That night Sayuri lays on her futon and feels the room spinning around her. To cope with what she feels is her inevitable relationship with Nobu, she tries to erase all thoughts of the Chairman from her head, replacing them with thoughts of Nobu. But whenever she pictures Nobu, something about him reminds her of the Chairman and she suddenly find herself lost in thoughts about the Chairman again. Over the next few weeks, Sayuri has little appetite and feels like a ghost going to parties and banquets.
Thinking that her dreams of being with the Chairman are in ruins, Sayuri now attempts to conform her fantasies to reality. This shows how instead of changing her reality by taking direct action, she futilely tries to change her desires in reaction to reality. Once again, Sayuri privileges the desires of other people like Nobu over her own. She is still unwilling to fight for what she wants.
A month or so later, Mother informs Sayuri that Nobu has proposed himself as her danna. Mother also says that Nobu and the Chairman have arranged for Sato, Pumpkin, Mameha, and her to fly this coming Friday to a small resort island near Okinawa in celebration of the company’s recent success. In an instant Sayuri forgets her worries about Nobu, and starts worrying about flying on a plane.
Golden foreshadows the transformative nature of this trip by making it also the first time Sayuri flies on an airplane. Just as Sayuri’s train ride to the okiya signaled the beginning of a new stage in her life, this flight will completely alter her life’s path.
When Friday arrives, Sayuri boards the plane in terror, thinking the whole thing will break apart before it even takes off. But once it does takes off, Sayuri feels her body relax. She watches the Chairman get up to use the bathroom. She considers how the Chairman is the only man she knows who first met her when she was still Chiyo. Sayuri thinks to herself that if someone ever asked her why she so yearned for the Chairman, she would answer, “Why does a ripe persimmon taste delicious? Why does wood smell smoky when it burns?”
Sayuri’s affection for the Chairman partially results from the fact that he provides a link to her childhood and former self—her love for the Chairman is also a yearning for the past. At the same, Sayuri believes that her love is something unchangeable, an inherent part of reality no different from the smell of burning wood. In this way, she suggests that she and the Chairman are meant for each other – “destined” to be together – because their love is as true and obvious as a natural fact.
Looking out of the window, Sayuri imagines cutting the bonds of fate that have held her to Nobu so that he plummets into the ocean below. This thought gives Sayuri an idea for how to stop him from becoming her danna. Sayuri thinks that if she betrays Nobu by sleeping with Sato, then Nobu will never want to speak to her again, let alone be her danna. Sayuri wonders if she is capable of hurting a man who has helped her so much, but she knows that if Nobu becomes her danna, then she will never have a chance of being with the Chairman.
Sayuri’s daydream about cutting “the bonds of fate” reveals a development in her thinking about destiny. Previously, she had thought that her destiny could not be altered, that she shared an “en” – a karmic bond of destiny – with Nobu. Now Sayuri seems to think that she does have control over her life: by betraying Nobu, she will destroy the en, thereby altering her own fate.
When the group arrives at the island, they go to bathe in the hot springs at the inn where they are staying. Sayuri watches Nobu, realizing that he will never understand why she betrayed him. Sayuri thinks that Nobu will just assume that she did it because she found his injuries repulsive. This thought makes her less sure of her resolve to go through with the plan.
In this chapter, the forces of self-determination and destiny will come into collision. If Sayuri can break the en, then her self-determination will defeat destiny, but if she can’t, then destiny will “win.” Thus the novel’s climax will coincide with the culmination of the Self-determination vs. Destiny theme.
The following morning, the group explores the village near their inn. They come across an abandoned theater that Sayuri thinks is a good place to bring Sato if she decides to go through with the plan. On the walk back to the inn, Nobu says to her that this trip must be the furthest she has ever been from her home in Kyoto. In all the years Nobu has spent talking with her, he had never once asked where she grew up, always assuming that she was from Kyoto. This thought makes Sayuri feel as if Nobu won’t ever care to learn about her true self. Feeling an immeasurable gulf open between herself and Nobu, Sayuri makes up her mind to sleep with Sato.
Sayuri’s love for the Chairman comes from the connection she feels between the Chairman and her past self, so it makes sense that Nobu’s total lack of knowledge about her former self makes her realize – once and for all – her incompatibility with Nobu. Nobu is apparently only interested in the appearance of Sayuri – her geisha self – rather than her true inward identity or past. That is perhaps why he never asks her any personal questions, so as not to spoil the illusions she has crafted about her identity.
Sayuri decides to bring Sato to the abandoned theater that night. All she needs is Mameha or Pumpkin to bring Nobu to the spot and have him open the theater door, catching Sayuri and Sato in the act. Sayuri thinks Pumpkin would be better, because Mameha is too refined to take part in such a plan.
The abandoned theater is the perfect symbolic place to stage the betrayal. In essence, Sayuri will have to act as if she lusts for Sato in order to offend Nobu. The betrayal’s location shows, once again, that geisha are the supreme actors.
While everyone relaxes outside the inn, Sayuri approaches Sato and says that they should take a private stroll though the village. He agrees, saying that he must first use the bathroom. Surprised that she’s actually going through with the plan, Sayuri walks back to her room in a daze. In the room, she finds Pumpkin and asks her to bring Nobu inside the old theater at sunset. Sayuri says that she doesn’t have time to explain any further, but that her future depends on Pumpkin bringing Nobu and not the Chairman. Pumpkin responds, “So it’s time for a favor from Pumpkin again, is it?” and then walks out.
By sleeping with Sato, Sayuri breaks the traditions of the geisha code. She sleeps with a man who is not her danna, and betrays one of her most loyal male patrons—all so that she can keep alive the possibility of romantic love. In this way, she takes control over fate by casting off the fetters of the sexist tradition that tells women to put men before themselves. It is notable, however, that her “self-determined” fate still revolves around a man, and even her act of “independence” and betrayal involves sex and a man as well.
Though Sayuri doesn’t know if this means that Pumpkin has agreed to help, she decides to go through with the plan and hope that Pumpkin will come with Nobu. Sayuri meets up with Sato and takes him down to the village, feeling a sensation similar to the day of her mizuage with Dr. Crab. She leads Sato inside the theater and tells him that even though he couldn’t be her danna, they could still spend some time together in this empty theater. Taking the hint, Sato takes a step forward, kisses her, and starts to take off her clothes.
Sayuri is such a committed actor that she will have actual sex with Sato just to convince Nobu of her feelings of lust for the piggish man. Having lived her whole adult life playing the part of the submissive geisha, this is her grand finale—but one where she must play the role of the lustful, back-stabbing woman in order to make real the truth of her desire for the Chairman. This might seem like a case of the ends not justifying the means, but Golden pushes the opposite conclusion by having everything work out for Sayuri.
Sayuri finds the sex painful and unpleasant, but she thinks that life with Nobu would be even worse. When Sato is finished, he lies on top of her. Sayuri is about to push him off when she hears the door open and sees in the doorway Pumpkin and the Chairman.
Sayuri’s actions in this chapter seem to disprove the existence of destiny since she appeared to be cutting the bonds of fate that connected her to Nobu. But now it appears as if everything she did was futile. Destiny seems to win, as the Chairman – rather than Nobu – will think that she brought shame onto herself by sleeping with a man who was not her danna. Nobu and Sayuri’s relationship is thus still potentially secure.