Memoirs of a Geisha /SAYURI
Around August 20, 2004, I was astonished to be informed of the possibility of Koji Yakusho appearing in a
Hollywood movie, entitled Memoirs of a Geisha to be directed by Rob Marshall. Earlier this year, I had read in a
newspaper article that Ken Watanabe would appear in the movie; yet never had I imagined that Koji Yakusho
himself would appear in any movie overseas, as he had continued saying that he would rather work with Japanese
directors than appear in overseas movies. Indeed, he had repeatedly insisted that his utmost happiness was the
thought that those of his movies produced in Japan would appeal to overseas audiences, too.
The present news thus struck me quite out of the blue! And I have become very busy ever since, ordering both the
English version of the novel by Arthur Golden as well as the Japanes-translated version entitled, "SAYURI".
However, on actually reading the novel, mainly in the Japanese version, I was deeply impressed by the character
called Nobu Toshikazu whom Koji Yakusho would reportedly portray. I realized then why Yakusho had agreed to
appear in this movie, which incidentally has become quite controversial mainly in due to the fact that the three
major Geisha roles are to be performed by leading Chinese actresses. Indeed, I came to think that Yakusho might
possibly be the only Japanese actor who could perform such a tragic and complicated character as that of Nobu
Then on September 9, Yakusho's official website formally announced that Yakusho would indeed appear in
Memoirs of a Geisha. The report stated that he had actually been asked at an earlier stage to appear in this movie
by the director, Rob Marshall, but because of delays in developing the scenario, Yakusho and his staff had been
cautious in deciding whether or not he should accept the offer, having regard to his current work commitment.
The following section is Pymmik's reports and comments concerning Koji Yakusho and Memoirs of a
Geisha/SAYURI. (The starting date was February 13, 2005)
Continued to SILK
(The Japanese SILK official site)
February 2, 2006
With the news that Memoirs of a Geisha/SAYURI will finish showing in Japan on February 3 and that this movie
has gained 6 Oscar nominations, I am going to close down Pymmik's report and comment today, February 2.
Thanks so much for visiting this page: it has gained 16050 access numbers as of today
The comment page on“Memoirs of a Geisha" (SAYURI), however, will be renewed as soon as any new comment
Those who are interested in Koji Yakusho and the old fantasy side of Japan, “Memoirs of a Geisha” will likely be
superseded by a movie, called “SILK” which is due to be released in 2007.
Kaijushakedown site recently put an interesting info. on “SILK” as follows.
"The light just turned green for Francois Girard's SILK, a movie starring Koji Yakusho, Keira Knightley and
Alfred Molina. The flick's international rights look to be split between Picturehouse and New Line International and
filming is set to start in late February, 2006.
Based on Alessandro Baricco's bestselling book, SILK, the movie "...follows a 19th century French silkworm
merchant Herve Joncour as he travels to Japan and embarks upon a secret affair with a mysterious woman."
The president of Picturehouse says, "Silk is a sweeping erotic tale..."
Ah, yes - Japan: a land of mystery and secrets and sweeping eroticism. Didn't we just see this movie? Wasn't it
called MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA? Didn't it have Koji Yakusho in it?”
Nobu of “Memoirs of a Geisha” will appear as a demonic and mysterious noble lord in the 1860’s.
On Jan 26, Koji Yakusho's office announced that "SAYURI" would finish its road show in Japan on February 3
On January 14, Koji's new film "The Uchoten Hotel" was finally released nationwide. "SAYURI" is still on the
road show, so Koji fans now have a chance to see both "The Uchoten Hotel " and "SAYURI". In Ginza, Tokyo,
the movie theaters showing those two films are in the same cinema complex. Asked about his rival film at a film
conference, Koki Mitani, the director of "The Uchoten Hotel" said, "It's SAYURI. Koji Yakusho is in SAYURI,
and director Rob Marshall and I are both from stage plays."
Shizuko Hoshi and Tsai Chin
Today I was so surprised to find that Shizuko Hoshi, who did the narration as senior Sayuri, was the wife of
MAKO, who played the role of Chiyo's father!! Please see her IMDb page.
When I first heard her speaking in the movie, I thought that the narrator must be an American lady; but when I
went to the movie for a second time, I caught a slight Japanese accent in her utterances. I checked on the IMDb
site and found that the narrator was actually a Japanese lady named Shizuko Hoshi. Never had I imagined,
however, that the narrator was actually Mako's wife! I clicked her name part on the "Memoirs of a Geisha" IMDb
site today and found out that information.
Talking of senior ladies in this movie, I liked Tsai Chin, who played the role of "Auntie". Despite her stern look, I
recognized a feeling of compassion and gentleness in her impressive eyes.
Koji Yakusho's office hasn't announced anything about it yet, but Koji seems likely to appear in a film adaptation
of Alessandro Baricco's bestselling novel 'SILK' together with Keira knightly and Michael Pitt. His role seems to be
that of a local Japanese baron, named Hara Kei!
On January 6, the Yamagata Shimbun Newspaper reported that the filming of "SILK" would be done from March
20 in Sakata city in Yamagata prefecture, adding that Koji Yakusho and the actress, Miki Nakatani are due to
appear in this film, too. Here is my new "SILK" page!
Thank you so much for visiting my SAYURI page.
Shall I tell you something interesting? According to today's page reports of the site statics, 99.42% use www.google.
com to come here, and 84.74% typed Suzuka Ohgo. For your reference, I translated the interview with Suzuka on
October 5, 2005 on this page.
January 6, 2006
Each movie theater showing "SAYURI" in Japan has displayed the eight posters of the lead roles of this film. If
you visit Michelle Yeoh's fan website, you can see them now.
The poster of Nobu is breathtakingly attractive!
Another The Japan Times review on SAYURI.
The Japan Times put the review on Memoirs of a Geisha/SAYURI today.
Today I saw "Memoirs of a Geisha" dubbed in Japanese. The Japanese lead roles were dubbed by the original cast,
namely Ken Watanabe, Koji Yakusho, Kaori Momoi, Youki Kudoh, and Suzuka Ohgo; the other roles were done
by Japanese dubbing specialists.
While watching the movie, I honestly felt quite comfortable, and I found that I understood the story better than in
the English version. Indeed, for those who cannot understand the English version very easily without the help of
Japanese subtitles (as I can usually do), dubbing into Japanese is really helpful. I felt quite at home when I heard
all the Japanese actors speaking in my mother tongue; I felt their emotions were better expressed in Japanese. The
non-Japanese actors and actresses performing the roles of Japanese characters had their roles dubbed by Japanese
dubbing specialists. Since the film was in Japanese, I was better able to concentrate my attention on such things as
gestures and facial expressions.
I especially liked the voice and the tone of the Japanese narrator of the part of old Sayuri.
You'll see a photo of Koji and his wife, actress, Saeko in Kimono. Koji looks so happy!
Koji's unique speech at the world premiere
After the showing of Memoirs of a Geisha/SAYURI at the world premiere in Tokyo, Rob Marshall, Zhang Ziyi,
Michell Yoeh, Ken Watanabe, Koji Yakusho, Kaori Momoi, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, and Suzuka Ohgo made brief
but impressive speeches. Koji Yakusho’s speech was unique and fun, which made the audience laugh a lot.
“I found this movie so beautiful and musically attractive. It is certainly a movie-like movie. But what a pity that
Sayuri has gone to the Chairman! Indeed I would need Part II of this movie, in which Nobu would appear at that
shed in Japanese man’s formal kimono, looking angry. Then on the screen, the title, say, “Memoirs of a Business
Man, Nobu," or, “Revenge of Nobu” or “The Return of Nobu” would appear. For that purpose, this movie must be
a big hit, so please talk about this movie to as many people as possible.”
Both Rob Marshall and Ken Watanabe laughed at Koji's speech.
I felt that Koji did indeed speak on behalf of Nobu fans. It also seemed to me that the Chairman's remark to Sayuri
about Nobu ( at the moment of the romantic love scene) sounded a bit harsh. After all, for the sake of love's
accomplishment, somebody's love had to be forsaken.
At the world premiere of “Memoirs of a Geisha/SAYURI” held at Ryogoku Kokugikan on November 30, I finally
saw Nobu on a big screen! He looked sharp-witted and intelligent; I was completely bowled over by his striking
appearance! Oh, he was indeed attractive!
What pleased me that evening was that Koji happened to sit just a few yards in front of me when the major cast and
Rob Marshall all sat on chairs set in the center of the theater to see the film. The pictures of the film were beautiful
and all the cast did portray their characters very well.
A few things surprised me about this film.
1. At the first scene, at Chiyo’s seaside cottage, the dialogue was in Japanese; and it was after Chiyo and Satsu
arrived at the Kyoto station, that English was first heard.
2. There were no scenes set in America, and the film ended at the love scene between the Chairman and Sayuri.
3. The narration was occasionally made by a senior native speaker lady as old Sayuri, not by Zhang Ziyi.
A photo at the world premiere of Memoirs of a Geisha at Ryogoku Kokugikan on November 29.
A press conference for "Memoirs of a Geisha/SAYURI" was held today in Tokyo; it was attended by director Rob
Marshall and most of the lead actors and actresses.
The January 2006 issue of the Japanese film and TV magazine, “Screen” has one page interviews with Ken
Watanabe and Koji Yakusho , respectively. Each interview seems to have been made on the same day, as one can
tell from their clothing. They also mention something similar about their experiences during the filming and their
views about the film. I surmise that they might have been answering questions put by representatives of the press.
(Photographers are different.)
However that may be, this magazine is worth getting for two reasons: one is the nice photo of Koji Yakusho and
Ken Watanabe, together with their autographs (printed in Japanese), and the other reason is that the DVD attached
to the magazine contains the Japanese version of the trailer of SAYURI, with some other new major films. (The
English translation of Koji's interview is now ready.)
Here are two photos of Ryogoku Kokugikan (taken by pymmik recently), where the world premiere of "The
Memoirs of a Geisha/Sayuri" is to be held on November 29.
Today I received two invitation tickets for the November 29th world premiere of “Memoirs of a Geisha/SAYURI” to
be held at Ryogoku Kokugikan. I must be very lucky because the enclosure note said that my application card was
selected from among nearly 8000 cards!
It turned out on November 15 that in the sumo scene in “Memoirs of a Geisha”, Mainoumi (sumo commentator
and former sumo wrestler) would play the role of Yokozuna Miyagiyama.
Mainoumi went to Los Angeles last December, together with former Gyoji（sumo referee）Kimura Shonosuke to
perform in the sumo scene. At first he thought that the film might be something like a comedy, but he was actually
very surprised to find that in the filming studio, the sumo situation in early Showa era was so well reproduced, even
to the extent of small details. He felt that everything looked real. It took him two hours to put on a wig as a sumo
wrestler. He was asked lots of questions by director Rob Marshall about sumo; and he realized then that Marshall
had done a lot more research about sumo than he had expected.
Mainoumi is to attend the world premiere of the “Memoirs of a Geisha at the Ryogoku Kokugikan on November 29.
Note: MAI means dancing and UMI means either the ocean or the sea. In looks he seems very close to the image of
Miyagiyama (Miyagi mountain) as described by Nobu in the novel.
Today I went to the special exhibition of "SAYURI" at Isetan Department Store to see some beautiful kimonos
worn by Sayuri, Okabo, Okami, Mameha, and Hatsumomo, some film photos and some miscellaneous items used
in the film.
What impressed me most there was the big photos of the lead characters hanging from the ceiling.
Each photo has kanji(Chinese character) expressions to show their characteristics:
Nobu ... yabou (ambition)
The Chairman ... ken-i (authority)
Okami ... keiryaku (stratagem)
Mameha ...yuga (elegance)
Hatsumomo ...youen (bewitching)
Chiyo ... muku(purity)
Sayuri ... kizen (fortitude)
The photo of Nobu was breathtakingly beautiful!
I have finished translating the interview with Koji in Crea.
What Youki Kudoh said in the interview about Koji was:
“My “Danna” in my heart is Yakusho-san! Although Yakusho-san and I were only in one scene in the film, I found
him so nice. His attitude was very natural but his resolute existence was quite outstanding. During the filming we
had one subject in common; I am now having a new house built at the foot of Mt. Fuji and Yakusho-san has got a
villa in the Yatsugatake mountain, so we enjoyed talking about the same subject each other. I liked him in that
sense, too. I would like to work together with him in a film in the future.”
The interviewer reported that Youki Kudoh looked blushed a little while talking about Koji. It could be said that
Pumpkin has fallen in love with Nobu!
The December issue of the entertainment magazine, "CREA" , published today, has the one page interview of
Zhang Ziyi, Koji Yakusho, and Youki Kudo respectively, with lovely photos of them.
I'm now pareparing for translating Koji's full interview and part of Youki Kudoh's interview; Youki Kudoh has
something nice to say about Koji.
In the December issue of "Nikkei Entertainment magazine" ( No. 105) published today, there is one page interview
of Ken Watanabe and Koji Yakusho respectively. Their interviews seemed to have been done on the same day: the
clothing they wore was the exactly the same as in the CINEMA SQUARE!
Here is Pymmik's unofficial translation of Koji's interview in this magazine.
I have tried to give the gist of Zhang Ziyi’s brief comments about Koji Yakusho and Ken Watanabe in the
interviews published in the two movie magazines, “Screen” and “Cinema Square”.
Zhang Ziyi found Koji Yakusho's acting very high-level and subtle. Although she had heard it said that he could not
speak English, he actually spoke very good English in the film.
Zhang found Ken Watanabe to be big and dignified in every manner rather like Chow Yun-Fat, and learned that he
was very popular in Hollywood.
In praising these two actors' performances, Zhang also said that she found Koji Yakusho and Ken Watanabe's
acting styles to be quite different.
SPOILER concerning Nobu
The featured articles of SAYURI in the latest issue of the movie magazine, CINEMA SQUARE have brief
introductory profiles on the main characters.
As for Nobu, we read, “ Nobu works as president of the Chairman’s company. In the past, he got wounded at war
trying to save the Chairman’s life. Nobu falls in love with Sayuri, but after becoming aware of Sayuri’s true feeling,
Koji certainly mentioned at the press conference held in Tokyo in January of this year that both the Chairman and
Nobu went to war, but this is a stunning and exciting alteration from the original story.
Those who want the film to be depicted in a manner faithful to the novel may not be happy with this sort of change,
but I would say that I prefer this, since it shows how deep and strong the friendship between the Chairman and
The December issue of the magazine, "Rentier" had a front cover photo of Koji Yakusho and put an interview with
him about SAYURI. You can see the photo if you click here. The photo was taken by a noted photographer, Osamu
The November issue of the movie magazine, "Cinema Square" put the interviews with Zhang Ziyi, Ken Watanabe,
and Koji Yakusho about SAYURI. Their remarks are quite interesting and each photo of them is very attractive. I
will try to summarize Koji's remark soon. (This section is now ready!)
The official website of SAYURI announces that the photo exhibition of Zhang Ziyi, under the title of “The Prime of
Beauty Seen in Her Latest Film, SAYURI” is due to be held at Isetan Department Store, Shinjuku, Tokyo from
November 9th (Wed) to 14th (Mon). The actual venue is a display section called, “Wakaba no Hiroba” on the
rooftop of the main building of the department store.
Some gorgeous clothing, including kimonos and some other miscellaneous items used for the film, will also be
displayed, together with more than 30 photos which have not been shown to the public previously. Admission is
On October 17, the “Latest Info” page on Koji Yakusho’s official website was renewed.
Following an introduction to SUYURI giving basic information, a brief comment on this film comes under the
heading of Koji Yakusho's first Hollywood film.
A breathtaking photo of Nobu is introduced on this page.
Here is Pymmik's unofficial translation on the brief comment:
"In this film, Japanese culture is not portrayed faithfully; instead, it is actually depicted based on those images of
Japanese beauty which director Rob Marshall has in mind. The subtleties of love between man and woman are also
well expressed through the scenes."
The Japanese publishers, BUNGEI-SHUNJU-SHA, who published the Japanese- translated version of “Memoirs of
a Geisha” in 1999 under the title of “SAYURI” have invited 100 couples to the Nov. 29 world premiere of this film
at Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo.
Those interested in this premiere are requested to apply to BUNGEI-SHUNJU-SHA by post-card not later than
The film is due to start at 7:00 p.m. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.
Webmaster's note: Only those with the special invitation ticket cards will be admitted to the premiere. Tickets are
not for sale to the general public.
The venue of the November 29 world premiere of “Memoirs of a Geisha /SAYURI” in Tokyo!
On October 10, Buena Bista announced that the world premiere of “Memoirs of a Geisha/ Sayuri” is due to be held
at Ryogoku Kokugikan,（the national sumo wrestling stadium.) on November 29.
Taking into consideration the fact that this film is supposed to be set in Kyoto, they say that they have decided on
the national sumo wrestling stadium because this venue has the Japanese atmosphere.
Ziyi Zhang, Ken Watanabe, Koji Yakusho, Michelle Yeoh, Li Gong, Kaori Momoi, Youki Kudoh and Suzuka Ohgo
will attend the premiere.
Pymmik's unofficial translation of an interview with Suzuka Ohgo from the Oct.20 issue of “The Movie Pia”
magazine. (She sounds so charming!)
Q: How did you feel when you were asked to appear in a Hollywood movie?
A: Well, at first, I was worried as I was not able to speak English. While filming, the staff put “Katakana” (Japanese
syllabary) on the scenario. Chiyo whose role I performed is a very poor girl, who is living far from her father and
mother, and is being bullied a lot. The story is set in a bygone era (how long ago I don’t know) but anyhow I
performed imagining Chiyo’s feeling in those days.
Q: Everything must have been a first time experience. What was the most impressive thing during the filming?
A: I thought the building of the set for old- time Japan was marvelous. Despite it being a story about Japan, there
were a lot of things which I have never seen before. The hardest thing was a night rain scene. I found Mr. Rob
Marshall, a stubborn man, so to speak! He tried to film the same scene again and again. I had thought that the cold
scene would be OK because I had previously experienced filming in winter in Hokkaido (“Kitano Zeronen”, starring
Sayuri Yoshinaga & Ken Watanabe), but nevertheless it was extremely cold!
The scene in which I endured a lot was that in which I was hit with a bamboo stick by Okiya Mother (Kaori
Momoi). I put on a pad on my back underneath my clothes and Momoi san took great care when she hit me so that
I would not feel much pain, but the fact is that I did feel a little pain!
Movie theaters for SAYURI in Japan
[Tokyo & Kanagawa] (10 )
Marunouchi Prazeru, Shinjuku Piccadilly, Shinjuku Joy Cinema, Shibuya Chine Palace
Ikebururo Cinema Rosa, 109 Cinemas MM Yokohama, Soutetsu Mubiru,
Movix Honmoku, Kawasaki Cinechitta, TOHO Cinemas Kawasaki
[Nagoya] ( 5 )
Nagoya Piccadilly, TOHO Cinemas Nagoya Bay City, Ion Cinema Wonder,
109 Cinemas Nagoya, Nakagawa Korona World
[Osaka, Kobe & Kyoto] ( 9 )
Umeda Piccadilly, Tsunoza, Apollo Cinema 8, Fuse Line Cinema 10,
Takatsuki Cinema R170, Movix Kyoto, Toho Cinemas Nijo, Kobe Kokusai Shochiku, Movix Rokko
[Fukuoka] ( 3 )
Fukuoka Nakasu Taiyo, AMC Canal City Fukuoka, United Cinema Fukuoka
[Sapporo] ( 2 )
Sapporo Cinema Frontier, United Cinema Sapporo
The latest issue of “the Weekly Pia” magazine has a four-page article on “SAYURI /Memoirs of a Geisha”. The
article has a synopsis and explanations with lots of photos from the film, as well as brief interviews with the seven
I first met Mr. Spielberg some years ago at a time when he was supposed to direct this film. I, for one, have long
wanted to experience an American film, so I felt that there was some "GOEN" or fortunate happenstance to it, when
I was asked to join in this film again.
I have read the original novel. Among all the characters, I was extremely attracted by the character of Nobu ; he
has got a complicated personality, having both strength and weakness inside him.
It took me about an hour and a half to put burnt scar make-up on my face. It was such well-made make-up, moving
like a skin, so that there was no problem about the facial performance during filming. Working two days with this
make-up on all the time, though, I did have some skin trouble.
The official website of SAYURI has been renewed and the list of the lead characters can be seen there. The photo of
Koji is new. You can't see his terrible scar on his face in this photo. He looks very dignified!
As soon as the trailer of "Memoirs of a Geisha/SAYURI" was shown on the internet on August 25, some very
enthusiastic Koji Yakusho fans posted their comments to my Yahoo Japan message board on Koji Yakusho, (which
was set up on January 4, 2000.) Here is one of them. Please note how deeply they are moved to see and hear Koji
speak English as Nobu in that scene for the first time.
The English translation was done by Pymmik.
"I almost cried at the scene. I was very much moved to see it. It was more superb than I had expected. Yakusho-san’
s English was no problem at all. What a talented actor he is! I felt so impressed at his English. I could not help
feeling amazed at his tremendous ability. He was so attractive and my heart beat strongly.
I believe that there must be lots of people who want to go to see the film, wishing to see only that scene.”
We can now see the trailer of "Memoirs of a Geisha" , and you can hear what Nobu actually says to Sayuri.)
I have just seen a trailer of “Memoirs of a Geisha/ Sayuri” in an entertainment program called, “Mezamshi Terebi”
on Fuji Television.
Each scene is extremely beautiful, like a fairy tale picture scroll.
There were Japanese subtitles and I was able to hear Chiyo (She looks so cute!), Sayuri ,and the Chairman speak
English. Their English sounded pretty good, although I noticed a slight Chinese accent in Ziyi Zhang's remarks and
also caught a slight Japanese accent when Ken Watanabe and Suzuka Ohgo were speaking.
At last I have managed to see Nobu on the screen for the first time! His burnt scar on the right side of his face
looked much larger, deeper and more tragic than I had expected. Since Nobu was wearing yukata ( light summer
kimono), the scene was probably at the hot spring shot episode towards the end of the film. It was a great pity that
his voice could not be heard then but the Japanese subtitles read : “Watashi wa omaega hoshi-inda",which means “I
do want you for myself” (He actually says:
"Can't you see what I want you for myself?")
That scene was very brief but I managed to catch a glimpse of Koji's expression which seemed to reveal his inwardly
subdued passion toward Sayuri as well as its intensity. On seeing Nobe in this scene, I strongly felt that Nobu is
something like “salt", which accentuates the taste of the film.
Ziyi Zhang's fan website, "Hello Ziyi:Memoirs of a Geisha" site has recently introduced an interesting article,
entitled, Cinderella in Kimonos, written by one of the extras, who joined in the filming of "Memoirs of a Geisha".
He describes the scene of the Sayuri-Nobu reunion after the end of the war.
May 24, 2005
The latest issues of the three major Japanese movie magazines, "Kinema Jumpo", "Roadshow" and "Screen"
carried a photo from the actual "Memoirs of a Geisha/Sayuri" scene.
March 3, 2005
In another magagine interview by "TV Guide" (March 3-11 issue, 2005), Koji mentioned that he actually went to
New York City to meet director Spielberg when he was supposed to direct "Memoirs of a Geisha"!
February 13, 2005
In an interview by a Japanese film magagine named, "Actors Style" (Winter issue, 2005), Koji Yakusho mentioned
something stunning, when he said, "As for this project, I was offered the chance to join in this film at the time when
Mr. Spielberg was supposed to direct it. Nonetheless, when Rob took over the job of directing, I was once again
asked to join in this film. I feel that there was some "GOEN" or fortunate happenstance to it."
The comment page on "Memoirs of a Geisha" is now ready! (Present total: 3 comments.)
(Some photos taken in Kyoto by Pymmik in late March, 2006)
(The contrast between the novel and the film is interesting.)