Memoirs of a Geisha

Chairman Ken Iwamura Character Analysis

Referred to as simply “the Chairman” for most of the novel, Ken Iwamura is the gentle, dignified, and kind love interest of Sayuri. While most people in Kyoto would pay no attention to a crying girl on the street, the Chairman comforts the young Sayuri when he sees her weeping by a stream. The Chairman falls in love with Sayuri at that moment because he sees an honest openness in her eyes that is different from the lies and deceit in the rest of the world. An honorable and loyal man, the Chairman at first sacrifices a relationship with Sayuri in order to let his friend and business partner Nobu pursue a relationship with her. But when the Chairman realizes that Sayuri feels as much love for him as he does for her, his love for Sayuri outstrips his loyalty to Nobu. After the Chairman takes Sayuri as his personal geisha, he and Sayuri live out the rest of their happy lives in a flurry of passion and love.

Chairman Ken Iwamura Quotes in Memoirs of a Geisha

The Memoirs of a Geisha quotes below are all either spoken by Chairman Ken Iwamura or refer to Chairman Ken Iwamura. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Memoirs of a Geisha published in 1999.
Chapter 9 Quotes

But how can I describe what I saw in that instant? He was looking at me as a musician might look at his instrument just before he begins to play, with understanding and mastery. I felt that he could see into me as though I were a part of him. How I would have loved to be the instrument he played!

Related Characters: Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto (speaker), Chairman Ken Iwamura
Page Number: 113
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deser

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Memoirs of a Geisha quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Chapter 17 Quotes

“I'm the one who picked it,” Mameha said. "The fortune-teller doesn't pick names; he only tells us if they're acceptable."
“One day, Mameha,” Nobu replied, “you'll grow up and stop listening to fools.”
“Now, now, Nobu-san,” said the Chairman, “anyone hearing you talk would think you're the most modern man in the nation. Yet I've never known anyone who believes more strongly in destiny than you do.”
“Every man has his destiny. But who needs to go to a fortuneteller to find it? Do I go to a chef to find out if I'm hungry?” Nobu said.

Related Characters: Toshikazu Nobu (speaker), Chairman Ken Iwamura (speaker), Mameha (speaker)
Page Number: 200
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaec

Chapter 34 Quotes

In the instant before that door opened, I could almost sense my life expanding just like a river whose waters have begun to swell; for I had never before taken such a drastic step to change the course of my own future. I was like a child tiptoeing along a precipice overlooking the sea. And yet somehow I hadn't imagined a great wave might come and strike me there, and wash everything away.

Related Characters: Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto (speaker), Chairman Ken Iwamura
Related Symbols: Water, Rivers, and Streams
Page Number: 405
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptaLoremLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fu

And so you can imagine that this kiss, the first real one of my life, seemed to me more intimate than anything I'd ever experienced. I had the feeling I was taking something from the Chairman, and that he was giving something to me, something more private than anyone had ever given me before.

Related Characters: Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto (speaker), Chairman Ken Iwamura
Page Number: 416
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.LorLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit

Get the entire Memoirs of a Geisha LitChart as a printable PDF.
Memoirs of a geisha.pdf.medium

Chairman Ken Iwamura Character Timeline in Memoirs of a Geisha

The timeline below shows where the character Chairman Ken Iwamura appears in Memoirs of a Geisha. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 9
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
When a geisha standing near the man calls him Chairman and tells him not to bother with the maid, the Chairman tells the geisha to... (full context)
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Tradition, Ritual, and Gender Theme Icon
Chiyo watches the Chairman walk away before getting the shaved ice. She sits with the treat and thinks that... (full context)
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Tradition, Ritual, and Gender Theme Icon
...become a geisha so that she could attract the notice of a man like the Chairman. After praying, she tucks the Chairman’s handkerchief into her sleeve and goes back to the... (full context)
Chapter 12
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
...move with greater expressiveness and dignity. From that day on, Chiyo dances as if the Chairman were observing her movements, which gives her dance a deep sense of feeling. (full context)
Chapter 13
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...excited to finally get some attention from the people around her. She imagines pouring the Chairman a cup of tea while feeling his eyes peering at her face. (full context)
Chapter 16
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Tradition, Ritual, and Gender Theme Icon
...to put on. Mameha says they’re going to a sumo match where they will entertain Ken Iwamura and Toshikazu Nobu, the joint directors of the Iwamura Electric company. Mameha says that the... (full context)
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
...the man’s face, Sayuri realizes she made a mistake. It is not Tanaka, but the Chairman. (full context)
Chapter 17
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Sayuri had only seen the Chairman for the briefest moment years ago, but she had spent many evenings holding his handkerchief... (full context)
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
...match, Sayuri finds herself staring at Nobu’s scars. She had been so preoccupied by the Chairman’s presence that she hadn’t even realized that Nobu was missing an arm. Though Sayuri didn’t... (full context)
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Tradition, Ritual, and Gender Theme Icon
When the first match ends and the crowd quiets down, Sayuri turns back to the Chairman and says she has never been to a sumo match before. Hearing this, Nobu turns... (full context)
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...an electric wire. Worried that Hatsumomo will try to embarrass her in front of the Chairman, Sayuri points her out to Mameha. Mameha and Sayuri excuse themselves from the men so... (full context)
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
...for “Mr. Lizard.” To keep herself engrossed in the conversation, Sayuri imagines Nobu as the Chairman. At one point she convinces herself that she and the Chairman are alone in quiet... (full context)
Chapter 18
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Now that Sayuri knows the identity of the Chairman, she begins to read every news magazine she can in hopes of learning more about... (full context)
Tradition, Ritual, and Gender Theme Icon
...geisha who has been the mistress of a close business associate or friend. Since the Chairman is Nobu’s business partner, Sayuri fears that she will never be able to be with... (full context)
Chapter 19
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Tradition, Ritual, and Gender Theme Icon
...next few weeks, Sayuri and Mameha attend small parties and gatherings with Nobu and the Chairman. Before going out every night, Sayuri tells Auntie – in Hatsumomo’s presence – that she’s... (full context)
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
On one occasion, Sayuri and a group of geisha are entertaining Nobu, the Chairman, and some other businessmen at a teahouse when Hatsumomo appears. All night, Sayuri doesn’t even... (full context)
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
To convince Hatsumomo that she likes Nobu and not the Chairman, Sayuri loosens one of her ornaments so it lands in Nobu’s lap. At first, Sayuri... (full context)
Chapter 22
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Tradition, Ritual, and Gender Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Sex and Love Theme Icon
As Sayuri and the Chairman approach the Chairman’s car, they run into the Baron. The Chairman gives the Baron the... (full context)
Sex and Love Theme Icon
After the Chairman drives off, Sayuri feels elated that she had the chance to talk with the Chairman... (full context)
Sex and Love Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Chapter 23
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Tradition, Ritual, and Gender Theme Icon
On the night of the performance, Sayuri tucks the Chairman’s handkerchief into her sleeve as she puts on her costume. Sayuri is playing a maiden... (full context)
Chapter 24
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 25
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...he becomes her danna then she will never have a chance to be with the Chairman, because of the custom that prevents two business partners from pursuing the same geisha. All... (full context)
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
In the days after her conversation with Mameha, Sayuri loses hope that the Chairman will ever become her danna. While entertaining at a group of boring men at a... (full context)
Chapter 28
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...on the General, but hopes that she now knows her true destiny. Thinking of the Chairman, Sayuri says that her true destiny lies with the man who runs the Iwamura Electric... (full context)
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...Sayuri feels nervous and afraid because she doesn’t know when she will see Nobu, the Chairman, or even Gion again. She remembers the fear she felt as a child when Mr.... (full context)
Chapter 29
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...falling toward the ground.” She had spent almost everyday of her life yearning for the Chairman, but now she realizes that it is possible that she might never even see him... (full context)
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...she can perform a task for him. Nobu says that all through the war, the Chairman resisted converting their factories into military factories. By the time he agreed to cooperate, the... (full context)
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
...Hearing him use the word destiny, Sayuri feels all of her hopes of winning the Chairman’s affection flood through her once again. Sayuri asks him if the Chairman will join them... (full context)
Chapter 30
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 31
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
On the night of the engagement, Sayuri arrives to find the Chairman all alone in the reception room. Startled to see him after all these years, Sayuri... (full context)
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Tradition, Ritual, and Gender Theme Icon
...a good time. When it’s Sayuri’s turn, she considers telling the story about meeting the Chairman when she was a young girl. But after considering that the Chairman paid little attention... (full context)
Chapter 32
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...Gion on a weekly basis to drink and talk with Sayuri, Mameha, Pumpkin, and the Chairman. During these months, Sayuri sees more of the Chairman than ever before. She realizes that... (full context)
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...“Cruel Rain.” To give her performance emotional weight, Sayuri pretends that Nobu, and not the Chairman, is her danna. By the end of the dance, she feels almost overcome with sadness,... (full context)
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Tradition, Ritual, and Gender Theme Icon
After Sayuri finishes the dance and sits back down, the Chairman asks about Pumpkin. Mameha says that she is ill and won’t be joining them tonight.... (full context)
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
One night a few months later, Pumpkin, Mameha, and the Chairman cannot attend the party, so Sayuri entertains Nobu and Sato alone. Nobu is in a... (full context)
Chapter 33
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...Nobu becomes her danna, then she will never have a chance of being with the Chairman. (full context)
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Tradition, Ritual, and Gender Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...off when she hears the door open and sees in the doorway Pumpkin and the Chairman. (full context)
Chapter 34
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...her life expanding like a river whose riverbanks have swelled, but when she sees the Chairman, she feels only a sense of chaos. The next thing she remembers is being back... (full context)
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...Nobu in a private room of the teahouse. She dozes off and dreams of the Chairman touching her shoulder. When she awakes, she sees the Chairman beside her. Sayuri begins to... (full context)
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Recognizing the handkerchief, the Chairman asks if she remembers that day as well. Sayuri says that all these years she’s... (full context)
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
The Chairman says that after meeting Sayuri that day, he asked Mameha to find and mentor the... (full context)
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
The Chairman says that he values Nobu’s friendship more than anyone else’s. The Chairman explains that after... (full context)
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Tradition, Ritual, and Gender Theme Icon
With great effort, Sayuri admits that she betrayed Nobu because of her feelings for the Chairman. She says that every step she took since that day by the stream has been... (full context)
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
...why he kissed her if he is still planning to give her to Nobu. The Chairman says that Nobu withdrew his proposal to be her danna. The Chairman explains that when... (full context)
Chapter 35
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
In the present, Sayuri says that the day the Chairman kissed her marked the end of her grief and suffering. Every day since leaving Yoroido,... (full context)
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Tradition, Ritual, and Gender Theme Icon
To make his relationship with Sayuri easier for Nobu to accept, the Chairman has Sayuri stop being a geisha. This way Nobu would not have to see her... (full context)
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
They are happy together and time passes quickly until the summer of 1956. The Chairman had two daughters with his wife and, during that summer, he arranges for his eldest... (full context)
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
A week after Minoru Nishioka’s change of heart, Sayuri approaches the Chairman and suggests that she should relocate to New York and open up a traditional teahouse... (full context)
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Tradition, Ritual, and Gender Theme Icon
...August of that year, Sayuri moves to New York and Nishioka agrees to marry the Chairman’s daughter. Before long, New York comes to feel as much a home to Sayuri as... (full context)
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
One day, Sayuri and the Chairman walk through Central Park. Standing with two frail hands on his cane, the Chairman breathes... (full context)
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...her in her life. She awakens with tears streaming down her face and grips the Chairman’s hand, fearing his death. But when he dies only a few months later, she understands... (full context)