The House of the Sleeping Beauties Characters

Yasunari Kawabata

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Yoshio Eguchi

Yoshio Eguchi, a sixty-seven-year-old man. A light sleeper with a tendency to have bad dreams, he apparently has had several affairs and remembers the “ugliness” of spending nights with tragic, sad women. Given the opportunity to sleep next to young virgins, heavily drugged and therefore incapable of revealing anything about their lives, he longs for more than the physical touch he is allowed. In the five nights that he spends with six young women, he relives events in his life, all seemingly randomly evoked associations with each woman. Although conscious of the “dreariness” of old age and approaching death, he is indignant about the cavalier attitude to death he finds in the establishment.


Kiga, Eguchi’s friend, who introduces him to this special house for older men. Kiga describes the experience of sleeping next to a drugged young woman as “sleeping with a secret Buddha.”

The Woman

The Woman, the unnamed manager of the house, a small woman in her mid-forties with thin lips, a youthful voice, and a calm and steady manner. Polite but firm, she serves Eguchi tea and delivers clear instructions about the strict rules of the house before taking him up to the room with red curtains where he sleeps with a young girl. Her cold efficiency is epitomized by her quick action in removing dead bodies to another establishment and by her ruthless advice to Eguchi to...

(The entire section is 507 words.)

The House of the Sleeping Beauties The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The significant action of The House of the Sleeping Beauties occurs within Eguchi’s consciousness; the girls at the inn neither act nor speak. Eguchi assigns each one a personality based on her physical characteristics and the events in his past that she recalls for him. He does speak with the unnamed woman who runs the inn. The manager is a self-disciplined, unnaturally quiet person, more an emanation of the closely guarded house than an actual woman. She refuses Eguchi’s repeated requests for the medication which puts the girls to sleep. This request, like his repeated fantasy of sexually assaulting one of the sleeping girls or strangling her, reflects the internal tensions at work in Eguchi’s mind. Initially, he sees his visits to the inn as ways of both affirming and denying the fact that, like most of the place’s customers, he is losing his sexual powers. Eguchi repeatedly insists that, unlike the other men, he is still virile and capable of sexual activity. As time passes and Eguchi encounters a different young woman on each of his visits, the emphasis shifts from the sexual dimension of his dilemma to its moral and spiritual ramifications.

Eguchi both fears death and is attracted to it. He uses his experiences at the inn, and the memories that the girls evoke, both to assert his own vitality and to face the emptiness of most of the encounters between men and women. He recalls a youthful trip to Kyoto with a girl he did not marry,...

(The entire section is 534 words.)

The House of the Sleeping Beauties Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Keene, Donald. Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature in the Modern Era, 1984.

Lippit, Noriko. Reality and Fiction in Modern Japanese Literature, 1980.

Petersen, Gwenn Boardman. The Moon in the Water: Understanding Tanizaki, Kawabata, and Mishima, 1979.

Ueda, Makoto. Modern Japanese Writers and the Nature of Literature, 1976.

Yamanouchi, Hisaaki. The Search for Authenticity in Modern Japanese Literature, 1978.