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Fiona Graham

Fiona Graham

Australian anthropologist
The basics
Occupation Anthropologist Geisha
Country Australia Japan
AKA Sayuki
Date of birth Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Residence Japan
Education Keio University, University of Oxford
Authority Library of congress id VIAF id
The details

Fiona Caroline Graham (born in Melbourne, Australia) is an Australian anthropologist who worked as a geisha in Japan. She made her debut as a geisha in 2007 in the Asakusa district of Tokyo under the name Sayuki (紗幸).

Academic career

Graham was born on in Melbourne, Australia, and first traveled to Japan for a student exchange programme, when she was 15.

Her first degrees in psychology and teaching were taken at Keio University.She did a M.B.A. at the University of Oxford before completing a Ph.D. in social anthropology. She has taught geisha culture at Keio University, and lectures at Waseda University.

Geisha activities

Sayuki (left) and one of her trainees in January 2013

On 19 December 2007, Graham formally debuted as a geisha under the name Sayuki, which she states means "transparent happiness", in the Asakusa District of Tokyo, after a year of preparation and training. She was the first Caucasian woman to do so. Since Graham was over the age of 21, she was allowed to skip the hangyoku (apprentice) stage. Graham initially became a geisha as a one-year-long academic project, but received permission to continue. Her formal debut and membership of a geisha house distinguishes her from American scholar Liza Dalby, who researched geisha and attended banquets as a geisha in the 1970s, but did not formally debut. Graham had taken lessons in tea ceremony, and as of 1 August 2011 was taking lessons in shamisen, singing, and her main art of yokobue, which she chose after playing the flute for many years.

In February 2011, Graham ceased to be associated with the Asakusa Geisha Association. According to the Tokyo Shimbun, Graham was expelled from her geisha house, and the geisha house, as is custom, lodged an application for Sayuki's disaffiliation from the Asakusa Geisha Association. The Wall Street Journal reported that Graham was asked to leave "because her actions disgrace[d] the reputation of the association". The Daily Telegraph cited an anonymous insider who claimed that Graham had failed to follow customs and show proper deference to more experienced practitioners, as well as spending too much time on self-promotion. According to other reports, Graham had requested permission to operate independently from December 2010 after the "mother" of her geisha house fell ill, and denied falling out with other geisha. According to a representative of the Asakusa Geisha Association, the Association only gave special dispensation for Graham to be a geisha "as part of her study" and "did not expect her to want to become an independent geisha to begin with".

Also in 2011, Graham opened a kimono shop in the Asakusa district of Tokyo.

In July 2013, Graham, as Sayuki, performed at the Hyper Japan festival in the United Kingdom. In the same year, she also visited Dubaï and Greece. As of 2013, Sayuki ran her own independent house in Yanaka, an old-world district in Tokyo, where she was training four apprentices.

In 2014, Graham opened a bar in Kutchan, Hokkaido.

Wanaka Gym court case

In December 2010, Graham and a company owned by her were fined a combined NZ$64,000 and ordered to pay NZ$9,000 in costs after being convicted of a total of 14 charges relating to the use of a building in Wanaka to house foreign tourists after the building had been declared "dangerous" in June 2008. During the trial, Graham unsuccessfully sought to have her name and occupation details suppressed, claiming it would jeopardise her activities in Japan. Following her conviction, an application by Graham to be discharged without having a conviction recorded was also unsuccessful. Graham appealed the conviction and sentence to the High Court, which dismissed her appeals in February 2012, and a subsequent application for special leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal was denied in August 2013. A final appeal by both Graham and her company was refused by the Supreme Court of New Zealand in December 2014. An interim application to have payment of the fines stayed pending the outcome of the appeal was refused in September 2014, meaning that Graham would be arrested if she returned to New Zealand whilst the fines remained outstanding.

In November 2012, Graham filed a complaint with the New Zealand Press Council against the Otago Daily Times newspaper, which reported on the case, "citing principles of accuracy, fairness and balance; of comment and fact; and of correction". In March 2013, the Press Council found no breach and dismissed the complaint.

Media coverage

Sayuki was featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show in February 2010, and in the fashion magazine Marie Claire in November 2009. Sayuki was featured in the lifestyle section of Metro in July 2013, and on CNN's website in February 2015.


Sayuki was featured on Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Radio National in February 2015.

The contents of this page are sourced from a Wikipedia article. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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