Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Why I'm Nitta Sayuri

Image from the web

I’ve been asked this question so many times I’ve actually lost count. The question pertains to my alias in FB. People’s question range from who the hell is Nitta Sayuri, why Nitta Sayuri and does my real name sound so bad that I have to use someone else’s? Once and for all I will answer everything.

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by the geishas of Japan. To me they appear like nymphs and there is so much mystery surrounding them that I wanted to know about them as much as I can. Contrary to popular belief, geishas are NOT prostitutes – they are artisans who mastered the art of entertaining guests with their skills in singing, dance, calligraphy or music. Before one becomes a geisha, she has to go through years of training in a geisha house called the okiya.

Nitta Sayuri is the protagonist in Arthur Golden’s 1997 novel Memoirs of a Geisha. Never mind the screen adaptation because I was utterly disappointed after watching it. I have the movie poster though. “Speaking with the wisdom of age and in a voice haunting and startlingly immediate, Nitta Sayuri tells the story of her life as a geisha. It begins in a poor fishing village in 1929, when as a nine-year old girl Chiyo Sakamoto with unusual blue-gray eyes, is taken from her home and sold into slavery to a renowned geisha house – the Nitta okiya. She transforms as she learns the rigorous arts of the geisha – dance, music, wearing kimono, elaborate makeup and hair, pouring sake to reveal just a touch of the inner wrist, competing with a jealous rival for men’s solicitude and the money that goes with it.” Once an apprentice geisha “graduates, she will have to change her name. Hence, the girl Chiyo took the name Sayuri then changed her family name to Nitta which is the name of the okiya she came from.

One of the most unforgettable lines from the book was from Sayuri which stayed with me even to this day – a geisha has studied a man’s moods and his seasons; she fusses and he blooms. This embodies what a geisha is all about. One of my lifelong dreams is to go to Japan and dress up like an authentic Gion geisha.

Sometime last year, someone played a very cruel joke on me through Facebook. An account was created using my real name and concocted lies to shame and destroy me. I had it reported to the police and kept a copy of the blotter in my files just in case. I did not erase my real FB account but I changed my name. I don’t know but somehow this felt like my way of showing this person that I won’t yield to his evil plans. I promised myself that I will not revert to my real name unless some form of legislation will be passed and implemented against those who malign people on the social network. The next time this amoeba goes back to his dirty tactics I vow to take legal actions and put him behind bars.

I picked Nitta Sayuri as my FB name also because there is one memory carefully written at the last page of my second-edition paper back. On it was the only love letter that Doc wrote to me after lending him my book because he found my penchant for geishas cute. When he returned it two days after, he looked into my eyes, kissed me and quoted this line from the book "If you aren't the woman I think you are, then this isn't the world I thought it was." He told me to read the last page when I get home. Since then he started calling me “Chiyo”. 

The pages of the book are now yellow but I am preserving it. There are times when I ask myself if it was all worth it. I read this letter and I get the answer. Someday when Leia grows up, I will tell her the story of Nitta Sayuri and read to her the letter written by the man who became her father.

I've read this so many times and still, it feels like the first time ;)


  1. "For the best is only bought at the cost of great pain..."

    Beautiful, beautiful words...

    Thanks for sharing. These words and the story of geishas... really gave me something to think about today. :)

  2. Hi Cham,

    Thanks for the FB invite and the comment. Yes, those were beautiful words written by someone who will always be synonymous to beautiful but painful memories. This will always be the best love letter I have received to date. I appreciate the visit and yes, will be glad to be part of the workshops and answer the questionnaire. Please send it at

    See you around Cham!

  3. Oh it feels awful that someone used your name and photos as theirs. Experienced that when friendster was still alive. The internet is no safe...

  4. Hi Tessa,

    Yes, I realized too that even the closest people in your circle can be the most dangerous ones based on this experience. It was a lesson learned for me. Thank you for dropping by my little corner in the blogosphere, I appreciate the visit. :)