“Memoirs of a Geisha” is a period drama set in the tumultuous 1930s. The story follows Sayuri, who is sold into the intricate world of Geisha and ultimately becomes the country’s most wanted artist. The film is well known for its stunning visuals that recreate the ornate world of Geisha as well as the socio-political turmoil of the time. The multiple academy winner, who also won one for best photography, continues to be revered for his iconic landscapes and intricate backdrop that brought Sayuri’s journey as a geisha to life. Curious to know where “Memoirs of a Geisha” was filmed? We have what you need.
Memoirs of a Geisha Filming locations
“Memoirs of a Geisha” is set in 1930s Japan. The filmmakers, however, found present-day Japan too modern to recreate the vintage aesthetic needed for the film. So they decided to shoot in California, where most of the production was done on massive, detailed sets and in the studio. Several locations in Ventura, Los Angeles and several other counties were then used for the filming. The need for authenticity, however, made filming in Japan essential for the film, and filming took place in the Land of the Rising Sun towards the end of the filming schedule. Production on the film ran from September 29, 2004 to January 31, 2005. Let’s take a closer look at the specific filming locations of the film.
Ventura County, California
The film was shot primarily on a 2,200 acre ranch called Ventura Farms in Thousand Oaks in Ventura County, California. A team of 150 worked to build a large and detailed ensemble designed to resemble pre-war Kyoto. The set contained a river and even several cobblestone streets which were connected by alleys and recreated the Geisha Quarter (Gion District) of the Japanese city, as well as other places seen in the film. Ventura Farms is located at 235 West Potrero Road in Thousand Oaks.
Los Angeles County, California
Studio shooting was done on a batch at the Sony Pictures Studio in Culver City, Los Angeles County. Many interior scenes from the film were shot here in the studios, located at 10202 West Washington Boulevard.
Interestingly, locations in downtown Los Angeles also feature in the film. The Belasco Theater at 1060 South Hill Street served as Kyoto’s dance hall. The Yamashiro restaurant, located at 1999 North Sycamore Avenue in Hollywood, was also used for the filming. The Japanese-inspired restaurant replaced the Geisha school as well as a Kyoto tea room.
The Descanso Garden, located at 1418 Descanso Drive in the town of La Cañada-Flintridge in Los Angeles County was used in the Okinawa hot spring scene. The beautiful gardens of the Huntington Library at 1151 Oxford Road in San Marino were also used for filming outdoor scenes.
Other locations in California
A massive scene using up to 200 extras was filmed at the Sacramento Station, which is located at 1031 Front Street in Sacramento, Placer County. The interiors of the vintage train station depicted in the film actually belong to the California State Railroad Museum, which is also in Sacramento.
The production team also shot scenes in San Francisco at the Japanese Tea Garden and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The Hakone Gardens in Saratoga also appear in the film, as do the communities of Moss Beach and Muir Beach. A beachfront location on the American River in Pilot Hill, El Dorado County, was also briefly used for filming.
Filming also took place in Japan towards the end of production, notably in the city of Kyoto. The main Inari shrine, known as Fushimi Inari-Taisha, is a temple located in the city at the foot of a mountain. The famous scene featuring the thousands of lucky red doors leading to the shrine was partly filmed here. A Buddhist temple in western Kyoto called Yoshimine Dera, as well as another temple in the city, the Kiyomizu Dera, were also used for filming and added to the intricate and detailed aesthetic of the film.
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