The following day at Mameha’s apartment, Sayuri tells Mameha what happened at the okiya. Mameha says that she knew Mother would adopt Sayuri, because yesterday the bidding ended with Dr. Crab agreeing to pay 11,500 yen for her mizuage – the highest amount ever paid for a mizuage in Gion. The amount is enough to pay back all her debts. Mameha explains that if Mother hadn’t adopted Sayuri, then some of the money would have gone straight to Sayuri herself. But when Sayuri becomes the daughter of the okiya, any money she makes as a geisha will go to the okiya, meaning that Mother will make even more money off Sayuri.
Mameha’s explanation for why Mother adopted Sayuri emphasizes how familial relationships among geisha are merely illusions that conceal the true economic realities. Mother does not adopt Sayuri out of love or affection, but in order to profit off her success. In the world of the geisha, titles like “mother” and “daughter” suggest economic rather than familial relationships.
To Sayuri’s surprise, Mameha doesn’t seem that pleased about this turn of events. Years later, Sayuri would come to understand that the 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 high, since he had only a vague interest in mizuage. Dr. Crab and the Baron, however, had their minds set on Sayuri’s mizuage and were willing to bid heavily.
Nobu’s lack of interest in Sayuri’s mizuage shows that he desires more from her than just sex – he may even love her. The Baron and Dr. Crab, however, are superficial men who want Sayuri for her virginity, and feel only lust for her. Nobu may love Sayuri, but he still allows his colleagues to treat her like property.
Mother formally adopts Sayuri the following week. As Mother’s daughter, Sayuri takes on the last name “Nitta.” A few days later, Dr. Crab and Sayuri drink sake together in a ceremony that binds them together in the tradition of mizuage. Afterwards, Sayuri and Dr. Crab go to a beautiful inn where, in a private room, Dr. Crab tells her to undress and lie on a futon. He then puts a towel underneath her. The Doctor says that the towel is for absorbing the blood. Since neither Mameha nor Mother told Sayuri what to expect from the mizuage, she nervously asks him, “Why blood?” He responds that “the hymen…frequently bled when torn.” Though she doesn’t understand what any of this means, Sayuri becomes anxious hearing him talk about the blood and rises up a little from the futon. The Doctor then puts his hand on her shoulder and gently pushes her back down.
Sayuri’s ignorance about the process of losing her virginity emphasizes that she is not psychologically or emotionally ready for this experience. In many ways, she is still a naïve young girl. The fact that the Doctor pushes her down also implies the coercion in this scene. Sayuri knows she can’t reject Dr. Crab without risking either violence or being kicked out of the okiya for disobeying Mother. Sayuri has no control over her body or her sexual experiences, showing how geisha culture (in Golden’s fictionalized version) oppresses women by taking away their agency.
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 to keep her from feeling the Doctor’s “eel.” Sayuri feels uncomfortable and squeezes her eyes tight, wondering why a man would pay so much to do this to her. Sayuri smells a metallic blood smell in the air. Finally he finishes and thanks Sayuri before going to take a bath.
As Dr. Crab rapes Sayuri, Sayuri tries to mentally flee from herself and her body. In essence, the rape forces Sayuri to distance and alienate her mind from her body. Creating this rift between mind and body adds to the dehumanizing aspect of the whole experience.
With the mizuage over, Sayuri feels such relief that she breaks out into a smile. She finds the whole experience so absurd that she has to stifle her laughter. When the Doctor comes out of the bath, he quickly gets into bed and falls asleep. As part of the customs of mizuage, Sayuri stays up all night in case the Doctor should need something. The next morning, the Doctor presents her with some herbs before he leaves. He says she should drink them every morning for a week so that she won’t need an abortion.
Sayuri’s reaction shows that she has yet to understand the pleasures or desires of sex—as she hasn’t had the opportunity. She hasn’t experienced the feelings of sexual arousal that might drive a person to pay for sex. Yet we should also be critical of this scene, as Golden, a male author, describes a girl responding to her rape with mild amusement – a highly unlikely and insensitive portrayal.
Before Sayuri’s mizuage, Mother didn’t care that Hatsumomo was causing Sayuri trouble in Gion, since Hatsumomo was the only one bringing in an income to the okiya. But since Sayuri’s record-setting mizuage put “a high price tag” on her, men are now willing to pay a lot just to be entertained by her. Now that Sayuri can bring in money to the okiya, Mother puts a stop to Hatsumomo’s troublemaking by threatening to make Hatsumomo pay for any money she prevents Sayuri from making. Sayuri now feels that she can go out to any party without fearing that Hatsumomo will get in her way.
Even Sayuri now thinks of herself as commodity with a price tag rather than a human being that cannot be judged by monetary worth. Sayuri’s experience in the world of the geisha has caused her to internalize society’s view of women as objects for the pleasure of men, and so she is pleased by the high price her virginity commanded. Perhaps her acceptance of these beliefs makes it easier for her to undergo traumatic events like her rape.
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, Sayuri hopes the Chairman will show a sign that he has affection for her, but he only acts cordially. Nobu, however, looks at her as though she were the only person in the room. Sayuri worries that the Chairman shares none of the same feelings that she has for him.
Nobu’s continued interest in Sayuri shows that he cares for her even though she has already lost her virginity to another man. He clearly wants more than just to take the virginity of a beautiful girl—he might even be falling in love with Sayuri.