Memoirs of a Geisha

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Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto Character Analysis

The novel’s narrator and protagonist, Sayuri tells the story of how she went from a poor fisherman’s daughter named Chiyo Sakamoto to become Sayuri Nitta, one of Kyoto’s premier geisha. With her piercing blue-grey eyes, Sayuri is beautiful, perceptive, and quick-witted. Her cleverness and adaptable personality allow her to survive a variety of challenging circumstances, including when she outsmarts Hatsumomo, her rival geisha, or when she maneuvers her way out of a relationship with the ill-tempered Nobu. An idealist and a romantic, Sayuri falls in love with Chairman Ken Iwamura and decides to spend her entire life working towards being with him. Her steadfast determination ensures that she succeeds in building a relationship with the Chairman and, by the novel’s end, she immigrates with him to the United States, where she recounts her memoirs to Jakob Haarhuis.

Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto Quotes in Memoirs of a Geisha

The Memoirs of a Geisha quotes below are all either spoken by Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto or refer to Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of Memoirs of a Geisha published in 1999.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Suppose that you and I were sitting in a quiet room overlooking a garden, chatting and sipping at our cups of green tea while we talked about something that had happened a long while ago, and I said to you, “That afternoon when I met so-and-so…was the very best afternoon of my life, and also the very worst afternoon.”

Related Characters: Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto (speaker), Jakob Haarhuis
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we're introduced to our protagonist and narrator, Sayuri. Sayuri, a famous geisha, will tell us a little about the history of her profession, and also tell us the story of how she became a geisha and found fame and fortune. The novel, then, is a kind of coming-of-age story, designed to show us a young woman's transformation into a famous and confident geisha.

The story of how Sayuri (originally named Chiyo) becomes Sayuri is both tragic and optimistic, and by the same token the profession of geisha is both liberating and imprisoning. Sayuri gains new privileges and liberties for herself in becoming a geisha--but we should never forget that she's also selling herself to other men, and on occasion she's forced to have sex with strangers (something real geishas have denied). In all, the novel will take an ambivalent position on the profession of geisha: like the afternoon we're going to hear about, it's both "the very best" and "the very worst."

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Water flows from place to place quickly and always finds a crack to spill through. Wood, on the other hand, holds fast to the earth.

Related Characters: Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto (speaker)
Related Symbols: Water, Rivers, and Streams, Sayuri’s Eyes
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Sayuri describes her personality by describing her physical appearance. Like her mother, she has blue eyes--a rarity in Japan, and a sign of having "water" in one's personality. Sayuri also notes that her father was slow and deliberate, much like wood. Because of her eyes, however, Sayuri suggests that she takes more after her mother.

The symbolism of the two elements in this passage is clear: Sayuri is both fluid and flexible, like water (always conforming to its surroundings), while her sister Satsu, like her father, is steadfast like wood. The passage is also important because it suggests that Sayuri's life was partly predetermined by her very nature--it was the "water" in her personality that made her the person she is today.

Chapter 3 Quotes

I found myself wondering if my sister was standing before some other cruel woman, in another house somewhere in this horrible city. And I had a sudden image in my mind of my poor, sick mother propping herself on one elbow upon her futon and looking around to see where we had gone. I didn't want Mother to see me crying, but the tears pooled in my eyes before I could think of how to stop them.

Related Characters: Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto (speaker), Mother/Ms. Nitta , Satsu Sakamoto , Mrs. Sakamoto
Related Symbols: Sayuri’s Eyes
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Sayuri (at this point still Chiyo) has been sent to work under Mother at an okiya, a place for training geishas. As she looks at her "Mother"--not really a mother at all, just a supervisor--Chiyo finds herself thinking of her real family: her sick mother and her sister, who has also been "sold." For the time being, Chiyo has no real control over her own feelings: she's just a little girl, and she can't stop herself from crying.

The passage is moving, but it also conveys an important point: Chiyo is a novice in the world of geishas, and the world of appearances. To become a geisha, Chiyo will have to learn how to control her true feelings, suppressing disgust and contempt when such emotions aren't useful. By the same token, she'll have to turn her back on her biological family in order to focus on her surrogate family at the okiya, as well as the men she encounters as a geisha.

Chapter 4 Quotes

“I’ve found a place to spend my life. I'll work as hard as I have to so they don't send me away. But I'd sooner throw myself off a cliff than spoil my chances to be a geisha like Hatsumomo.”

Related Characters: Pumpkin (speaker), Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto, Hatsumomo
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Chiyo gets to know Pumpkin, one of the young women in the okiya. Pumpkin is an young woman who aspires to do nothing in life but be a geisha. She looks up to geishas in the okiya, such as Hatsumomo, a proud, cruel, but beautiful geisha. Pumpkin even claims that she'd rather die than give up on becoming a geisha: it's the best life she can imagine for herself.

The passage is tragic because it underscores how imprisoned and hopeless some of the residents of the okiya are. Pumpkin is a kind young woman, but she's been convinced that her only chance for success in life is to become a geisha. Even more tragically, Pumpkin might be right: while it's demeaning, sexist work in some ways, working as a geisha affords young women from poor backgrounds an incredible opportunity for social mobility. In short, being a geisha means both freedom and imprisonment.

Chapter 5 Quotes

You see, when a geisha wakes up in the morning she is just like any other woman. Her face may be greasy from sleep, and her breath unpleasant. It may be true that she wears a startling hairstyle even as she struggles to open her eyes; but in every other respect she's a woman like any other, and not a geisha at all. Only when she sits before her mirror to apply her makeup with care does she become a geisha. And I don't mean that this is when she begins to look like one. This is when she begins to think like one too.

Related Characters: Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto (speaker), Hatsumomo
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Chiyo watches as a popular geisha, Hatusomomo, wakes up and puts on her makeup. As she watches, Sayuri notes that a geisha first waking up is just like any other woman: greasy skin, bad breath, etc. A woman becomes a geisha, however, when she puts on her makeup and uses artifice and decoration to make herself look beautiful in a certain way. Being a geisha isn't just a combination of appearances, though--it's a state of mind. As Sayuri implies, geishas are highly trained professionals, taught how to be civil and charming at all times; in other words, taught to think like geishas. Even though being a geisha is largely about outward appearances, it's also about cultivating a certain mental image of oneself, too.

In fact, a geisha leaves a tiny margin of skin bare all around the hairline, causing her makeup to look even more artificial, something like a mask worn in Noh drama. When a man sits beside her and sees her makeup like a mask, he becomes that much more aware of the bare skin beneath.

Related Characters: Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto (speaker), Hatsumomo
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:

Chiyo watches as the popular geisha Hatsumomo puts on her makeup; as she watches, she describes the way that a geisha decorates her own face. A geisha wears extremely thick makeup, to the point where the contours of the face are largely hidden. And yet the geisha also doesn't try to pretend that the thick white makeup is the same color and texture as her skin; on the contrary, she makes it clear that the makeup is artificial, leaving a thin layer of naked skin around her forehead.

The geisha's makeup is highly erotic, though the eroticism of the makeup could easily be lost on readers. Paradoxically, the whole point of thick, heavy makeup isn't to disguise the skin so much as it is to encourage the client to think about the skin underneath. Appearances are important to geishas, but not just as ends in themselves; rather, they're designed to communicate something about what lies beneath, either literally or metaphorically.

Chapter 7 Quotes

Auntie took Hatsumomo by the arms and held her from behind, while Mother began to pull open the seams of Hatsumomo's kimono at the thigh. I thought Hatsumomo would resist, but she didn't. She looked at me with cold eyes as Mother gathered up the koshimaki and pushed her knees apart. Then Mother reached up between her legs, and when her hand came out again her fingertips were wet. She rubbed her thumb and fingers together for a time, and then smelled them. After this she drew back her hand and slapped Hatsumomo across the face, leaving a streak of moisture.

Related Characters: Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto (speaker), Hatsumomo , Mother/Ms. Nitta , Auntie
Page Number: 91
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Mother accuses Hatsumomo of having spent time with her boyfriend; i.e., having had sex with a man who wasn't a client--a major no-no for a geisha. To Chiyo's great surprise, Hatsumomo doesn't resist when Mother feels her genitalia to determine if she's been having sex. Hatsumomo's passivity suggests that after years of working as a geisha, she's become numb to the idea that her body and sexuality belong to somebody else, whether it's Mother or a client.

Mother seems to determine that Hatsumomo has, indeed, been having sex with someone who's not a client, as she immediately slaps Hatsumomo--a major event, as Hatsumomo is usually the favorite of the okiya, and the one in the position of power. Mother, however, is concerned only with money, and she treats her geishas like objects or products that must be kept in good condition.

Chapter 8 Quotes

Two seasons have passed since you left Yoroido, and soon the trees will give birth to a new generation of blossoms. Flowers that grow where old ones have withered serve to remind us that death will one day come to us all.

Related Characters: Ichiro Tanaka (speaker), Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto
Page Number: 102
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Chiyo receives a message from Mr. Tanaka, the man who largely arranged for Chiyo and her sister to be sold into servitude. Tanaka tells Chiyo that her parents have died, and her sister has run off with a lover. Tanaka seems sympathetic to Chiyo's sadness for her family, and yet he's oblivious to the fact that he is responsible for much of Chiyo's sadness. He tries to paper over the issue by making an eloquent observation about the way that beauty replaces death and sadness, if given enough time.

One should take Tanaka's observations with a grain of salt, of course, but they're not entirely wrong (and he seems to be misguided more than malicious in his intentions). As we'll see, Chiyo finds the courage to move past tragedy by finding beauty in her otherwise sad life. Furthermore, Tanaka's observation conveys the kinship between beauty and death--the very sight of beauty is also a sign of death, and vice-versa. There is, one could argue, something sad about beauty itself--one of the central ideas of a novel about geishas.

The training of an apprentice geisha is an arduous path. However, this humble person is filled with admiration for those who are able to recast their suffering and become great artists…This humble person has been alive long enough to see two generations of children grow up, and knows how rare it is for ordinary birds to give birth to a swan. The swan who goes on living in its parents' tree will die; this is why those who are beautiful and talented bear the burden of finding their own way in the world.

Related Characters: Ichiro Tanaka (speaker), Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Mr. Tanaka, the man who caused Chiyo to be sold into slavery, continues to offer Chiyo some encouragement. He tells Chiyo that her parents have died, but urges her to move past the tragedy. It's easy for Mr. Tanaka to talk about "moving on"--it's not his parents. But Mr. Tanaka also makes a good point: Chiyo can't spend the rest of her life mourning for her parents. Like the swan of his metaphor, she must eventually move past the tragedy and find beauty on her own terms.

Tanaka's words symbolize the importance of optimism and beauty in fighting tragedy. Beauty can be an important force in fighting off the specter of sadness, but it's also a reminder of sadness itself: the more beautiful something or someone is, the more ephemeral and fragile it often is, and so the greater its potential for sadness. In short, Tanaka's words are inspiring and yet full of contradictions. Beauty helps people move past sadness, and yet it also reminds them of their own sadness.

Chapter 9 Quotes

So many things in my life had changed, even the way I looked; but when I unwrapped the moth from its funeral shroud, it was the same startlingly lovely creature as on the day I had entombed it…It struck me that we—that moth and I—were two opposite extremes. My existence was as unstable as a stream, changing in every way; but the moth was like a piece of stone, changing not at all. While thinking this thought, I reached out a finger to feel the moth's velvety surface; but when I brushed it with my fingertip, it turned all at once into a pile of ash….Now I understood the thing that had puzzled me all morning. The stale air had washed away. The past was gone. My mother and father were dead and I could do nothing to change it.

Related Characters: Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto (speaker), Minoru Sakamoto , Mrs. Sakamoto
Related Symbols: Water, Rivers, and Streams
Page Number: 107-108
Explanation and Analysis:

One year earlier (around the time she learned of her parents' deaths), Chiyo "buried" a tiny moth and hid it in the foundations of the okiya. A year later, she retrieves the dead moth and finds that it looks exactly the same. In a world in which everything seems to be changing, the dead moth is a symbol of stability and comfort for the young Chiyo. Chiyo has lost her parents, been sent to a new, difficult life, etc.--even the tiniest constant in her life makes her feel better.

The passage is one of the turning-points in the novel: the moment in which Chiyo seems to reach some acceptance with her parents' deaths, and begins to try making a name for herself on her own. Chiyo will not dwell in the past any longer; instead, she'll try to find fortune on her own terms.

But how can I describe what I saw in that instant? He was looking at me as a musician might look at his instrument just before he begins to play, with understanding and mastery. I felt that he could see into me as though I were a part of him. How I would have loved to be the instrument he played!

Related Characters: Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto (speaker), Chairman Ken Iwamura
Page Number: 113
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we're introduced to one of the key characters of the novel, the Chairman (Ken Iwamura). The Chairman and Chiyo cross paths shortly after Chiyo retrieves her dead moth from the foundations of the okiya. He notices that she's sad, and offers her his handkerchief--a sign of his kindness and gentleness. Chiyo is immediately struck by the Chairman, both for his handsomeness and his kind personality.

The passage conveys the sexual nature of Chiyo's attraction to the Chairman, as well as her deeper emotional bond with him. Phrases like 'see into me," "a part of him," "the instrument he played," and "mastery" move back and forth between intimate and objectifying, spiritual and sexual--not a bad way to sum up the geisha's profession. And notice, too, that Chiyo seems to want to be the Chairman's object, more than his partner or his equal. She's been raised in a culture in which women are trained to be inferior to men--thus, even when she's envisioning her ideal life, she can't help but objectify herself. (This is also a common critique of the author, Arthur Golden--that Sayuri's great "goal" in life is simply to be rescued by the right man.)

Chapter 10 Quotes

“Those of us with water in our personalities don't pick where we'll flow to. All we can do is flow where the landscape of our lives carries us.”

Related Characters: Mameha (speaker), Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto
Related Symbols: Water, Rivers, and Streams
Page Number: 125
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Mameha offers Chiyo a metaphor for her life as a geisha. Mameha is teaching Chiyo about the geisha's art, and she wants Chiyo to understand the kind of life a geisha with "water" in her personality--like Chiyo and Mameha--will have. Thus she gives us another metaphor connecting water to life: water rushes around, flowing uncontrollably in response to gravity and other forces. By the same token, a geisha can't really control where she's sent or whom she sees--she just goes with the flow.

In this analogy, water is passive--it responds to the powers that be. Mameha is an experienced geisha, and her analogy conveys the contradictions of a geisha's life: geishas are essentially prisoners, and yet they're also freer, more talented, and better traveled than many other women in Japan--they're both free and not free.

Chapter 12 Quotes

“When I say successful, I mean a geisha who has earned her independence. Until a geisha has assembled her own collection of kimono – or until she's been adopted as the daughter of an okiya, which is just about the same thing –she'll be in someone else's power all her life.”

Related Characters: Mameha (speaker), Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto, Hatsumomo
Page Number: 146
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Mameha tells Chiyo about the importance of independence in a geisha's life. A geisha can be extremely popular and well-liked, but she might not be very successful. A successful geisha is one who's gained some measure of independence from her clients and patrons--i..e, a geisha who's earned enough money to support herself. A geisha with her own source of money doesn't have to rely on her clients to support her and feed her, and therefore she can be choosier with her clients, and more selective about what they do together.

In short, Mameha complicates our understanding of geishas so far. A geisha, in Golden's previous descriptions, was basically a slave. Now, we're told that geishas have a way out, at least up to a point: if they make enough money they can take some control over their destinies. Mameha is wise enough to realize that popularity counts only in the way it can bring in richer clients, which can then lead to greater independence. By passing on such a lesson to Chiyo, it's implied, she trains Chiyo to think long-term and value her own freedom.

Chapter 14 Quotes

It was as if the little girl named Chiyo, running barefoot from the pond to her tipsy house, no longer existed. I felt that this new girl, Sayuri, with her gleaming white face and her red lips, had destroyed her.

Related Characters: Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto (speaker)
Page Number: 167
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Chiyo becomes Sayuri--a transformation that symbolizes her growth into the role of geisha. Sayuri is a little uncomfortable with her new name: she recognizes, accurately, that by taking on a new name, she's turning her back on her old life and starting again.

The notion that choosing a new name could cause a spiritual transformation is consonant with the novel's view of appearances and outward beauty. Appearances are never arbitrary in the novel: when Chiyo takes on the name Sayuri, she changes her entire being, not just her name. By the same token, Sayuri begins to turn her back on her past: she's no longer fixated on her old life, and has even become a new person altogether--a geisha.

Chapter 15 Quotes

I was hardly worthy of these surroundings. And then I became aware of all the magnificent silk wrapped about my body, and had the feeling I might drown in beauty. At that moment, beauty itself struck me as a kind of painful melancholy.

Related Characters: Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto (speaker), Mameha , The Baron
Page Number: 187
Explanation and Analysis:

As Sayuri embarks on her career as a geisha, she finds it impossible to imagine herself even attaining much success: when she and Mameha entertain an important client like the Baron, who's seated next to her in the scene, she finds herself feeling insecure and childish. She's highly conscious of the layers of clothing and makeup adorning her body, and feels that she's never be able to live up to the standard of the other geishas.

For the time being, it's not so easy for Sayuri to adjust to her new life: she remembers her old life too vividly, and feels the contrast her current beauty and her previous sadness. This passage, then, makes another strong connection between beauty and suffering. Sayuri doesn't feel that she deserves all this beauty, and her self-doubts, a "kind of painful melancholy," return.

Chapter 22 Quotes

I would gladly have exchanged the robe the Baron was offering me for some way out of the situation. But he was a man with so much authority that even Mameha couldn't disobey him. If she had no way of refusing his wishes, how could I?... I suppose I finally came to the conclusion that I had no choice but to obey him and pay the consequences, whatever they might be. I lowered my eyes to the mats in shame; and in this same dreamlike state I'd been feeling all along, I became aware of the Baron taking my hand and guiding me through the corridors toward the back of his house.

Related Characters: Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto (speaker), Mameha , The Baron
Page Number: 260
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the Baron--one of Sayuri's clients--takes Sayuri to his room. Inside, the Baron seems to be preparing to rape or assault Sayuri--an event that, in theory, isn't supposed to happen to geishas like Sayuri, but sometimes does. The Baron asks Sayuri to remove her clothing in order to try on the beautiful kimono he's bought her as a gift--clearly just an invitation for Sayuri to undress in front of him.

The passage shows the darker underside of the geisha world. Although geisha are cultured, sophisticated women who entertain their clients with song and conversation, they can also be sex workers (at least Golden describes it). A man like the Baron is so powerful that he can do whatever he wants with Sayuri--and he can do so because Sayuri, for all her training, is still a sexual object, purchased and traded between powerful men.

Chapter 25 Quotes

Since moving to New York I’ve learned what the word “geisha” really means to most Westerners. From time to time at elegant parties, I've been introduced to some young woman or other in a splendid dress and jewelry. When she learns I was once a geisha in Kyoto, she forms her mouth into a sort of smile, although the corners don’t turn up quite as they should… This woman is thinking, “My goodness. I'm talking with a prostitute.” A moment later she's rescued by her escort, a wealthy man a good thirty or forty years older than she is. Well, I often find myself wondering why she can't sense how much we really have in common. She is a kept woman, you see, and in my day, so was I.

Related Characters: Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto (speaker)
Page Number: 291
Explanation and Analysis:

Sayuri, returning to her present self as the narrator in New York, offers some thoughts on the relationship between geishas, prostitutes, and "kept women." Many Americans think that "geisha" is synonymous with prostitute. Sayuri, however, wishes she could correct these people: a geisha, she insists, isn't a prostitute, since she's trained to entertain men at a higher, more cultured level. Furthermore, geishas don't just have sex with their clients--the majority of their clients don't have any kind of romantic encounters with them, sexual or otherwise. A geisha is more like a "kept woman"--i.e., a Western woman who relies completely on her boyfriend or husband for money and housing.

The point here isn't that geishas are entirely different from prostitutes--as we've already seen, geishas do encounter sexual advances from their clients, and even initiate bidding wars about who gets to have sex with them (at least in the world of the novel). Geishas and prostitutes are both sexualized objects, passed between clients--even if geishas are more trained and cultured. The point of the passage, rather, is that Westerners hypocritically criticize geishas when there are plenty of women in their own culture who navigate their ways through upperclass society in much the same way as geishas, and never get any real criticism for doing so. The Western world hypocritically criticizes geishas for their vulgarity, when the West itself is full of women who play a similar part.

The only parties at which I managed to convince myself that my life might still have some purpose, however small, were the ones attended by military men…For several generations, army and navy officers had come to Gion to relax. But now they began to tell us, with watery eyes after their seventh or eighth cup of sake, that nothing kept their spirits up so much as their visits to Gion. Probably this was the sort of thing military officers say to the women they talk with. But the idea that I—who was nothing more than a young girl from the seashore—might truly be contributing something important to the nation…I won't pretend these parties did anything to lessen my suffering; but they did help remind me just how selfish my suffering really was.

Related Characters: Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto (speaker)
Page Number: 296
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Sayuri thinks about her work as a geisha during the war. During the late 1930s, when Japan was locked in military conflict with China, Sayuri entertained many soldiers, giving them a sense of happiness and optimism when they needed it most.

The passage shows Sayuri becoming more mature and channeling her maturity into her profession. Sayuri has become so used to being a geisha that she lives in an isolated world, mostly separate from the war and society at large. But now she feels like she can bring some happiness to those who need it, and in doing so serve her country in some small way. She's begun to take pride in her work, and notes with hope that she may have improved the lives of noble Japanese soldiers. In this, Sayuri also gains new perspective on her own selfish desire to be with the Chairman: there's more to her life, she realizes, than finding the right mate.

Chapter 26 Quotes

“You geisha! There was never a more irritating group of people. You go around consulting your almanacs, saying, ‘Oh, I can't walk toward the east today, because my horoscope says it's unlucky!’ But then when it's a matter of something affecting your entire lives, you simply look the other way.”

Related Characters: Toshikazu Nobu (speaker), Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto
Page Number: 314
Explanation and Analysis:

Int his passage, Sayuri has visited Nobu, hoping to work her way back into the Chairman's life. Nobu notes that Sayuri is preparing to accept a danna--i.e., a male client with whom the geisha spends all her time. Nobu notes the irony: geishas are intensely superstitious about small matters, but when something important is about to happen, they're curiously passive and ignorant. In short, Nobu seems to be encouraging Sayuri to take more control over who will become her danna: she can find a way to ensure that she won't end up with the General. Nobu, we've already seen, doesn't believe in superstition, even though he seem to subscribe to a vague belief in fate: thus, he seems to urging Sayuri fulfill her destiny--or perhaps, to make her own destiny with the Chairman.

“I wish I could believe life really is something more than a stream that carries us along, belly-up.”
“All right, if it's a stream, you're still free to be in this part of it or that part, aren't you? The water will divide again and again. If you bump, and tussle, and fight, and make use of whatever advantages you might have…”

Related Characters: Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto (speaker), Toshikazu Nobu (speaker)
Related Symbols: Water, Rivers, and Streams
Page Number: 314
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Sayuri responds to Nobu's statements. Nobu is urging Sayuri to take control over her life: to find a way to ensure that she doesn't end up with the General. Sayuri responds with her usual metaphor explaining the "water" in her personality. She says that her life is like a stream--she has no real control over where she's sent, and instead just responds passively to the forces of the universe. Nobu offers a counter-analogy: he claims that if life really is like a stream, then it's possible to move around within the stream.

Nobu's analogy is a good one, because it walks a fine line between the belief in total freedom and the belief in total fate. Nobu seems to believe that some aspects of a person's life are beyond control--and yet other aspects can be controlled. Sayuri is too passive, too willing to believe that life is beyond her own control. Water doesn't always have to be passive--it can be liberating as well. Thus Sayuri, Nobu implies, could control some parts of her life, such as who her danna will be.

Chapter 28 Quotes

“Sayuri,” he said to me, “I don't know when we will see each other again or what the world will be like when we do. We may both have seen many horrible things. But I will think of you every time I need to be reminded that there is beauty and goodness in the world.”

Related Characters: Toshikazu Nobu (speaker), Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto
Page Number: 343
Explanation and Analysis:

As the war gets more dangerous, Nobu and Sayuri are both thrust into dangerous positions. Here, Nobu says good bye to Sayuri, thanking her for showing him beauty and happiness. Nobu seems to genuinely love Sayuri: he's stuck his neck out for her many times, saving her from a career in the factories (a fate that killed some of Sayuri's geisha friends). Nobu's love for Sayuri seems to contrast with the Chairman's behavior toward Sayuri--Sayuri loves the Chairman, but it's not really clear that the feeling is mutual.

Nobu's love for Sayuri also seems pure and deep: he doesn't think of her as an object for his gratification, but rather a woman who's shown him how to be happy. It's implied that Nobu's memories of Sayuri will bring him joy during the dark days of the future, when he's locked in the middle of a war.

Chapter 29 Quotes

Because I’d lived through adversity once before, what I learned about myself was like a reminder of something I'd once known but had nearly forgotten –namely, that beneath the elegant clothing, and the accomplished dancing, and the clever conversation, my life had no complexity at all, but was as simple as a stone falling toward the ground.

Related Characters: Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto (speaker)
Page Number: 348
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Sayuri becomes filled with despair. she's separated from the Chairman, the love of her life, and becomes sure that she'll never see him again. Sayuri takes no more pleasure in her work--gone are the days when she felt proud of herself for bringing joy to a group of soldiers--and thinks of her life as a dull, miserable fall.

Sayuri's chosen metaphor is interesting because it conveys a sense of inevitability: a stone falling toward the ground has no control over its movement; it just obeys the laws of gravity. The metaphor is even more fatalistic than Sayuri's previous nature metaphor of choice--water (water, at least, can flow in different directions as it moves down the stream, as Nobu pointed out--a falling stone moves in one direction, and one direction only). The metaphor reflects the fact that Sayuri has become deeply depressed due to her circumstances.

Chapter 34 Quotes

In the instant before that door opened, I could almost sense my life expanding just like a river whose waters have begun to swell; for I had never before taken such a drastic step to change the course of my own future. I was like a child tiptoeing along a precipice overlooking the sea. And yet somehow I hadn't imagined a great wave might come and strike me there, and wash everything away.

Related Characters: Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto (speaker), Chairman Ken Iwamura
Related Symbols: Water, Rivers, and Streams
Page Number: 405
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Sayuri is in the middle of having sex with a man she doesn't even like (let alone love): Sato. Sayuri is shocked when Pumpkin, her old "friend," opens the door, leading the Chairman--the actual love of Sayuri's life--inside. Sayuri had planned for Pumpkin to lead Nobu into the room, in a desperate attempt to manipulate him into leaving her, thus allowing her to pursue the Chairman. Here, Sayuri's plan has seemingly backfired in the worst possible way, all thanks to Pumpkin.

Sayuri conveys her anxiety with yet another water metaphor. Previously, water has been a metaphor for destiny, or--at times--freedom. But here, water symbolizes neither: the water in question is a huge, monstrous wave, symbolizing the destruction of Sayuri's plans and--so she thinks--her future with the Chairman.

And so you can imagine that this kiss, the first real one of my life, seemed to me more intimate than anything I'd ever experienced. I had the feeling I was taking something from the Chairman, and that he was giving something to me, something more private than anyone had ever given me before.

Related Characters: Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto (speaker), Chairman Ken Iwamura
Page Number: 416
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene (which leads the novel toward a happy ending), Sayuri confesses her feelings for the Chairman, and the Chairman reciprocates her feelings. The Chairman kisses Sayuri warmly and deeply, and Sayuri is amazed to realize that she's never been kissed so passionately in her life. Despite working in a sexualized world for many years, Sayuri has never felt real passion or intimacy: the constant presence of sexuality has trivialized the feeling, leading her to take a narrow view of desire. But now, with the Chairman, Sayuri discovers the love that can exist within desire and sexual intimacy, that sex is not just a giving or a taking, but a giving and a taking, an equal exchange of the most personal kind.

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Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto Character Timeline in Memoirs of a Geisha

The timeline below shows where the character Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto appears in Memoirs of a Geisha. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Translator’s Note
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...that nearly fifty years later, he would record the memoirs of the famous Kyoto geisha Sayuri Nitta. While there have been many magazine articles about Sayuri’s life, Haarhuis says that her... (full context)
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Haarhuis writes that if Sayuri hadn’t immigrated to New York City in 1956, then she might never have had the... (full context)
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Haarhuis did not meet Sayuri until 1985, when a mutual friend introduced the two in New York. As their friendship... (full context)
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Haarhuis says that he used a tape recorder while recording Sayuri’s memoirs in order to ensure accuracy but, since her death last year, he has wondered... (full context)
Chapter 1
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The novel’s main story begins with an elderly Sayuri Nitta remarking that the afternoon she met Mr. Ichiro Tanaka in the year 1929 was... (full context)
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Sayuri says that she inherited her mother’s translucent blue-grey eyes. Fortunetellers had told her mother that... (full context)
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Sayuri (now referring to herself as Chiyo, her name at the time) remembers that when she... (full context)
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When the doctor leaves, Sakamoto tells Chiyo to get incense for their Buddhist altar. Chiyo asks if he has anything else to... (full context)
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To escape her worries about her mother, Chiyo runs as fast as she can down a path to the village. Slipping on the... (full context)
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After buying the incense that her father asked for, Chiyo heads back to her house. On the way she feels a mix of emotions. She... (full context)
Chapter 2
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The next morning Chiyo goes swimming in the pond near her house to take her mind off her troubles.... (full context)
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Mr. Tanaka gives Chiyo medicinal herbs that he was going to her house to drop off. He says that... (full context)
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After her encounter with Mr. Tanaka, Chiyo begins to find comfort in fantasizing that he will adopt her. Whenever her mother groans... (full context)
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The next day, Satsu and Chiyo meet Mr. Tanaka at the center of the village and climb into his wagon. Mr.... (full context)
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...across the leg. Satsu cries as the woman examines her. Ms. Fidget then turns to Chiyo and tells her to get undressed. Seeing Chiyo’s eyes, she says that Chiyo must have... (full context)
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Ms. Fidget tells the girls to dress as she calls in Mr. Tanaka. Though Chiyo feels her tears welling up, she doesn’t cry so that she won’t look bad in... (full context)
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At Mr. Tanaka’s large house, Chiyo plays with his friendly daughter Kuniko Tanaka on their expansive property. The girls get along... (full context)
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...return to Mr. Tanaka’s home and get into side-by-side futon beds. Kuniko falls asleep but Chiyo stays awake, trying to understand everything that happened to her during the day. Chiyo whispers... (full context)
Chapter 3
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One morning a few weeks later, Chiyo is returning home from doing an errand in the village when Mr. Tanaka’s assistant comes... (full context)
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In the village, Chiyo feels that Mr. Tanaka is strangely distant. He even forgets Satsu’s name, which Chiyo finds... (full context)
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...Bekku leads the girls by the elbows onto the train. Mr. Tanaka says something to Chiyo but she is unable to make it out. He either says, “We’ll meet again” or... (full context)
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...or drink, they arrive in Kyoto. As they ride through the city on a rickshaw, Chiyo feels a terrible emptiness and fear. The fast moving cars, the sounds of trucks rumbling,... (full context)
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The rickshaw stops and Mr. Bekku instructs Chiyo to get out. When Satsu tries to get out as well, Mr. Bekku pushes her... (full context)
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Frightened and feeling terribly alone, Chiyo cries in the doorway until the old woman consoles her and says there’s nothing to... (full context)
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Chiyo asks where she is and Auntie says she’s at an okiya – a place where... (full context)
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...person who has been kind to her since she was forced to leave Yoroido – Chiyo keeps her eyes downcast and bows low in front of Mother and Granny. Mother asks... (full context)
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Mother approvingly says that Chiyo’s beautiful blue-grey eyes mean that she has a lot of water in her personality. Granny... (full context)
Chapter 4
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During her first days at the okiya, Chiyo feels as bad as if she had lost her arms and legs, rather than her... (full context)
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Around three weeks after her arrival at the okiya, Chiyo is cleaning Hatsumomo’s room when Hatsumomo comes in. Hatsumomo says that Chiyo shouldn’t touch the... (full context)
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Stunned by the slap, Chiyo stumbles out of the room and falls to the ground. Seeing Hatsumomo slap Chiyo, Mother... (full context)
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About a month after arriving at the okiya, Chiyo begins her training as a geisha. Since Pumpkin started her training six months earlier, Pumpkin... (full context)
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At school, Pumpkin takes Chiyo to the classes. Chiyo looks around for Satsu but doesn’t find her. In the first... (full context)
Chapter 5
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That afternoon, Hatsumomo brings Chiyo to the Registry Office for geisha who reside in the Gion district of Kyoto. According... (full context)
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That evening back at the okiya, Hatsumomo lets Chiyo watch her put on the geisha makeup as part of the tradition. Chiyo says (to... (full context)
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...Before Hatsumomo leaves the okiya, Auntie sparks a flint behind her back for good luck. Chiyo says that geisha are superstitious, and will never leave the okiya to go entertain men... (full context)
Chapter 6
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One of Chiyo’s duties as the most junior geisha in the okiya is to stay up late into... (full context)
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On another night, a man whom Chiyo thinks looks like a workman comes into the okiya. A few minutes later, Hatsumomo arrives.... (full context)
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...blackmailed Mameha’s maid into stealing it for her. Hatsumomo brings out some ink and tells Chiyo to write on the kimono. Though she feels sorry to destroy such a beautiful piece... (full context)
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Hatsumomo and Korin walk Chiyo to Mameha’s home so that she can return the ruined kimono. Chiyo knocks on the... (full context)
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Granny says that they should beat Chiyo for breaking the rules, and Auntie offers to do it. Auntie takes Chiyo away and... (full context)
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As Auntie beats her with a pole, Chiyo feels like her life can’t get any worse. Every time the pole hits her bottom,... (full context)
Chapter 7
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Having never heard of a jorou-ya before, Chiyo asks Auntie what the word means the next day. Auntie says that it’s the sort... (full context)
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While still barred from leaving the okiya, Chiyo receives an order one night from a senior maid to go out to give Hatsumomo... (full context)
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Soon after Chiyo finds the jorou-ya and steps inside, Satsu comes down the stairs. Her lips are painted... (full context)
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Chiyo runs back to the okiya and is happy to find everyone asleep and no one... (full context)
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Taking her anger out on Chiyo, Hatsumomo says that Chiyo wasn’t at the okiya when she came home. Hatsumomo accuses Chiyo... (full context)
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...the maids, Hatsumomo bangs on Mother’s door until she comes out. Hatsumomo says she saw Chiyo selling Hatsumomo’s emerald brooch to a man near the okiya. Chiyo says that Hatsumomo is... (full context)
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...arms apart. Mother pulls Hatsumomo’s kimono open and sticks her fingers between her legs. To Chiyo’s surprise, Hatsumomo doesn’t resist. When Mother pulls her fingers out, they are wet. Mother draws... (full context)
Chapter 8
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To stop Chiyo from leaving again, Mother has the maids lock the front door gates every night. With... (full context)
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The following evening when everyone goes to sleep, Chiyo sneaks up to the roof. She swings her legs over the side of the slanted... (full context)
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The next morning a doctor comes and sets Chiyo’s broken arm. In terrible pain, Chiyo goes to Mother’s room. Mother says that she won’t... (full context)
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In the months after Chiyo’s failed escape attempt, everyone in the okiya ignores her, treating her as if she isn’t... (full context)
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When spring comes, a package arrives for Chiyo from Mr. Tanaka. Auntie takes the box and opens it, revealing mortuary tablets from her... (full context)
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As Auntie reads the letter, Chiyo feels the tears streaming down her face. Hearing that both of her parents died, Chiyo... (full context)
Chapter 9
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In the present, Sayuri interrupts the narrative to reiterate that the afternoon she first met Mr. Tanaka was the... (full context)
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For an entire year after getting the letter, Chiyo lived in a daze of grief and loneliness. Chiyo would spend her days feeling guilty... (full context)
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With the dream buzzing around in her head, Chiyo remembers how last year she flicked a moth off her arm, causing it to land... (full context)
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When Chiyo touches the moth’s beautiful velvety wing, the entire moth crumbles into dust. Chiyo suddenly realizes... (full context)
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At that moment, Auntie tells Chiyo to go to the geisha school to bring Hatsumomo a hair ornament. Hatsumomo is at... (full context)
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While Chiyo cries, a man comes up to her and says that it’s too nice a day... (full context)
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Chiyo watches the Chairman walk away before getting the shaved ice. She sits with the treat... (full context)
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Chiyo takes the change left over from buying the shaved ice and goes to the nearest... (full context)
Chapter 10
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One morning months later, Chiyo smells something horrible coming from Granny’s room. She runs to get Auntie, who goes inside... (full context)
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...ceremonies. For days, people come to the okiya to pay their respects to Granny. It’s Chiyo’s responsibility to show visitors into the reception room. On around the third or fourth day,... (full context)
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A month after the funeral, a messenger arrives at the okiya and tells Chiyo that she should go to Mameha’s apartment tomorrow afternoon. At her apartment the next day,... (full context)
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Mameha tells Chiyo that she must try to become a geisha again if she ever wants to increase... (full context)
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Mameha suggests that Chiyo read an almanac to find out what day would be most fortuitous for bringing up... (full context)
Chapter 11
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In the present, Sayuri explains about how one of the main hurdles to becoming a geisha is finding an... (full context)
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A few weeks after Chiyo’s encounter with Mameha, Mameha arrives at the okiya to speak with Mother. Chiyo cleans outside... (full context)
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...interest in one of her maids, Mother asks why she would want to take on Chiyo as her apprentice. Mameha says that she thinks Chiyo’s eyes will make her one of... (full context)
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Persuaded by Mameha’s confidence in Chiyo’s ability to bring in money, Mother suggests a deal. She says that the okiya will... (full context)
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At that moment, Auntie tells Chiyo to go out to do an errand. When Chiyo comes back, Mameha is already gone.... (full context)
Chapter 12
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The next afternoon Mameha summons Chiyo to her apartment. Mameha says that if Chiyo is going to be her younger sister,... (full context)
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In the following days, Chiyo begins geisha training. Chiyo explains that the word “geisha” means “artist,” so her schooling consists... (full context)
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At the beginning of her training, Chiyo and Pumpkin practice shamisen together at the okiya everyday, laughing and enjoying each other’s company.... (full context)
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The next time Chiyo visits Mameha’s apartment, Mameha says Chiyo should strive for success, not popularity. Hatsumomo and Mameha... (full context)
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...geisha can make enough money to earn her independence is by having a wealthy danna. Chiyo thinks about how some lower-class geisha soil their reputations by making themselves available to men... (full context)
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Mameha tells Chiyo that dance is the most revered art form, and the most important one for seducing... (full context)
Chapter 13
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In the spring of 1934, after Chiyo has been training for two years, Mother decides that it’s time for Pumpkin to make... (full context)
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When Chiyo goes to Mameha’s apartment a few weeks later, Mameha says that she has truly grown... (full context)
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As they continue to walk, they pass a young man carrying boxes, and Mameha tells Chiyo to look at him in a way that will make him drop his boxes. She... (full context)
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That night Chiyo can’t sleep. She stays up imagining herself entering a tearoom in an exquisite kimono, turning... (full context)
Chapter 14
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In the weeks before her debut, Chiyo goes to a hairdresser to have her hair done in the manner of an apprentice... (full context)
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Finally, the day comes when Mameha and Chiyo perform the ceremony binding them as sisters. The ceremony takes place at a teahouse where... (full context)
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Mameha’s fortuneteller had helped picked out the name “Sayuri.” The name comes from the characters sa, meaning “together,” yu, from the zodiac sign for... (full context)
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For the rest of the afternoon, Mameha takes Sayuri around Gion, introducing her to the mistresses at various okiya and teahouses. Though Sayuri is... (full context)
Chapter 15
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Hatsumomo laughs and says she just remembered the funniest story about Sayuri. Hatsumomo says she was walking in Gion when she saw the young Sayuri being blown... (full context)
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Back at the okiya after bathing and removing her makeup, Sayuri is talking to Auntie when Hatsumomo comes home and slaps Sayuri across the face. Sayuri... (full context)
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The next night, Mameha and Sayuri go to another party, but Hatsumomo and Pumpkin show up shortly after they arrive. Mameha... (full context)
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A few weeks later, Sayuri receives a note from Mameha telling her to come to her apartment immediately. At the... (full context)
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The Baron, Mameha, and Sayuri sit together, but the Baron and Mameha do all the talking. Feeling that she has... (full context)
Chapter 16
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A few weeks later, a messenger arrives at the okiya and hands Sayuri a note from Mameha that says Sayuri should come to Mameha’s apartment that afternoon. When... (full context)
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Mameha leads Sayuri to the front row of the stadium, where she introduces Sayuri to Nobu. Sayuri sees... (full context)
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Mr. Tanaka turns his head towards Sayuri and suddenly Sayuri feels everything around her grow quiet, “as if he were the wind... (full context)
Chapter 17
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Sayuri had only seen the Chairman for the briefest moment years ago, but she had spent... (full context)
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As the men concentrate on the match, Sayuri finds herself staring at Nobu’s scars. She had been so preoccupied by the Chairman’s presence... (full context)
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When the first match ends and the crowd quiets down, Sayuri turns back to the Chairman and says she has never been to a sumo match... (full context)
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During the next match, Sayuri notices out of the corner of her eye Hatsumomo staring at her. When she sees... (full context)
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Mameha tells Sayuri that Hatsumomo will leave her alone if Hatsumomo thinks that Sayuri is already embarrassing herself.... (full context)
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When the women return, Sayuri fawns over Nobu, showing interest in whatever he says about sumo. When Sayuri looks over... (full context)
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Caught up in her fantasy, Sayuri makes a comment which provokes Nobu to yell that that only a fool could say... (full context)
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To cheer her up, Nobu kindly tells Sayuri to watch how the masterful Miyagiyama taunts his opponent by refusing to look at him... (full context)
Chapter 18
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Now that Sayuri knows the identity of the Chairman, she begins to read every news magazine she can... (full context)
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Several weeks pass, and then one day Sayuri receives a note that tells her to come to Mameha’s apartment. Mameha tells her to... (full context)
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Sayuri and Mameha wait for the doctor inside an examination room. When the doctor comes in,... (full context)
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Back in the rickshaw, Sayuri tells Mameha that the plan didn’t work because Dr. Crab didn’t show any interest in... (full context)
Chapter 19
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Over the next few weeks, Sayuri and Mameha attend small parties and gatherings with Nobu and the Chairman. Before going out... (full context)
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At the parties, Sayuri follows Mameha’s instructions by continuing to cultivate a relationship with Nobu. At one party, Sayuri... (full context)
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On one occasion, Sayuri and a group of geisha are entertaining Nobu, the Chairman, and some other businessmen at... (full context)
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To convince Hatsumomo that she likes Nobu and not the Chairman, Sayuri loosens one of her ornaments so it lands in Nobu’s lap. At first, Sayuri was... (full context)
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A few months after Mameha and Sayuri’s encounter with Dr. Crab, he invites them to have tea with him. Mameha suggests they... (full context)
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A few months later, Hatsumomo brags to Sayuri that she and Pumpkin will be leading the German Ambassador around Gion. Feeling satisfied that... (full context)
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Distressed that her plan is falling apart, Mameha tells Sayuri to ask Pumpkin how Hatsumomo found out about Dr. Crab. Sayuri asks why they need... (full context)
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...says that she hopes to start a bidding war between the Doctor and Nobu over Sayuri’s mizuage. If the bidding gets high enough, then Sayuri will be able to pay off... (full context)
Chapter 20
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In the present, Sayuri says that this conversation marked a shift in the way she viewed the world. Before... (full context)
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On the night Sayuri has this conversation with Mameha, she stays up until Pumpkin and Hatsumomo come home from... (full context)
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Pumpkin says that Hatsumomo suspected that Sayuri and Mameha were planning something when Sayuri didn’t seem dejected about Hatsumomo leading the German... (full context)
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Sayuri thanks Pumpkin for the info. Sayuri apologizes that Pumpkin is stuck with Hatsumomo as an... (full context)
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At Mameha’s apartment the next day, Sayuri tells her what Pumpkin said. Mameha says that if they convince the Doctor that Hatsumomo... (full context)
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Giving the cake to Nobu is a simple matter, but Mameha and Sayuri have to find a way to contact Dr. Crab, who hasn’t called upon their company... (full context)
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...off the matter, saying that Hatsumomo has been spreading this rumor out of jealousy, because Sayuri took a major part in the upcoming spring Kyoto dance performance. Mameha says that Hatsumomo... (full context)
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At first Sayuri thinks that Mameha lied about the dance, but the next day she learns that Mameha... (full context)
Chapter 21
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A few weeks later, Sayuri is taking a break at rehearsals for the dance performance when Mameha comes up to... (full context)
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At the Baron’s luxurious house later that week, Mameha and Sayuri serve tea to the Baron’s guests around a pond. Nobu watches Sayuri as she sits... (full context)
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...conversation, the Baron says that he would pay large sums of money just to watch Sayuri take a bath. Though the Baron didn’t pay attention to Sayuri the last time he... (full context)
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...displaying an antique sword. Nobu says the Baron is an antique just like this sword. Sayuri can tell that Nobu thinks the Baron is a relic of a feudal age. (full context)
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...so drunk that his eyes slosh around in his head. During dinner, the Doctor asks Sayuri to accompany him to the bathroom. The Doctor stops at the same glass case where... (full context)
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...the appointment in private. The Baron then says that if Mameha can’t come, he wants Sayuri to come in her place. Mameha says that Sayuri has rehearsals, but the Baron gets... (full context)
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On the rickshaw ride back, Mameha tells Sayuri to be cautious at the party. She says that “an apprentice on the point of... (full context)
Chapter 22
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On the day of the Baron’s party, Sayuri waits for the train. The party is at the Baron’s estate in Hakone, a few... (full context)
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When Sayuri and Mr. Itchoda arrive in Hakone, a car picks her up and takes her to... (full context)
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As Sayuri and the Chairman approach the Chairman’s car, they run into the Baron. The Chairman gives... (full context)
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After the Chairman drives off, Sayuri feels elated that she had the chance to talk with the Chairman privately, if only... (full context)
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The Baron tells Sayuri to follow him to his room so that he can give her the gift. In... (full context)
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Over the last few years, Sayuri has developed the habit of tying the Chairman’s handkerchief to the inside of her kimono... (full context)
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Sayuri stands in front of a mirror as the Baron takes off her under-robe. She tries... (full context)
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At the inn, Mr. Itchoda sees Sayuri’s poorly tied kimono and messed up makeup. He knowingly asks if the Baron undressed her... (full context)
Chapter 23
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Arriving back in Kyoto, Sayuri feels like a lake quivering after being struck by a stone. A few days after... (full context)
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On the night of the performance, Sayuri tucks the Chairman’s handkerchief into her sleeve as she puts on her costume. Sayuri is... (full context)
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...tells the story of a married courtier who carries on an affair with another woman. Sayuri watches Mameha perform the wife’s dance of lament at learning of her husband’s disloyalty. Mameha’s... (full context)
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While waiting backstage to perform her own dance, Sayuri feels a heavy weight descend on her from the sadness of seeing Mameha dance. As... (full context)
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One afternoon a few days after the first performance, Sayuri visits Mameha at her apartment. Mameha tells her that bidding has begun on her mizuage.... (full context)
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Mother suddenly pulls hard on Sayuri’s earlobe and says that now Sayuri is a very expensive commodity. Referring to Sayuri’s virginity,... (full context)
Chapter 24
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The following day at Mameha’s apartment, Sayuri tells Mameha what happened at the okiya. Mameha says that she knew Mother would adopt... (full context)
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To Sayuri’s surprise, Mameha doesn’t seem that pleased about this turn of events. Years later, Sayuri would... (full context)
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Mother formally adopts Sayuri the following week. As Mother’s daughter, Sayuri takes on the last name “Nitta.” A few... (full context)
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Dr. Crab takes off his robe and gets on top of her. Sayuri tries to put a “mental barrier” between herself and the Doctor, but it’s not enough... (full context)
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With the mizuage over, Sayuri feels such relief that she breaks out into a smile. She finds the whole experience... (full context)
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Before Sayuri’s mizuage, Mother didn’t care that Hatsumomo was causing Sayuri trouble in Gion, since Hatsumomo was... (full context)
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Sayuri stops seeing Dr. Crab at the small teahouse, but she continues to see Nobu, who... (full context)
Chapter 25
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Now that Sayuri is free to go to parties with Hatsumomo following her, Mameha takes her around Gion,... (full context)
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Sayuri interrupts the narrative to explain that since moving to New York, she has come up... (full context)
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Three weeks after Sayuri turns the collar, Mother tells her that at this time next month Nobu will become... (full context)
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The next day, Sayuri goes to Mameha’s to tell her what Mother said. Mameha says she should be proud... (full context)
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Mameha ends the conversation by saying that Nobu and Sayuri have an en – the Japanese word for a karmic bond. Sayuri interrupts the narrative... (full context)
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In the days after her conversation with Mameha, Sayuri loses hope that the Chairman will ever become her danna. While entertaining at a group... (full context)
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A few weeks pass, and then one day Mameha tells Sayuri that the time has finally come for her to collect her winnings from her agreement... (full context)
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...Mother that she can make more money if other men compete with Nobu over becoming Sayuri’s danna. When Mother says that no other men have shown any interest, Mameha suggests General... (full context)
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...because he can provide the okiya with things that the government will soon ration off. Sayuri notices Mother worryingly squeeze her tobacco bag to see how much tobacco she has left.... (full context)
Chapter 26
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A couple of months later, Sayuri and General Tottori perform the ceremony that makes the General her danna. It’s the same... (full context)
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Other than these encounters with the General, Sayuri sees little of him, but he does supply the okiya with food, medicine, and other... (full context)
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One day in April, a young apprentice approaches Sayuri while Sayuri is preparing for a recital for the spring dance in Gion. The girl... (full context)
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Feeling bad for making Nobu angry by taking the General as her danna, Sayuri decides to wait outside of Awazumi Teahouse in order to run into him and apologize.... (full context)
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Sayuri responds by saying that life is like stream carrying everyone along belly up. Nobu says... (full context)
Chapter 27
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During the summer of 1938, Mother tells Sayuri that in the last six months she has earned more than either Pumpkin or Hatsumomo.... (full context)
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One afternoon, Hatsumomo begins moving her belongings into Sayuri’s room. Hatsumomo makes a ruckus, leaving her clothes all over and accidently dropping glass makeup... (full context)
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In the room, Sayuri sees on the messy floor the emerald brooch that Hatsumomo had accused Sayuri of stealing... (full context)
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Sayuri denies having a journal, and Hatsumomo goes to Sayuri’s room, frantically searching for the journal... (full context)
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Sayuri feels that her relationship with Hatsumomo begins to shift after that day. With Sayuri now... (full context)
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At Mameha’s apartment the next day, Sayuri tells her what happened with Hatsumomo. Mameha says they should make Hatsumomo’s life even more... (full context)
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...comes to the okiya around dusk and waits to walk out the door behind Hatsumomo. Sayuri and Mameha then follow her from engagement to engagement all evening. On the first night... (full context)
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...a monster, while the mistress of the teahouse takes her away from the men. Later, Sayuri learns that the mistress actually shoved Hatsumomo into the street. (full context)
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...the okiya until the next day. Her hair is in disarray, she looks terrible, and Sayuri can tell she spent the night drinking. The next day Hatsumomo leaves the okiya in... (full context)
Chapter 28
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In the present, Sayuri remembers that most geisha in Gion survived the Great Depression fairly easily, because wealthy businessmen... (full context)
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However, in December 1942, a military policeman arrives at the okiya. The man tells Sayuri that the police took the General into custody that morning for misappropriating military rations. Over... (full context)
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Sayuri and Nobu talk in the reception room. Nobu says that he heard about the closing... (full context)
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Before leaving, Nobu tells Sayuri that they both will see a lot of suffering in the next few years, but... (full context)
Chapter 29
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For the next year, Sayuri lives with the Arashino family, sewing parachutes for the war effort. As each day passes,... (full context)
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With the Americans firebombing all over Japan, Sayuri worries for the safety of her friends. She also comes to the realization that she... (full context)
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In the present, Sayuri says that the adversity she experienced during that year made her reflect on the superficiality... (full context)
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Sayuri in the present says that the months following Japan’s surrender in August 1945 were the... (full context)
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One afternoon in November, 1946, Nobu comes to Arashino’s home to find out why Sayuri hasn’t returned to Gion. Sayuri says she would love to, but the decision isn’t hers... (full context)
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Nobu continues. He tells Sayuri that he needs her in Gion so that she can perform a task for him.... (full context)
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Before leaving, Nobu reminds Sayuri that their destinies are intertwined. Hearing him use the word destiny, Sayuri feels all of... (full context)
Chapter 30
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A week after Nobu’s visit, Auntie comes to Arashino’s home to bring Sayuri back to Gion. Auntie has lost all her teeth and her skin looks sickly, but... (full context)
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About a week after her return to Gion, Sayuri makes her reappearance as a geisha. For her first engagement, she meets with Nobu and... (full context)
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After the engagement, Sayuri meets up with Mameha at a party where a group of drunk, rowdy American GI’s... (full context)
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The next afternoon, Sayuri arrives at Pumpkin’s okiya. Sayuri tries to hug her, but Pumpkin pulls away and gives... (full context)
Chapter 31
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On the night of the engagement, Sayuri arrives to find the Chairman all alone in the reception room. Startled to see him... (full context)
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...funny, ribald stories and the men seem to be having a good time. When it’s Sayuri’s turn, she considers telling the story about meeting the Chairman when she was a young... (full context)
Chapter 32
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...winter, Nobu brings Sato to Gion on a weekly basis to drink and talk with Sayuri, Mameha, Pumpkin, and the Chairman. During these months, Sayuri sees more of the Chairman than... (full context)
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...the flu and is unable to join them at the teahouse. To entertain the men, Sayuri performs a deeply sorrowful dance piece called “Cruel Rain.” To give her performance emotional weight,... (full context)
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After Sayuri finishes the dance and sits back down, the Chairman asks about Pumpkin. Mameha says that... (full context)
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...night a few months later, Pumpkin, Mameha, and the Chairman cannot attend the party, so Sayuri entertains Nobu and Sato alone. Nobu is in a particularly bad mood, and he quickly... (full context)
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Sayuri responds by saying that she owes such a debt to Nobu that she would take... (full context)
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Calmer now, Nobu tells Sayuri to bring him the piece of rubble that he gave her at Arashino’s. Sayuri feels... (full context)
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At the okiya, Sayuri retrieves the rubble. As she leaves, she runs into Auntie and begins to cry incoherently,... (full context)
Chapter 33
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That night Sayuri lays on her futon and feels the room spinning around her. To cope with what... (full context)
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A month or so later, Mother informs Sayuri that Nobu has proposed himself as her danna. Mother also says that Nobu and the... (full context)
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When Friday arrives, Sayuri boards the plane in terror, thinking the whole thing will break apart before it even... (full context)
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Looking out of the window, Sayuri imagines cutting the bonds of fate that have held her to Nobu so that he... (full context)
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...they go to bathe in the hot springs at the inn where they are staying. Sayuri watches Nobu, realizing that he will never understand why she betrayed him. Sayuri thinks that... (full context)
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...the group explores the village near their inn. They come across an abandoned theater that Sayuri thinks is a good place to bring Sato if she decides to go through with... (full context)
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Sayuri decides to bring Sato to the abandoned theater that night. All she needs is Mameha... (full context)
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While everyone relaxes outside the inn, Sayuri approaches Sato and says that they should take a private stroll though the village. He... (full context)
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Though Sayuri doesn’t know if this means that Pumpkin has agreed to help, she decides to go... (full context)
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Sayuri finds the sex painful and unpleasant, but she thinks that life with Nobu would be... (full context)
Chapter 34
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In the instant before the door opens, Sayuri can almost sense her life expanding like a river whose riverbanks have swelled, but when... (full context)
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The rest of the trip goes by in a blur. Back in Kyoto, Sayuri spends the days after the trip in a state of shock and sorrow. In the... (full context)
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Sayuri waits for Nobu in a private room of the teahouse. She dozes off and dreams... (full context)
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Recognizing the handkerchief, the Chairman asks if she remembers that day as well. Sayuri says that all these years she’s wondered if the Chairman knew she was the girl... (full context)
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The Chairman says that after meeting Sayuri that day, he asked Mameha to find and mentor the beautiful young girl with blue-grey... (full context)
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With great effort, Sayuri admits that she betrayed Nobu because of her feelings for the Chairman. She says that... (full context)
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In a break in the narrative, Sayuri says that this is the first time someone ever really kissed her on the lips.... (full context)
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Sayuri asks why he kissed her if he is still planning to give her to Nobu.... (full context)
Chapter 35
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In the present, Sayuri says that the day the Chairman kissed her marked the end of her grief and... (full context)
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To make his relationship with Sayuri easier for Nobu to accept, the Chairman has Sayuri stop being a geisha. This way... (full context)
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A week after Minoru Nishioka’s change of heart, Sayuri approaches the Chairman and suggests that she should relocate to New York and open up... (full context)
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In August of that year, Sayuri moves to New York and Nishioka agrees to marry the Chairman’s daughter. Before long, New... (full context)
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One day, Sayuri and the Chairman walk through Central Park. Standing with two frail hands on his cane,... (full context)
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That night, Sayuri dreams of being at a banquet back in Gion, talking with an elderly man who... (full context)
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Sayuri says that sometimes while in walking through New York City she is struck by the... (full context)