Graham as Sayuki playing the yokobue Japanese flute in January 2013
|Born||Fiona Caroline Graham
|Alma mater||Keio University|
Fiona Caroline Graham (born in Melbourne, Australia) is an Australian anthropologist who works as a geisha in Japan. She made her formal debut as a geisha in 2007 in the Asakusa district of Tokyo under the name Sayuki (紗幸?). She teaches seminars called "Geisha Culture" and "Japanese Society in Anime" at the School of International Liberal Studies at Waseda University.
Her first degrees in psychology and teaching were taken at Keio University, and she did a MBA at the University of Oxford before completing a doctorate in Social Anthropology  Graham was the first Caucasian woman to graduate from Keio University. After getting her PhD, she became a television director working for Japanese and overseas broadcasters. She taught Geisha Culture at Keio University  and lectures at Waseda University.
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 (Japanese bamboo flute), 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 several news reports, the Association disaffiliated her. 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 Sayuki had failed to follow customs and show proper deference to more experienced practitioners, as well as spending too much time on self-promotion. The Asakusa Geisha Association would not confirm or deny this. 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. Graham said she would continue to operate as a geisha, and would consider joining a different geisha district. 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". Asakusa Geisha Association rules generally allow a geisha to open her own geisha house after being a geisha for four years. According to Graham, the Association would not allow her to have her own geisha house because she was not Japanese. The Association acknowledged that Japanese citizenship was one requirement for working as a geisha.
Also in 2011, Graham opened a kimono shop in the Asakusa district of Tokyo.
In 2013, Graham performed at Hyper Japan in the United Kingdom. In the same year, Graham 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 geisha bar in Kutchan, Hokkaido. In April 2014, she was invited to perform alongside other geisha at the annual Harusame Festival (春雨祭?) in Nagasaki.[better source needed]
Wanaka Gym court case and fine
In December 2010, as sole director of Wanaka Gym Ltd., Graham was fined NZ$64,000 and ordered to pay NZ$9,000 in costs to the Queenstown Lakes District Council in New Zealand, after being convicted of 14 charges under the Building Act concerning the use of the Wanaka Gym in Wanaka to house foreign tourists after the building had been declared "dangerous" in June 2008. During the trial, Graham's second lawyer sought to have the defendant's name and occupation details suppressed, claiming it would jeopardise her activities in Japan, but this was denied by the presiding judge.
Graham appealed the charges to the High Court, which dismissed her appeals in February 2012, and then sought special leave to appeal the Court of Appeal against the High Court's decision. Her lawyer argued that Graham "should have been discharged without conviction because it was out of proportion to the gravity of the offence and would have an impact on her career in Japan". The judges denied special leave, stating that "there was no evidence that convictions would jeopardise Graham's career as a geisha or as a social anthropologist".
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.
In 2010, Graham was awarded the Endeavour Scholarship, an Australian government scholarship.
- Inside the Japanese Company by Fiona Graham, Curzon Press, 2003, ISBN 0-415-30670-1
- A Japanese Company In Crisis: Ideology, Strategy, And Narrative (Contemporary Japan) by Fiona Graham, Routledge, 2005, ISBN 0-415-34685-1
- Playing at Politics: An Ethnography of the Oxford Union by Fiona Graham, Dunedin Academic Press, Edinburgh, 2005, ISBN 978-1-903765-52-4
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