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 Sayuri arrives, Mameha gives her one of her most beautiful kimonos to put on. Mameha 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 out, so Hatsumomo will have no way to get inside and ruin their time. When they get to the stadium, Sayuri notices that the geisha Korin is there, and she worries that she’ll tell Hatsumomo that Sayuri has arrived.
Hatsumomo has so effectively prevented Sayuri from entertaining men in Gion that Sayuri’s first engagement in weeks must be at a sold-out sumo match, not at the traditional location of the tearoom. As of yet, Sayuri has been unable to adapt to Hatsumomo’s tactics, thereby failing to make use of the flexibility of the “water” in her personality. However, in this and the next chapters, Sayuri will begin to finally start outsmarting Hatsumomo.
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 like a “melted candle.” But Sayuri doesn’t stare at Nobu long, because right next to him she recognizes Mr. Tanaka. She can only see the back of Mr. Tanaka’s head, but she notices him immediately. Sayuri thinks that although she would prefer to show her true feelings and yell at Mr. Tanaka for sending her away from her home, she knows she must act like a proper apprentice and pour his tea without spilling it on his legs, or telling him that his fish odor reminds her of home.
Sayuri’s decision to conceal her true feelings marks one of the first times she crafts an illusion in order to conform to the expectations of her male clientele. While a younger Sayuri might have simply spoken her mind, the geisha Sayuri must now reign in her impulses and desires in order to seem like a proper and cordial apprentice. In this way, the traditions that demand geisha not to be confrontational prevent her from acting on her desires.
Mr. Tanaka turns his head towards Sayuri and suddenly Sayuri feels everything around her grow quiet, “as if he were the wind that blew and I were just a cloud carried upon it.” Seeing the man’s face, Sayuri realizes she made a mistake. It is not Tanaka, but the Chairman.
The Chairman’s sudden reappearance suggests that “destiny” might indeed be bringing Sayuri and the Chairman together. At this point, it seems as if unknown, possibly mystical forces are at work in guiding Sayuri to the man she loves.