Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 420

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Yonosuke, “Man of the World,” the son of a wealthy playboy businessman and a courtesan of the pleasure quarter in Kyoto who settle down into domesticity after marriage. Precocious concerning love and sex, Yonosuke has his calligraphy teacher copy down his first love letter at the age of seven. As a teenager, he engages in numerous escapades in his search for pleasures of the flesh. Finally, his father disowns him when he is nineteen years old. For the next fifteen years, Yonosuke engages in a variety of occupations, such as salmon peddler, Shinto priest, wandering singer and actor, male prostitute, manager of male prostitutes, and attendant of rich businessmen. The money he earns is quickly frittered away drinking and visiting women of the pleasure quarter. Although physically attractive, well educated, and personally charming, Yonosuke is not always successful in his quest for love and is several times rejected, is beaten by outraged husbands, and once ends up in jail. After almost dying in a shipwreck, he learns that his father has died and that his mother wants him at home. He returns to become head of his family and receives a gift of twenty-five thousand kan of silver from his mother to do with as he wishes. He immediately decides to use the money to ransom all the courtesans in Japan’s pleasure quarters that he finds appealing. Yonosuke marries after being accepted back into his family, but domestic life does not long satisfy him, and soon he resumes his travels throughout the country to visit brothels and pleasure houses. He is a likable rake and is frequently generous to women and servants. He is knowledgeable about the customs, manners, and ranking of the world of the demimonde and often makes fools of courtesans and their masters who do not behave properly. By the time he is fifty-four years old, he had made love to 3,742 women and 725 boys and has a museum full of mementos of lovers he has abandoned all over Japan. Gray-headed and emaciated at the age of sixty (a time of rebirth in Japan), he builds a ship, the Yoshiiro-maru (its name means “lust”), to set sail with six male drinking companions for an island inhabited only by women. Yonosuke is the model playboy of the merchant class during Japan’s feudal age, a hero of the new urban culture that was emerging in Japan in the seventeenth century. Only occasionally is he stricken with remorse for his deeds, and his penitent mood never lasts long.




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