Sisters of the Gion

Sisters of the Gion (祇園の姉妹, Gion no shimai) or Sisters of Gion is a 1936 black and white Japanese film drama directed by Kenji Mizoguchi about two sisters living in the Gion District.[3] The film is seen as a companion piece to Mizoguchi's Osaka Elegy which shares much of the same cast and production team.

Sisters of the Gion (1936 film)
Scene from the film.
Directed byKenji Mizoguchi
Produced byDaiichi Eiga
Masaichi Nagata (producer)
Written byKenji Mizoguchi (writer)
Yoshikata Yoda (writer)
CinematographyMinoru Miki
Distributed byShochiku
Release date
15 October 1936[1]
Running time
68 min.,[2] 95 min.[1]

The film won 1937 Kinema Junpo Award for the best film (director Kenji Mizoguchi)[4] and an award in Vienna in 1998.[2]


The story centers around two sisters (Umekichi and Omocha), who are geisha, living in a lodging house (okiya) of their own in the licensed pleasure district of Gion, Kyoto. The two women have very different outlooks on relationships with men. Umekichi, the elder sister, is the ideal geisha; she grew up going to dance and music lessons, wears kimono, and has a strong sense of giri, or loyalty, to her patron. Umekichi’s younger sister, Omocha, was educated in public schools and wears western clothing, except when she is working as a geisha. Unlike Umekichi, Omocha doesn’t trust men and believes that they will only use geisha and then abandon them without a care. Thus, she uses men to her own advantage. In doing so she is willing to manipulate and lie to her customers.

Umekichi’s patron is a newly bankrupt businessman named Shimbei Furusawa, who Umekichi takes care of after he loses his house and business. Omocha does not believe that her sister should support Shimbei, that doing so will prevent her from providing for herself by finding a new patron, and that she owes him nothing as, in her view, he has received more than he has given in the past. Omocha finds her sister a new patron and, one day when Umekichi is out, gives Shimbei some money to return to his wife in the country and tells him that her sister no longer wants him around. He takes the money but, rather than leaving, spends it drinking and takes up residence with his former clerk.

Omocha also attempts to find a patron for herself and appears to be successful in gaining the attention of the owner of a kimono/cloth shop. However, in the process of helping her sister, Omocha has previously taken advantage of the owner’s clerk, who has stolen from the shop to provide a kimono for Umekichi and been found out.

Umekichi throws over her new patron when she learns from the kimono shop clerk of Omocha's deception of Shimbei, and returns to him. The clerk is discovered at Omocha's okiya by the shop owner and dismissed. He seeks his revenge on his former employer by informing his wife of her husband's infidelity, and then exacts his revenge on Omocha by abducting her in a car and injuring her grievously by throwing her from it.

Omocha and Umekichi have conflicting outlooks on men and the role of geisha, but ultimately they are both defeated at the end of the film. Umekichi is abandoned by her bankrupt patron Shimbei when he is given the chance to manage a factory in the country where his wife has retired, and she ends up caring for Omocha after her hospitalization for her injuries. Omocha curses the very existence of the geisha system and the sexual subjugation involved.


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b (in Japanese) accessed 1 June 2009
  2. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-08-05. Retrieved 2009-06-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) PRODUCTION PROFILE SISTER OF GION. accessed 7 June 2009.
  3. ^ Isolde Standish A New History of Japanese Cinema 2006 Page 61 "The narrative of Mizoguchi's Sisters of Gion (1936) is also structured around two women working as low-ranking geisha in the pleasure quarters of Gion in Kyoto"
  4. ^ Awards for Gion no kyōdai accessed 7 June 2009

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