Memoirs of a Geisha

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A man in love with Sayuri, Nobu spends much of the novel trying to get Sayuri to become his personal geisha. Injured from his time in the military, Nobu is missing an arm and has burn scars covering his face. Though fiercely loyal, Nobu is inflexible, ill-tempered, and quick to use harsh, cutting words. While Sayuri values him for his loyalty and candor, she loves his business partner, Chairman Ken Iwamura, for his gentle kindness. Clouded by his own desire for Sayuri, Nobu either does not realize or does not care that Sayuri has no love for him. Nobu professes a staunch belief in self-determination, believing that each person must realize his or her personal purpose in life. At times petty and unforgiving, he ultimately forgoes any relationship, whether romantic or platonic, with Sayuri when he learns that she slept with a piggish man named Sato, whom Nobu thinks is beneath her.

Toshikazu Nobu Quotes in Memoirs of a Geisha

The Memoirs of a Geisha quotes below are all either spoken by Toshikazu Nobu or refer to Toshikazu Nobu . 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 17 Quotes

“I'm the one who picked it,” Mameha said. "The fortune-teller doesn't pick names; he only tells us if they're acceptable."
“One day, Mameha,” Nobu replied, “you'll grow up and stop listening to fools.”
“Now, now, Nobu-san,” said the Chairman, “anyone hearing you talk would think you're the most modern man in the nation. Yet I've never known anyone who believes more strongly in destiny than you do.”
“Every man has his destiny. But who needs to go to a fortuneteller to find it? Do I go to a chef to find out if I'm hungry?” Nobu said.

Related Characters: Toshikazu Nobu (speaker), Chairman Ken Iwamura (speaker), Mameha (speaker)
Page Number: 200
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Sayuri spends time with Mameha and her clients, the Chairman and Nobu. Nobu is interested in how Sayuri chose a name for herself--tellingly, Mameha answers on her behalf, illustrating that Sayuki is still nervous around her future clients. Nobu rejects the idea that a fortune-teller is needed to choose a choose's name (a belief that was supposedly a popular part of Japanese culture at the time). Nobu implies that fortune-telling in general is an illusion--it has no real bearing on life. And yet the Chairman points out at Nobu, for all his exasperation with superstition and ritual, is just as superstitious as the average person: he believes in destiny.

What does the Chairman mean by "destiny?" Nobu seems to subscribe to the belief that everyone has a destiny, even if it's sometimes hard to see (a fortune teller who claims to be able to understand destiny is just a liar). Nobu's observations relate back to Sayuri's own: she feels that she has a destiny, although she sometimes struggles to understand it.

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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.

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Toshikazu Nobu Character Timeline in Memoirs of a Geisha

The timeline below shows where the character Toshikazu Nobu appears in Memoirs of a Geisha. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 16
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...says they’re going to a sumo match where they will entertain Ken Iwamura and Toshikazu Nobu, the joint directors of the Iwamura Electric company. Mameha says that the match is sold... (full context)
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Mameha leads Sayuri to the front row of the stadium, where she introduces Sayuri to Nobu. Sayuri sees that Nobu has terrible burn scars on his face that make him look... (full context)
Chapter 17
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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 that she hadn’t even realized... (full context)
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...the Chairman and says she has never been to a sumo match before. Hearing this, Nobu turns to Sayuri and says that if she wants to learn about sumo then she... (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 in Hatsumomo’s direction,... (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 such an ignorant thing. Thinking that... (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... (full context)
Chapter 18
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...that he was born in 1890 and built his own electric company. The Chairman hired Nobu to manage the day-to-day operations of the company. The Chairman often says in interviews that... (full context)
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...making Hatsumomo stop following them, but for it to work, Sayuri must seduce two men: Nobu, and a certain doctor that she will meet today. Sayuri begins to feel sick when... (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 every night, Sayuri tells Auntie – in Hatsumomo’s presence... (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 kneels closer to Nobu than she intended, causing Nobu to slam... (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 a teahouse when Hatsumomo appears. All night, Sayuri... (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... (full context)
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...before. Mameha 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... (full context)
Chapter 20
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Giving the cake to Nobu is a simple matter, but Mameha and Sayuri have to find a way to contact... (full context)
Chapter 21
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...party in honor of the famous kimono maker Arashino, who is a great friend of Nobu’s. Mameha is going to persuade the Baron to invite both the Doctor and Nobu. Mameha... (full context)
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...later that week, Mameha and Sayuri serve tea to the Baron’s guests around a pond. Nobu watches Sayuri as she sits near Dr. Crab. Sayuri tells the Doctor that she has... (full context)
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...chaste, but they all want the same thing. To save her from the awkward conversation, Nobu excuses himself to use the bathroom and asks Sayuri to accompany him. (full context)
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On the way to the bathroom, Nobu stands in front of a glass case displaying an antique sword. Nobu says the Baron... (full context)
Chapter 24
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...bidding went so high because Dr. Crab ended up bidding against the Baron and not Nobu. Nobu did bid in the beginning, but soon dropped out when the prices got too... (full context)
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Sayuri stops seeing Dr. Crab at the small teahouse, but she continues to see Nobu, who often asks for her company. Whenever she’s with him and the Chairman at events,... (full context)
Chapter 25
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...weeks after Sayuri turns the collar, Mother tells her that at this time next month Nobu will become her danna. Since making an offer for her mizuage, Nobu has asked for... (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... (full context)
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...going. Mother says that she is in the final stages of agreeing upon terms with Nobu. Mameha suggests to Mother that she can make more money if other men compete with... (full context)
Chapter 26
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...with food, medicine, and other essentials. During that fall when the General became her danna, Nobu ceased inviting her to parties. Sayuri assumes that Nobu must feel betrayed that Mother picked... (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... (full context)
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Sayuri responds by saying that life is like stream carrying everyone along belly up. Nobu says that if life is truly like a stream, then water can still move freely... (full context)
Chapter 28
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Sayuri and Nobu talk in the reception room. Nobu says that he heard about the closing of the... (full context)
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Before leaving, Nobu tells Sayuri that they both will see a lot of suffering in the next few... (full context)
Chapter 29
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...for the war effort. As each day passes, she feels herself more and more in Nobu’s debt because she doesn’t suffer as badly as other geisha, many of whom work in... (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... (full context)
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Nobu continues. He tells Sayuri that he needs her in Gion so that she can perform... (full context)
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Before leaving, Nobu reminds Sayuri that their destinies are intertwined. Hearing him use the word destiny, Sayuri feels... (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... (full context)
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...Gion, Sayuri makes her reappearance as a geisha. For her first engagement, she meets with Nobu and Sato at a teahouse. Sayuri tries to engage Sato in conversation, but he says... (full context)
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...gives her face a womanly elegance. Sayuri asks if Pumpkin would like to help entertain Nobu and his business partner. For some reason Pumpkin is distrustful of Sayuri, and claims that... (full context)
Chapter 31
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...and that he looks like a big pig. Everyone laughs at her bluntness just as Nobu and Sato arrive. (full context)
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...game, Pumpkin and Sato quickly get drunk. When the Chairman leaves to walk Pumpkin home, Nobu asks how Sato enjoyed his evening. Smiling and nodding, he says he enjoyed it very... (full context)
Chapter 32
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All through winter, Nobu brings Sato to Gion on a weekly basis to drink and talk with Sayuri, Mameha,... (full context)
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...sorrowful dance piece called “Cruel Rain.” To give her performance emotional weight, Sayuri pretends that Nobu, and not the Chairman, is her danna. By the end of the dance, she feels... (full context)
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...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 rushes Sato... (full context)
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Sayuri responds by saying that she owes such a debt to Nobu that she would take no favor he asked of her lightly. Shocked to hear that... (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.... (full context)
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...Sayuri asks if there is anything Auntie can do to delay her from returning to Nobu, but Auntie says that if Nobu wants her, she must go to him. Sayuri makes... (full context)
Chapter 33
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...room spinning around her. To cope with what she feels is her inevitable relationship with Nobu, she tries to erase all thoughts of the Chairman from her head, replacing them with... (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 Chairman have... (full context)
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...of the window, Sayuri imagines cutting the bonds of fate that have held her to Nobu so that he plummets into the ocean below. This thought gives Sayuri an idea for... (full context)
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...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 Nobu will... (full context)
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...she decides to go through with the plan. On the walk back to the inn, Nobu says to her that this trip must be the furthest she has ever been from... (full context)
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...to the abandoned theater that night. All she needs is Mameha or Pumpkin to bring Nobu to the spot and have him open the theater door, catching Sayuri and Sato in... (full context)
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...room in a daze. In the room, she finds Pumpkin and asks her to bring Nobu inside the old theater at sunset. Sayuri says that she doesn’t have time to explain... (full context)
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...she decides to go through with the plan and hope that Pumpkin will come with Nobu. Sayuri meets up with Sato and takes him down to the village, feeling a sensation... (full context)
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Sayuri finds the sex painful and unpleasant, but she thinks that life with Nobu would be even worse. When Sato is finished, he lies on top of her. Sayuri... (full context)
Chapter 34
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...sees Pumpkin come inside the room, Sayuri asks why she brought the Chairman and not Nobu. Pumpkin calmly says that she has been looking for a way to get back at... (full context)
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...word that Iwamura Electric requires her presence that evening at a teahouse. She expects that Nobu will meet her there and tell her that the danna arrangements have been finalized. Resigned... (full context)
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Sayuri waits for Nobu in a private room of the teahouse. She dozes off and dreams of the Chairman... (full context)
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...The Chairman says that the reason Mameha never revealed the Chairman’s involvement is because of Nobu. (full context)
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The Chairman says that he values Nobu’s friendship more than anyone else’s. The Chairman explains that after learning of Nobu’s feelings for... (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 every step she took since... (full context)
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Sayuri asks why he kissed her if he is still planning to give her to Nobu. The Chairman says that Nobu withdrew his proposal to be her danna. The Chairman explains... (full context)
Chapter 35
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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 Nobu would not... (full context)