A week after Nobu’s visit, Auntie comes to Arashino’s home to bring Sayuri back to Gion. Auntie has lost all her teeth and her skin looks sickly, but Sayuri thinks she still has the bearing of a strong woman. The next day they leave for Gion. In Gion, Sayuri calls on Mameha, who survived the war as a nurse in a military hospital. Without a danna, she moved into a smaller apartment. Sayuri thinks that she still looks beautiful, if a little older around the mouth.
Sayuri’s recognition of Auntie’s true strength (despite her sickly outward appearance) shows that the suffering of war has matured Sayuri’s thinking about appearances. Having lived a life without artifice for the past few years, Sayuri can now perceive some of the truth behind the physical and aesthetic.
About a week after her return to Gion, Sayuri makes her reappearance as a geisha. For her first engagement, she meets with Nobu and Sato at a teahouse. Sayuri tries to engage Sato in conversation, but he says little more than one word at a time. Sayuri then suggests they play a drinking game. Not very good at the game, Sato ends up drinking so much that he throws up and passes out. While Sato is unconscious, Nobu calls him a fool. Sayuri says that she will bring a couple more geisha next time, and that Nobu should bring the Chairman so that the event will be more lively. Nobu agrees and lugs Sato out of the teahouse to bring him home.
Sayuri’s suggestion that Nobu bring the Chairman shows that she has begun taking more control over the events in her life. For example, Sayuri here makes use of the water in her personality. Instead of candidly telling Nobu that she wants to see the Chairman, she uses the pretense of making the event more “lively” to convince Nobu to bring him. Sayuri manipulates Nobu’s desire to impress Sato so that she can move closer to her aim (or “destiny”) of being with the Chairman.
After the engagement, Sayuri meets up with Mameha at a party where a group of drunk, rowdy American GI’s are entertaining the geisha more than the geisha are entertaining them. Sayuri invites Mameha to come to her next party with Sato. Mameha agrees, and also suggests that Sayuri bring Pumpkin. Though Sayuri hasn’t seen Pumpkin since before the war, Sayuri thinks of her often, feeling sorry that she stole Pumpkin’s spot as Mother’s adopted daughter. After the war, Pumpkin pleaded with Mother to take her back into the okiya, but Mother refused, saying she was a bad investment. Pumpkin ended up in a small okiya, but Mameha says she’s very popular among the Americans because of her crude sense of humor.
Here we see some cultural differences between Japan and America with regard to dating and love. In Japanese culture, the geisha is supposed to entertain the man, thereby creating the illusion that the man has the love and affection of the beautiful geisha. The American soldiers, however, are more used to being the ones having to entertain women in order to win their affection. We also see how Pumpkin, who basically started out on a parallel path to Sayuri, has ended up less successful and lucky.
The next afternoon, Sayuri arrives at Pumpkin’s okiya. Sayuri tries to hug her, but Pumpkin pulls away and gives her a very formal bow. Though Sayuri didn’t know it then, Pumpkin had spent two years during the war working as a prostitute. Sayuri notices that her face looks more gaunt, which actually gives her face a womanly elegance. Sayuri asks if Pumpkin would like to help entertain Nobu and his business partner. For some reason Pumpkin is distrustful of Sayuri, and claims that Sayuri must have other reasons for inviting her. Sayuri says that her only ulterior motive is to rekindle their friendship. Pumpkin says nothing. Feeling as if she must have offended Pumpkin somehow, Sayuri says that she would be very pleased if Pumpkin could join them. Before leaving, Sayuri gives her the address and date of the engagement.
Pumpkin’s suspicion of Sayuri reminds us of Sayuri’s inability to gain an objective distance from her own narrative. Sayuri has narrated her memoirs in a way that makes Sayuri out to be the hero and protagonist. But what if Pumpkin had narrated her own memoirs? How would we have seen Sayuri through Pumpkin’s eyes? Remember, Sayuri took Pumpkin’s spot as the daughter of the okiya, causing Pumpkin to eventually become a prostitute. Sayuri, however, cannot recognize the negative role she’s played in Pumpkin’s life, and so cannot understand why Pumpkin might be wary of her.