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Chiyo Sakamoto '’Sayuri’’
Chyo is the main character in the book, the story being told from her perspective. She is taken from her family and separated from her sister at a young age and is sold to a geisha house where Mother hops that she will become a successful geisha. She is a stubborn character, insisting on running away and on disobeying the house rules, which results in Mother refusing to send her to the geisha school anymore. A successful geisha takes an interest in Chyo because of her interesting eyes and manages to make her a successful geisha. Sayuri ends up falling in love with a wealthy man and, from that point on, everything she does is in the hope that one day she will meet that person again.
She is the only geisha in the Nitta okyia when Chyo arrives there. She is extremely beautiful and quite successful but is proud and hateful towards those who have more success than her. From the day Chyo enters the okyia, Hatsumomo hates her because she sees her as a possible competitor and does everything she can to throw Chyo out. When the time comes, Hatsumomo becomes Pumpkin’s older sister and helps her.
Pumpkin is a girl the same age as Chyo brought to the okyia in order to become a geisha. Even if she is not exceptionally beautiful or talented, she succeeds for a short period of time with Hatsumomo’s help. In the beginning, she and Chyo are good friends but are made rivals when Hatsumomo takes Pumpkin as her younger sister. During the war, Pumpkin ends up working in the pleasure district, and she sees Chyo responsible for that. When Pumpkin became a geisha, she receives the name Hatsumiyo but she remained known as Pumpkin even in her geisha days.
Mameha is a very respectable geisha in the Gion district. She is considered as being a successful geisha because of her independence and because she had a danna who paid all her expenses instead of an okiya. Mameha takes an interest in Chyo and manages to convince Mother to let her continue her geisha training. Unlike Hasumomo, Mameha is kind hearted and guides Chyo in her journey of becoming a successful geisha.
Iwamura Ken ''The Chairman’’
The Chariman is the one who meets Chyo one day on a bridge and who is the reason behind her desire to become a geisha. He is the founder of Iwamura Electric and a close friend of Mameha’s. He confesses that he was the reason behind Mameha’s decision to take Chyo as her younger sister and ends up being Chyo’s danna.
Nobu is one of Chyo’s admirers. He is disfigured from and accident that happened in the war and because of that many geishas nickname him Mr. Lizard. His affections towards Chyo are sincere and he competes for her virginity and then to become her danna. During the war, he makes sure that Chyo is safe by sending her outside the city.
The general becomes Sayuri’s first danna even if Nobu competed for the right to be her danna too. Even he is not as generous with gifts as other dannas, he provides to be useful when the war starts and he manages to get the okyia things that are not found elsewhere in the Gion district. He is however unable to protect Sayuri when she needs it as he uses the influence he has to protect onother girl.
Chyo’s father, Sakamoto was a fisherman who lives in a small fishing village. He is married with Chyo’s mother but she is his second wife and thus, much younger than he is. Chyo describes him as loving the sea above all and being a calm man.
Tanaka was a business man who owned a business in Yoroido where Chyo’s father worked. He has a girl the same age as Chyo and he is the one who arranged for Chyo and her sister to be sent away.
The first wife of Sakamoto Minoru who died when she was twenty four.
One of Sakamoto Minoru and Natsu’s children who died at the age of six.
Onother child resulting from the marriage betwen Natsu and Sakamoto Minoru who died at the age of three.
The doctor in Yoroido that treated Chyo’s mother.
Satsu is Chyo’s older sister who resembles her father both in manner and is appearance. While Chyo is sent to a geisha house, she is sent to a pleasure house and becomes a prostitute. She eventually runs away.
Though her name is not given, it is said that Chyo resembles her mother, both having unusual grey eyes. When Chyo was seven, her mother grew terribly ill and eventually died shortly after Chyo and her sister were sent away.
A rob maker in Yoroido
Mr. Tanaka’s assistant.
Mr. Tanaka’s younger daughter who has the same age as Chyo.
Bekku is the one who takes Chyo and her sister away. He also assists geishas when they dress because of the complexity of the Japanese traditional clothes.
A geisha in the Gion district and a friend of Hatsumomo’s.
A name used as a code by Hatsumomo when referring to her boyfriend.
A former sumo wrestler working at the Gion Registry Office
She is the teacher that teaches shamisen at the geisha school. Because of her appearance, she receives the nickname, Teacher Mouse.
The name of the cook in the Nitta okyia.
A geisha that was forced to leave Gion after Hatsumomo spread lies about her.
Auntie is a former unsuccessful geisha that lives in the Nitta okyia. She is kind hearted and advices Chyo not to trust Hatsumomo.
Kayoko Nitta ’'Mother’’
Mrs. Nitta is the head of the Nitta okyia and in charge of everything that passes through it. She is known as being very greedy and about not making any deals unless it’s in her advantage. Even after the war forces the geisha district to close down, Mother continues to make good profit through multiple business, showing her true character.
Grandmother is another former successful geisha who lives in the Nitta okyia. She is cruel and her appearance is disfigured because of the make-up used in her geisha days.
A teacher at the geisha school who teaches dance.
Mameha’s fortune teller.
Baron Matunaga Tsuneyoshi
The Baron is Mameha’s danna and also a wealthy aristocrat. During the war, he remains without his fortune so he ends up committing suicide.
A sumo wrestler
A sumo wrestler
Dr. Crab is the name given by Chyo to well-known doctor that bought her virginity. He also bought Mmeha’s virginity and Hatsumomo’s.
A well-known artist that becomes intrigues by Chyo’s looks and paints her a portrait that makes her famous.
A designer that became famous and that Sayuri found interesting.
A geisha that Nobu found interesting after the war. She comes to Sayuri and asks for advice on how to please him and make him like her more.
A geisha in the Gion district after the war.
A Kabuki actor
An old koto player
An English actor
A well-known kimono maker that was famous before the war but after it started him and his family had to sew parachutes. Sayuri is sent to him by Nobu when it becomes too dangerous to remain in the city.
Mr. Arashino’s grandson
A young tami maker that Sayuri got involved with while she was with the Arashino’s family.
A young girl that became maid in the Nitta okyia when it was open again after the war.
An old geisha that accompanied Mameha, Sayuri and Pumpkin to the Amami Island.
The geisha who accompanied the Chairman the first time he meets Chyo.
The director of the Minamiza Theater
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