One morning a few weeks later, Chiyo is returning home from doing an errand in the village when Mr. Tanaka’s assistant comes running up the path. He tells her that Mr. Tanaka wants her and Satsu to come down to the village immediately. Chiyo runs home and tells her sister and father that Mr. Tanaka wants to see them. Her father turns his head heavily to the door and nods. Before the girls leave, Chiyo hears her mother cry out in pain from the back room.
Her mother’s ominous cry foreshadows that Mr. Tanaka’s reasons for summoning the girls are not as kind and benevolent as Chiyo hopes. Sakamoto, moreover, knows Tanaka’s true intention: he is going to take them away to Kyoto. Sakamoto’s total lack of emotional response thus makes him appear cruel and emotionally absent.
In the village, Chiyo feels that Mr. Tanaka is strangely distant. He even forgets Satsu’s name, which Chiyo finds odd, since Chiyo thinks he is going to adopt them both. Mr. Tanaka drives the girls to a train station, where they see Ms. Fidget waiting next to a skinny man wearing a stiff men’s kimono. Mr. Tanaka introduces the man as Mr. Bekku. Mr. Tanaka asks if Mr. Bekku needs any help transporting the girls, but Mr. Bekku waves off the offer. Chiyo asks where they’re going, but no one responds to her question. She wonders if Mr. Bekku is taking them somewhere to have their fortunes told more completely.
Tanaka’s emotional distance and his forgetting of Satsu’s name has no effect on dislodging Chiyo’s commitment to her dream of adoption, once again showing the powerful hold of fantasy and artifice. Again and again in this novel, characters will hold onto their fantasies in order to cope with the harsh realities bearing down upon them.
Mr. Bekku leads the girls by the elbows onto the train. Mr. Tanaka says something to Chiyo but she is unable to make it out. He either says, “We’ll meet again” or “Wait” or “Well, let’s go,” which are all phrases that sound similar in Japanese. As the train starts to move, Mr. Bekku says that the girls smell like fish. He then takes out a comb and starts vigorously tearing through Satsu’s messy hair, causing her to cry from the pain. Feeling confused and scared, Chiyo blames herself for putting Satsu in this position.
The train will not only physically transport Chiyo away from Yoroido, but also metaphorically initiate a new stage in her life by transporting her out of the freedom of her childhood and into the restrictive world of the geisha.
After hours of riding the train without food or drink, they arrive in Kyoto. As they ride through the city on a rickshaw, Chiyo feels a terrible emptiness and fear. The fast moving cars, the sounds of trucks rumbling, and the smell of burning rubber assault her senses. Chiyo feels that the city is as foreign to her as the bottom of the sea.
Chiyo’s reaction to the new city mirrors her psychological state. Having lived her whole life in the quiet seaside village, the experience of the city is disorienting and scary, which reflects her own inner confusion about why Tanaka sent her here in the first place.
The rickshaw stops and Mr. Bekku instructs Chiyo to get out. When Satsu tries to get out as well, Mr. Bekku pushes her back into the rickshaw, saying that she is going elsewhere. Realizing that Mr. Bekku is separating her from Satsu, Chiyo is struck by the reality that Mr. Tanaka isn’t actually adopting them. She begins to cry for the first time that day. As Mr. Bekku drags Chiyo inside the building, an exquisitely beautiful woman appears, wearing a kimono lovelier than anything Chiyo has ever imagined. Little did Chiyo know at the time that this woman was Hatsumomo, a geisha renowned in Kyoto for her beauty and cruelty. As Hatsumomo walks out, she looks at Chiyo and calls her street trash. Mr. Bekku hands Chiyo over to an older woman and drives off with Satsu.
Hatsumomo epitomizes the gap between personality and external appearances. On the outside, Hatsumomo has the appearance of beauty, yet she is actually a cruel and unforgiving person—her attractive appearance does not seem to “match up” with the cruel, ugly inner personality. Likewise, we are beginning to see that Tanaka is similar to Hatsumomo in this way. Chiyo misunderstood Tanaka’s concern and compliments for kindness, when he was actually musing on the profit he could make by selling a pretty girl into sexual slavery.
Frightened and feeling terribly alone, Chiyo cries in the doorway until the old woman consoles her and says there’s nothing to cry about. The woman tells Chiyo to call her Auntie. Noticing Chiyo’s eyes, Auntie says that she is beautiful. Auntie leads her into a two-story courtyard surrounded by little buildings. A young girl comes to meet them with a bucket of water. Because of the girl’s plump head, Chiyo decides to call her Pumpkin, a nickname that will stick with the girl even into her old age. Auntie shoos Pumpkin away, takes a rag from the bucket, and starts washing the dirt and grime from Chiyo’s face.
Chiyo’s nickname for Pumpkin suggests that Chiyo often lacks emotional awareness. The nickname is a bit insulting, because it refers to Pumpkin’s large head, especially in a social situation so concerned with physical beauty. We never learn how Pumpkin feels about the nickname, but we do learn that Chiyo has a surprising lack of compassion for this girl—and Pumpkin will come to resent her, perhaps starting this very moment. In this way, Chiyo resembles her emotionally absent father.
Chiyo asks where she is and Auntie says she’s at an okiya – a place where geisha live. Auntie tells her that if she obeys everything that Auntie says, then she can be a geisha too. Auntie then says that two women, whom she calls Mother and Granny, will soon come down the stairs to look at Chiyo. She instructs Chiyo to bow low and not look at them in the eyes. Auntie says that Granny doesn’t like anyone, so Chiyo must try to impress Mother, who makes all the real decisions anyway. Just then, Chiyo hears a creaking of wood and sees a flow of silk kimonos coming down the stairs.
Because of the adult women’s familial titles, the women at the okiya metaphorically replace Chiyo’s real family. Yet Granny and Mother’s nicknames are ironic, because these women in no way embody the characteristics of motherhood. Mother and Granny are uncaring and unloving women who only care about the money they can bring into the okiya. Though Chiyo gets a new “mother,” this title merely obscures the fact of Mother’s unkindness.
Not wanting to disobey Auntie – the only person who has been kind to her since she was forced to leave Yoroido – Chiyo keeps her eyes downcast and bows low in front of Mother and Granny. Mother asks her to come closer so that she can get a better look at her. Chiyo tries to keep her eyes pinned to Mother’s elegant kimono, but she can’t help herself from glancing upward to see if a beautiful face matches the beautiful clothing. Instead, Chiyo sees an ugly woman with the face of a bulldog. Though Chiyo didn’t know it at the time, Mother and Auntie grew up together in the same okiya. Granny had adopted them both.
Still so naïve, Chiyo thinks a woman in beautiful clothing must have a beautiful face, not realizing that a person might use clothing to conceal or lessen one’s ugliness. As she matures, Chiyo will learn that beauty in one aspect of a person’s identity does not mean that beauty exists in other aspects. Mother’s beautiful clothing does not correspond with her ugly face, while Hatsumomo’s beautiful face does not correspond with her ugly personality.
Mother approvingly says that Chiyo’s beautiful blue-grey eyes mean that she has a lot of water in her personality. Granny simply says that she looks dull. Mother tells Chiyo that if she obeys the okiya’s rules, then she will start her training in the arts of the geisha in two or three months. Until then, she’ll work as a maid. Chiyo finds herself wondering if Satsu is also standing in front of an ugly woman right now. This thought about Satsu prompts Chiyo to imagine her mother sitting up in bed, wondering where Chiyo had gone. Thinking of her mother makes the tears return to her eyes.
Chiyo’s arrival at the okiya not only signifies her first steps towards becoming a geisha, but also her passage from the world of truth into the world of appearance. As Chiyo stands before Mother – who is a mother only in name – she thinks of her actual mother. Now, in the world of appearances, nothing will be as it seems: beautiful women are ugly on the inside and cruel women take on the name “mother” in order to seem kinder and more nurturing.