatsumomo and Pumpkin show up shortly after they arrive. Mameha and Sayuri leave so that Hatsumomo... (full context)
Chapter 16
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...directors of the Iwamura Electric company. Mameha says that the match is sold out, so Hatsumomo will have no way to get inside and ruin their time. When they get to... (full context)
Chapter 17
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During the next match, Sayuri notices out of the corner of her eye Hatsumomo staring at her. When she sees her, Sayuri feels as if she has touched an... (full context)
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Mameha tells Sayuri that Hatsumomo will leave her alone if Hatsumomo thinks that Sayuri is already embarrassing herself. Mameha explains... (full context)
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...over Nobu, showing interest in whatever he says about sumo. When Sayuri looks over in Hatsumomo’s direction, she sees Hatsumomo clapping in delight over Sayuri’s apparent affection for “Mr. Lizard.” To... (full context)
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...casts down her eyes and makes her lip tremble, hoping that this display will convince Hatsumomo of her infatuation with Nobu. Seeing her hurt, Nobu apologizes and says that she is... (full context)
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...occur, Mameha whispers to Sayuri that she just got an idea for how to throw Hatsumomo off balance. (full context)
Chapter 18
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...has a tear near the thigh. Mameha explains that she has a plan for making Hatsumomo stop following them, but for it to work, Sayuri must seduce two men: Nobu, and... (full context)
Chapter 19
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...with Nobu and the Chairman. Before going out every night, Sayuri tells Auntie – in Hatsumomo’s presence – that she’s going to meet Nobu. Since she thinks Sayuri is embarrassing herself... (full context)
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...of geisha are entertaining Nobu, the Chairman, and some other businessmen at a teahouse when Hatsumomo appears. All night, Sayuri doesn’t even look at the Chairman for fear that her eyes... (full context)
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To convince Hatsumomo that she likes Nobu and not the Chairman, Sayuri loosens one of her ornaments so... (full context)
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A few months later, Hatsumomo brags to Sayuri that she and Pumpkin will be leading the German Ambassador around Gion.... (full context)
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Distressed that her plan is falling apart, Mameha tells Sayuri to ask Pumpkin how Hatsumomo found out about Dr. Crab. Sayuri asks why they need the Doctor’s help anyway. Though... (full context)
Chapter 20
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On the night Sayuri has this conversation with Mameha, she stays up until Pumpkin and Hatsumomo come home from entertaining. Hatsumomo tells Pumpkin to go out and buy her some noodles.... (full context)
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Pumpkin says that Hatsumomo suspected that Sayuri and Mameha were planning something when Sayuri didn’t seem dejected about Hatsumomo... (full context)
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Sayuri thanks Pumpkin for the info. Sayuri apologizes that Pumpkin is stuck with Hatsumomo as an older sister. Pumpkin says that at least some good has come from it:... (full context)
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...Sayuri tells her what Pumpkin said. Mameha says that if they convince the Doctor that Hatsumomo was lying, then perhaps they can still start a bidding war. If the price gets... (full context)
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...a way to contact Dr. Crab, who hasn’t called upon their company since talking with Hatsumomo. After asking around town, Mameha finds out that Dr. Crab is at a party being... (full context)
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Mameha tries to laugh off the matter, saying that Hatsumomo has been spreading this rumor out of jealousy, because Sayuri took a major part in... (full context)
Chapter 24
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Before Sayuri’s mizuage, Mother didn’t care that Hatsumomo was causing Sayuri trouble in Gion, since Hatsumomo was the only one bringing in an... (full context)
Chapter 25
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Now that Sayuri is free to go to parties with Hatsumomo following her, Mameha takes her around Gion, introducing Sayuri to her wealthiest clients. Sayuri finds... (full context)
Chapter 27
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...Sayuri that in the last six months she has earned more than either Pumpkin or Hatsumomo. Mother says that this means it’s time for Sayuri to get Hatsumomo’s bigger room. For... (full context)
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One afternoon, Hatsumomo begins moving her belongings into Sayuri’s room. Hatsumomo makes a ruckus, leaving her clothes all... (full context)
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In the room, Sayuri sees on the messy floor the emerald brooch that Hatsumomo had accused Sayuri of stealing years ago. Sayuri takes the brooch and the journal and... (full context)
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Sayuri denies having a journal, and Hatsumomo goes to Sayuri’s room, frantically searching for the journal to no avail. Mother and Sayuri... (full context)
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Sayuri feels that her relationship with Hatsumomo begins to shift after that day. With Sayuri now so clearly the more important geisha... (full context)
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At Mameha’s apartment the next day, Sayuri tells her what happened with Hatsumomo. Mameha says they should make Hatsumomo’s life even more difficult so that she will continue... (full context)
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...Mameha comes to the okiya around dusk and waits to walk out the door behind Hatsumomo. Sayuri and Mameha then follow her from engagement to engagement all evening. On the first... (full context)
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One afternoon, they follow Hatsumomo to a teahouse where she is entertaining one of her most loyal clients, a Kabuki... (full context)
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Hatsumomo shouts that he’s making a fool of himself. Saying that Hatsumomo is just jealous, Shojiro... (full context)
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Hatsumomo doesn’t return to the okiya until the next day. Her hair is in disarray, she... (full context)
Chapter 34
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...her. Sayuri sees Pumpkin’s face suddenly become consumed with anger, as if the spirit of Hatsumomo had been trapped inside of her and suddenly broke free. (full context)