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Memoirs of a Geisha | Arthur Golden (Food Reference List)

Food from Memoirs of a Geisha via BrytonTaylor.com

Memoirs of a Geisha is a novel set in Kyoto, Japan, that follows the life of Sayuri, a geisha, before, during and after World War II.

Where possible, I’ve included descriptions and some links to recipes and more information.

The Beverages

Green tea: a herbal drink with numerous health benefits

Sake: an alcoholic beverage, made from fermented rice. We came across this sake glossary for those who want to know more

Amakuchi: a very light sweet sake
Brown tea
Scotch and water

The Food

Grilled sea bass, pickles, soup and steamed rice: We love the sound of this Miso-Marinated Sea Bass recipe from Rasa Malaysia.

miso yaki onigiri
‘miso yaki onigiri’ by ninacoco available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/geishabot/4275496724/ under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0. Full terms at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0.

A rice ball sprinkled with sesame seeds, wrapped in a lotus leaf: Rice balls are apparently called onigiri in Japanese, and often have fillings such as pickled plum or grilled salmon.

Miso soup: A soup made of a stock called dashi (kelp and/or sardine based) and miso paste.


Rice crackers

Fresh ginger

Sweet rice cake: Also called Mochi. I’m actually going to point you to a Mochi recipes Pinterest board for this one. So many recipes out there!

Charcoal roasted squid

Dried fish

“and if she felt hungry, she certainly wasn’t going to stroll into the kitchen to prepare something by herself— such as an umeboshi ochazuke, which was a favourite snack of hers, made with leftover rice and pickled sour plums, soaked in hot tea.”

Try this ochazuke recipe from Just Hungry

Sweet plum or cherry (the syrup flavours that goes on top of shaved ice)

Matcha: A fine green tea powder

Red rice: rice mixed with red beans

Roasted yams

Two grilled, salted ayu and two steamed crabs: Ayu is also called sweetfish

Sweet rice cakes roasted with miso paste

Atlantic salmon sashimi by Kent Wang
source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kentwang/158993659/
available under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Sashimi: thinly sliced pieces of fresh meat or fish

Ekubo: a sweet rice cake, with red circle dimple in the centre (for mizuage, the lose of virginity (describe better)

Tai no usugiri: paper thin slices of sea bream, fanned out on a leaf shaped plate served with ponzu sauce:

Yellow pickles

Rice mixed with red adzuki beans

Rising Sun Lunch Box: a pickled plum in the centre of rice

Braised tofu

Braised beef


Weak broth with a few noodles

Watery rice gruel flavoured with potato skins

Soybean dregs

Nukapan: fried rice bran with wheat flour


Sweet potatoes

Dried whale meat

Sausage from seals


Yam boiled in soy sauce and sugar

Marinated beef

Yellow custard with ginko nuts

Grilled tropical fish

Dried squid

‘persimmons’ by Tomomarusan
source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/67/Kaki2.jpg/640px-Kaki2.jpg
available under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.


Clear broth

Ice cream

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  1. I remember reading this book years ago and being horrified at the thought of sausages made from seal meat. 🙂 How age and perspective change things – after all, that’s what sausage is. Ground–up meat, the fattier the better. Thank you for your wonderful blog. I discovered it completely by accident wanting more information on the exotic food descriptions in Bram Stoker’s Dracula and what did I find? Your reference menu! I love your site and can’t wait for more posts.

    1. Hi Vanessa,

      So true!

      I’m so glad to hear someone was looking for food descriptions and lists! I wasn’t sure if anyone would use them, but I figured, I pull out all the food mentioned anyways, may as well make it available for others.


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