Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 507

Yoshio Eguchi

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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 make do with the second girl when one dies during the night.

The First Sleeping Beauty

The First Sleeping Beauty, a short young woman not quite twenty years old, with long hair and wearing no cosmetics. To Eguchi, she gives off the scent of a nursing baby, bringing back several memories, including those of his three daughters as babies and of a young woman with whom he had an affair in his youth.

The Second Sleeping Beauty

The Second Sleeping Beauty, described as a “young witch” with deep red lipstick, pink fingernails, and slightly crooked teeth. Her scent brings memories and fantasies associated with peonies and camellias to Eguchi and reminds him primarily of the courtship and marriage of his youngest daughter and a trip they took.

The Third Sleeping Beauty

The Third Sleeping Beauty, a small girl with a small face who looks about sixteen years old. Her deathlike sleep reminds Eguchi of his affair only three years earlier with a young married woman in her twenties and provokes phantasms of hyacinths and orchids.

The Fourth Sleeping Beauty

The Fourth Sleeping Beauty, a large, full-bodied, white-skinned young woman who evokes pity in Eguchi and brings a dream of white butterflies.

The Fifth and Sixth Sleeping Beauties

The Fifth and Sixth Sleeping Beauties, two women Eguchi sees on his last visit. One is rough, wild, dark, and possibly a foreigner; she momentarily rouses a violent passion in Eguchi to strangle her. She dies during the night. The other woman is gentler, more elegant, and fair. Sandwiched between them, Eguchi has a series of erotic nightmares, ending with one associated with red dahlias.

The Characters

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 534

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 entire section contains 1095 words.)

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Critical Essays