One morning months later, Chiyo smells something horrible coming from Granny’s room. She runs to get Auntie, who goes inside the room to find Granny dead. Her electric heater had malfunctioned and electrocuted her. Her face had landed on the hot wire, which was the source of the smell.
In a morbid kind of way, Granny’s gruesome death is consistent with her horrible personality. The horrible smell coming from her room could be understood as metaphor for her “ugly” soul leaving her body.
For the next few weeks, everyone in the okiya prepares for the funeral 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, the geisha Mameha arrives and asks Chiyo for her name. Worried that Mameha somehow found out that she was the one who ruined the kimono, Chiyo expects Mameha to scold her. But instead, Mameha looks into Chiyo’s eyes and compliments their color. Chiyo feels Mameha looking deep inside of her, as if she were concentrating on something in the distance.
Granny’s death – as gruesome as it was – seems to have no emotional effect on anyone in the okiya. Though Auntie and Mother were her adopted children, they do not express genuine sadness or sympathy for her. Instead, the okiya simply goes through the motions of the funeral ceremony. Here, there is no love or mourning, just ritual.
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, Mameha offers Chiyo tea. She says that Hatsumomo must treat Chiyo terribly, because Hatsumomo is jealous of anyone she thinks is prettier than her. When Chiyo says that she is no rival to Hatsumomo, Mameha explains that the mistress of an okiya usually adopts her best geisha as a daughter. Mameha says Ms. Nitta (Mother’s real last name) would never adopt Hatsumomo, because then Hatsumomo would have complete freedom to do whatever she wants in the okiya, possibly even finding a way to kick Mother out. Mameha says that Hatsumomo fears that Chiyo, with her attractiveness and beautiful eyes, could become a good enough geisha that Mother would adopt her instead.
Mameha confirms that familial relations at the okiya are based not on bloodlines or love, but on greed and material desire. As Mameha explains, Mother will decide which geisha to adopt based on her account books, not her heart. Thus, in the world of the geisha, even familial love and relationships are just as much an illusion as erotic and romantic love seems to be. Men pay to be with the geisha for entertainment, just as a geisha pays to have security as the daughter of the okiya. It’s all about the material, not the maternal.
Mameha tells Chiyo that she must try to become a geisha again if she ever wants to increase her standing in life. Mameha also says that Chiyo has yet to make use of all the water in her personality. Mameha says that people with water in the personalities “flow where the landscape of our lives carries us.” Mameha says that in Chiyo’s case, her life is flowing towards becoming a geisha.
Mameha’s comment about Chiyo’s personality draws the connection between water and destiny. Mameha suggests that water has little control over its direction in life and must simply follow set pathways. Thus Mameha suggests that destiny preordains Chiyo’s future.
Mameha suggests that Chiyo read an almanac to find out what day would be most fortuitous for bringing up the subject with Mother. An almanac is a book of complicated charts that people use to read their fortunes. Thinking about the almanac, Chiyo begins to think that people’s lives are controlled by external forces over which we have no control. Chiyo thinks that people must try to understand the ways of the universe so that they aren’t always swimming against the currents, but instead flowing with them.
While Mameha’s faith in the almanac suggests that she believes that hidden powers shape our lives, Chiyo’s belief is a little more ambiguous. The external forces that Chiyo refers to could be spiritual forces, but they could also be the real, human forces that have affected her life so far. From Mr. Tanaka selling her to the okiya to the Chairman’s kindness, people’s actions irrevocably change the course of her life.