Memoirs of a Geisha

Sayuri’s Eyes Symbol Icon
Sayuri’s eyes symbolically relate to the old saying that “eyes are the windows to the soul.” Sayuri’s translucent blue-grey eyes lead many characters to believe that she has a lot of water in her personality. Her eyes also represent her honest and truthful nature, which contrasts with the artificial and deceptive world of the geisha. In order to be successful in Kyoto, geisha create the illusion that they enjoy spending time with the men they entertain, no matter how boring or boorish the men are. Mameha even explains that a geisha’s expressive eyes are her best asset for creating these illusions. While these deceptive eyes conceal a geisha’s true feelings, Sayuri’s eyes are open and honest. Because of their light color, her eyes seem transparent—“windows” in the old saying—and they reveal her true feelings instead of concealing them. Yet since most characters in the novel are only concerned with the external appearance of beauty rather than inner beauty, they can only see the superficial loveliness of her eyes, rather than the beautiful personality that her eyes reveal. Only the Chairman sees beyond the superficial into the deep inner beauty of Sayuri’s soul, indicating their connection and compatibility.

Sayuri’s Eyes Quotes in Memoirs of a Geisha

The Memoirs of a Geisha quotes below all refer to the symbol of Sayuri’s Eyes. 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 and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of Memoirs of a Geisha published in 1999.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Water flows from place to place quickly and always finds a crack to spill through. Wood, on the other hand, holds fast to the earth.

Related Characters: Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto (speaker)
Related Symbols: Water, Rivers, and Streams, Sayuri’s Eyes
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 3 Quotes

I found myself wondering if my sister was standing before some other cruel woman, in another house somewhere in this horrible city. And I had a sudden image in my mind of my poor, sick mother propping herself on one elbow upon her futon and looking around to see where we had gone. I didn't want Mother to see me crying, but the tears pooled in my eyes before I could think of how to stop them.

Related Characters: Sayuri Nitta / Chiyo Sakamoto (speaker), Mother/Ms. Nitta, Satsu Sakamoto, Mrs. Sakamoto
Related Symbols: Sayuri’s Eyes
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:

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Sayuri’s Eyes Symbol Timeline in Memoirs of a Geisha

The timeline below shows where the symbol Sayuri’s Eyes appears in Memoirs of a Geisha. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Sayuri says that she inherited her mother’s translucent blue-grey eyes. Fortunetellers had told her mother that their blue eyes, a rarity among Japanese people, indicated... (full context)
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...Chiyo as Mr. Sakamoto’s daughter, and he compliments her on the beautiful color of her eyes. Looking at Mr. Tanaka, Chiyo sees an intelligent sharpness in his face. Chiyo feels as... (full context)
Chapter 2
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Tradition, Ritual, and Gender Theme Icon
...her. Ms. Fidget then turns to Chiyo and tells her to get undressed. Seeing Chiyo’s eyes, she says that Chiyo must have a lot of water in her personality. When the... (full context)
Chapter 3
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Chapter 5
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
...the day that the apprentice begins her training. When the registry clerk says that Chiyo’s eyes remind him of the sparkly grey color of a mirror, Hatsumomo interjects that they look... (full context)
Chapter 9
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
...a world in which she is treated with fairness and kindness. When she raises her eyes to look at the face of the man who spoke, she sees a noble, meditative... (full context)
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...on ahead without him. Noticing that Chiyo can’t bear to look at him in the eyes, the Chairman says that she must have suffered a lot in this world. Thinking that... (full context)
Chapter 10
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Tradition, Ritual, and Gender Theme Icon
...ruined the kimono, Chiyo expects Mameha to scold her. But instead, Mameha looks into Chiyo’s eyes and compliments their color. Chiyo feels Mameha looking deep inside of her, as if she... (full context)
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Tradition, Ritual, and Gender Theme Icon
...kick Mother out. Mameha says that Hatsumomo fears that Chiyo, with her attractiveness and beautiful eyes, could become a good enough geisha that Mother would adopt her instead. (full context)
Chapter 11
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
...would want to take on Chiyo as her apprentice. Mameha says that she thinks Chiyo’s eyes will make her one of the most successful geisha in Gion. Mother responds that the... (full context)
Chapter 13
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
...weeks, but first she must learn how to use a geisha’s most powerful asset: her eyes. Mameha says that geisha can send men messages just by looking at them. Mameha tells... (full context)
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...drop his boxes. She then walks off to watch from a distance. Chiyo keeps her eyes away from the man until they brush past each other. Chiyo quickly flicks her eyes... (full context)
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...people around her. She imagines pouring the Chairman a cup of tea while feeling his eyes peering at her face. (full context)
Chapter 17
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...with a man would tear up at a moment like this, Sayuri casts down her eyes and makes her lip tremble, hoping that this display will convince Hatsumomo of her infatuation... (full context)
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...how the masterful Miyagiyama taunts his opponent by refusing to look at him in the eyes. Angered that Miyagiyama is showing him such disrespect, the other wrestler rushes at Miyagiyama. Right... (full context)
Chapter 19
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...Hatsumomo appears. All night, Sayuri doesn’t even look at the Chairman for fear that her eyes will reveal her attraction to him. Sayuri knows that if Hatsumomo sees that she has... (full context)
Chapter 22
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...tears. He instructs her to keep it, but after she uses it to wipe her eyes, she leaves it on a table. The Baron takes her outside, and a car drives... (full context)
Chapter 25
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...to Japan on leave. After drinking a few glasses of sake, military men with watery eyes would tell Sayuri that nothing kept their spirits up during war as much as their... (full context)
Chapter 27
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
...week, Mameha and Sayuri follow her down an alleyway. Suddenly she wheels around and, her eyes burning with anger, yells at them to leave her alone. (full context)
Chapter 32
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...ever before. She realizes that her mind’s image of him didn’t fully capture his beautiful eyes and expressive mouth. One time while she thinks no one is watching, she gives herself... (full context)
Chapter 34
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...he comforted years ago. The Chairman responds by saying that he could never forget her eyes, explaining that since he spent so much time around lying businessmen, he felt an immediate... (full context)
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...that day, he asked Mameha to find and mentor the beautiful young girl with blue-grey eyes. The Chairman did this so that Sayuri could one day become a geisha he could... (full context)
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth Theme Icon
Tradition, Ritual, and Gender Theme Icon
...to look at him, and she does so nervously. As they stare into each other’s eyes, the Chairman draws her close and kisses her. (full context)