Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Yukiko, the third of the four sisters, still unmarried at the age of thirty. She is a slender, delicate-looking beauty whose dress, appearance, and manner are thoroughly Japanese and suggest a sheltered maiden of old. She graduated from a ladies’ seminary with honors in English and understands Western music better than she does Japanese music. Her shy, gentle manner masks a complex, intelligent, and critical nature. She is too reserved to talk frankly, and her overt docility causes much confusion and embarrassment to those seeking a good husband for her. She loves children and is especially attached to her niece, Etsuko.


Taeko, nicknamed Koi-san (which means “small daughter”), the youngest of the sisters, in her mid-twenties, but the most worldly and independent. Stylish Western clothes suit her firm, plump body and round face, but, paradoxically, she studies traditional Japanese dance and uses her artistic talents to create dolls to sell and to exhibit. Lively and gay, but also practical, she saves her earnings and is determined to be a financially independent professional woman. Impatient to get married but forced by Japanese custom to wait until Yukiko is married, Taeko exhibits willful behavior that complicates her sisters’ lives.


Sachiko, the second sister, in her thirties. She is the mistress of the Ashiya branch of the family. In appearance the healthiest of the sisters but actually the weakest physically, she falls between the extremes of her younger sisters in style and outlook; she wears Western clothes in the summer and Japanese clothes the rest of the year and is very emotional. Her father’s favorite, she still has something of the spoiled child about her, but she is devoted to her sisters and labors on their behalf, using her social position to help Taeko sell dolls and to search actively for a husband for Yukiko.


Teinosuke, an accountant. He took the Makioka name when he married Sachiko. Although he is a...

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The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The special beauty of this novel is the way in which Tanizaki evokes the very different personalities of the four sisters. There is a palpable sense of family heritage and pride, for the Makiokas are an old family, well-known in Osaka. Its best days, however, lasted only into the mid-1920’s, when extravagance and bad business management cut into its fortunes. The four sisters are in thrall to their family name, preserving their nostalgia with almost sacred zeal.

Tsuruko has six children and resembles her mother, a Kyoto woman. Lacking Yukiko’s delicate beauty, she has a certain hardness to her personality, although she is not as self-contained as she appears. In times of crisis, she stares vacantly into space, then busies herself in manic activity. During these hectic periods, she looks selfless, but is really too excited to know better. A manipulator, she uses Aunt Tominaga as a messenger to influence Sachiko in dealings with the two youngest sisters. Tsuruko is the most tradition-bound of the sisters.

Sachiko, more sympathetic than Tsuruko, dominates much of the book, simply because the two youngest sisters live with her for much of the time. The tallest, most strikingly beautiful Makioka, she is really more vulnerable than she appears—suffering as she does from a vitamin deficiency. She tires easily amid all the domestic complications created by Taeko and Yukiko, and she is almost as spoiled as her own daughter Etsuko. Yet Sachiko almost seems to exist to bring compassion to others. She wants desperately to give her husband a son, and when she suffers a miscarriage she is devastated. Like Taeko and Yukiko, she does not like Tokyo (except for the Palace and pine-covered grounds), and she aligns...

(The entire section is 705 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Falke, Wayne. “Tanizaki: Opponent of Naturalism,” in Critique: Studies in Modern Fiction. VIII, no. 3 (1966), pp. 19-25.

Petersen, Gwenn Boardman. “Tanizaki Jun’ichir,” in The Moon in the Water: Understanding Tanizaki, Kawabata, and Mishima, 1979.

Ueda, Makoto. “Tanizaki Jun’ichir,” in Modern Japanese Writers and the Nature of Literature, 1976.