Epics, which are generally long narrative poems about a serious subject representing characters of great significance (DeCoskey), have long played a role in the formation of many of today's societies. Though, as a rule, epics generally occur in the nearly forgotten past, there are many, many examples of modern-day epics in our world's society today. Just as in the past, some are factual, and some are fictional; some blur the line, but all have the most essential part of an epic, an archetypal hero. To be an archetypal hero, one must have unusual circumstances of birth, leave his or her family, experience traumatic events leading to a quest, acquire a special weapon, receive aid from supernatural beings, prove himself or herself throughout the quest, and some form of apotheosis is often granted afterwards (DeCoskey). Nitta Sayuri is one such individual. Sayuri was one of Kyoto, Japan's most renowned geisha. A geisha is a woman trained in the arts of traditional dance, entertaining, chat, tea ceremonies, music as well as many ways to seduce a client. A geisha could be considered a high-class prostitute in some cases.
Sayuri's life, documented now in both literature and film, is extraordinary. After reading the novel Memoirs of a Geisha or beholding the similarly titled movie, one is often in wonder and awe of Sayuri's drive and determination to overcome the countless obstacles life cruelly hurled into her path. She certainly is worthy of the title archetypal hero, though perhaps archetypal heroine is more appropriate. In Sayuri's case, the unusual circumstances of birth do not relate to the birth that brought her into the world, but rather to the rebirth she experienced when an established geisha, Mameha, took her on as her apprentice, or younger sister. With Mameha's guidance, Sayuri transformed from a dirty girl from a poor fishing village to a wealthy successful and very well liked geisha in Gion, Kyoto.