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 hours away from Kyoto by train. Sayuri is accompanied by Mr. Itchoda, Mameha’s dresser, who is coming to help Sayuri tie her intricate obi in preparation for the party. Sayuri feels an unpleasant sensation swelling inside of her as the train pulls into the station. She remembers how the last time she boarded a train was with Satsu. Sayuri feel ashamed that, for the last few years, she has tried to stop herself from thinking about Satsu or her parents.
In order to cope with her feelings about her family, Sayuri has blocked out any thoughts of them. In this way, she has yet to learn how to come to terms with the traumas and suffering of her life. Instead of dealing with them in a healthy or productive way, she simply tries, once again, to mentally “run away” from her problems.
When Sayuri and Mr. Itchoda arrive in Hakone, a car picks her up and takes her to the Baron’s estate. The Baron comes over to her and says she should walk around the property so that all the male guests can marvel at her beauty. After a few hours of walking around, she runs into the Chairman. Surprised at seeing him, Sayuri stares affectionately at him. The Chairman says he’s leaving the party, so Sayuri offers to escort him to his car. On the way, the Chairman shows her an antique cosmetics box that he is going to give the Baron as a gift. Sayuri finds the box so dazzlingly beautiful that she feels herself holding her breath while she looks at it.
The Baron thinks that all Sayuri can offer to the men around her is her beauty. In contrast, the Chairman shows Sayuri an actual beautiful object, instead of dehumanizing her into a beautiful object. The Chairman thus seems kinder and less sexist than the Baron. It is still important to remember, however, that no matter how kind and noble the Chairman seems, he too is paying for the company and flattery of women.
As Sayuri and the Chairman approach the Chairman’s car, they run into the Baron. The Chairman gives the Baron the gift. The Baron says the box might even be lovelier than Sayuri, whom he refers to as an “exquisite creature.” The Baron tells Sayuri that he has a gift of his own for her, but she must wait till everyone leaves before he can give it to her. As the Baron walks away, the Chairman gets into his car. Before driving off, he warns her to be careful when a man like the Baron decides he has something to give her.
The Baron’s comment about Sayuri being an “exquisite creature” dehumanizes her. Instead of recognizing her dignity as a human being, he thinks of her as on the same level as the cosmetics box: a beautiful object. The Chairman’s warning again shows that he is kindly looking out for Sayuri’s best interests, but he still sees no problem in placing her at the Baron’s mercy.
After the Chairman drives off, Sayuri feels elated that she had the chance to talk with the Chairman privately, if only for a moment. Sayuri’s happiness makes her forget the Chairman’s words of warning. After all the guests leave the party, Sayuri goes to wait for the Baron in the entrance hall of his house. The Baron appears in a thin cotton dressing robe, and Sayuri suddenly remembers the Chairman’s warning. She feels sick with worry.
The Baron’s appearance in a cotton robe signals the danger that Sayuri is in. Since the Baron sees her as more of an object than a human being, he might feel like he has the right to take advantage of her sexually—and there is little she can do to defend herself.
The Baron tells Sayuri to follow him to his room so that he can give her the gift. In the present, Sayuri interrupts the narrative by saying that if she were wiser at the time, she would have ran out of his house at that very moment. Instead, feeling indebted to the Baron for inviting her to the party, Sayuri follows him inside. In his room, he gives her a beautiful, antique kimono. The Baron tells her to undress and try it on. Afraid to disobey the Baron in his own house, Sayuri takes off the outer layer of her kimono.
Ever since Ms. Fidget violated Sayuri’s body without permission, Sayuri has learned from society that her body is not her own and that she must concede to the wishes of others. Now it seems as if the Baron might rape her—an extreme instance of a character taking away Sayuri’s right to her own body and sexual freedom.
Over the last few years, Sayuri has developed the habit of tying the Chairman’s handkerchief to the inside of her kimono before going out to entertain men. Now, as she takes off the kimono, she sees the handkerchief flutter out of it.
Since the handkerchief represents the possibility of love, the fact that it falls out now suggests that the Baron’s grotesque actions might shatter her belief in this ideal.
Sayuri stands in front of a mirror as the Baron takes off her under-robe. She tries to push his hands away, but he takes off her robe so that she is standing naked before the mirror. Sayuri turns away from the mirror in shame as she feels his warm breath on her neck. The Baron then puts his hand into his own robe. Sayuri tries not to think about what he is doing with that hand. Sayuri begins to cry, and a few moments later, the Baron leaves the room without her realizing. She quickly gathers up the Chairman’s handkerchief and puts on her kimono.
The Baron’s reasons for not having sex with Sayuri are ambiguous. Since he sees Sayuri as more of an object than a person, his actions most likely do not stem from his recognition of the immorality of such a thing. Instead, since Sayuri’s virginity has monetary value, by having sex with her he would essentially be stealing from the okiya. He seems to respect the laws regarding property more than those regarding sexual assault.
The Baron soon returns with a handkerchief – bearing his monogrammed initials – for her tears. He instructs her to keep it, but after she uses it to wipe her eyes, she leaves it on a table. The Baron takes her outside, and a car drives her back to the inn where she is staying the night.
While the Chairman’s handkerchief represents the possibility of love, the Baron’s represents how some men only want sex and will do anything to gratify their desires. By leaving the Baron’s handkerchief behind, Sayuri symbolically rejects its metaphoric meaning, choosing to hold on to her belief in true love—even when that ideal seems impossible.
At the inn, Mr. Itchoda sees Sayuri’s poorly tied kimono and messed up makeup. He knowingly asks if the Baron undressed her and looked at her in the mirror without touching her or lying on top of her. Feeling guilt at what happened, Sayuri confirms Mr. Itchoda’s suspicion by saying, “I’m sorry.” Mr. Itchoda responds, “That’s fine, then.” They don’t speak another word to each other for the rest of the trip back.
Mr. Itchoda’s knowing questions suggest that the Baron has a reputation for doing this to girls. Since the Baron is a powerful man and geisha have little political influence in Japanese society, no one has publically accused him of this crime. In this way, the novel shows how few protections these women have from sexual assault.