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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 227

The principal characters of Masks by Fumiko Ueda (who published under the name Fumiko Enchi) are:

Tsuneo Ibuki: He is a young academic and a professor of literature at a university in 1950s Japan.

Toyoki Mikamé. A doctor, he is about the same age as Ibuki and is a close...

(The entire section contains 1404 words.)

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The principal characters of Masks by Fumiko Ueda (who published under the name Fumiko Enchi) are:

Tsuneo Ibuki: He is a young academic and a professor of literature at a university in 1950s Japan.

Toyoki Mikamé. A doctor, he is about the same age as Ibuki and is a close friend of his.

Yasuko Togano. A young widow whose husband Akio was killed in an avalanche on Mt. Fuji.

Mieko Togano. Akio's mother, Yasuko's mother-in-law. She is the editor of a poetry magazine and is an expert on literature of the Heian period (794–1185 CE), especially the famous Tale of Genji.

Harumé Togano. The twin sister of Akio. She is mentally challenged and is kept largely in seclusion. In the story, her mother Mieko uses Harumé in a plot to manipulate Ibuki, who (along with his friend Mikamé) is in love with Yasuko, Mieko's daughter-in-law.

Yu. Mieko's housekeeper and nursemaid to Harume.

Sadako Ibuki. Tsuneo Ibuki's wife.

Masatsugu Togano. Mieko's husband, deceased at the time the story begins.

Aguri. The maid who was Masatsugu's mistress while he was married to Mieko.

Mieko's lover. The actual father of Akio and Harume. He died while serving at the front in World War II.

Dr. Morioka. A friend of Mikamé who relates to him the details of a miscarriage Mieko had suffered in her first pregnancy, which was caused by Aguri.

Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 597

Mieko Togan

Mieko Togan, the daughter of the head priest at a temple in Shinshu and the wife of a banker. She is also a prostitute, a poet, and a teacher of poetry. She bore twins, a mentally retarded girl, Harumé, and a beloved son, Akio. When Mieko appears, her slow and grave gestures refer to another landscape that can be seen only with her metaphysical eye. The subtexts of the novel create the emotional ambience of Mieko’s character, both remote and involved at the same time. Mieko is compared to a large blossoming tree with a voice floating toward Ibuki and Mikamé and having a wordless communication and complicity in crime with Yasuko. It is difficult to plumb the depth of Mieko’s heart. There is nothing more tragic than her immobility, which compares to that of a mountain lake whose waters are rushing beneath the surface toward a waterfall. The secret workings of her mind resemble flowers in a garden at nighttime, filling the darkness with perfumes; her masklike face indicates features but does not identify her as an individual. Her language, conduct, and posture reveal uncanny sensitivity to the slightest nuances of behavior. Despite apparent physical inertia, she evinces gestures of dignity and grandeur. She is in the grip of primeval powers that direct her amorous affairs and those of others. Her delight in poetry and calligraphy, fashion, and a garden with a miniature pond, reflecting the perception of beauty, shifts to a melancholy consciousness of the transience of human life.

Akio Togan

Akio Togan, Mieko’s beloved son, who died in a ski accident on Mount Fuji. He seems to reappear in masks and dreams and to be born again thanks to Mieko’s strategies.

Tsuneo Ibuki

Tsuneo Ibuki, a professor of Japanese Heian literature. He is married to Sadako and is the father of a three-year-old daughter. He falls in love with Yasuko.

Toyoki Mikamé

Toyoki Mikamé, an expert of psychology and folklore. A bachelor in love with Yasuko, Toyoki observes communication with spirits that depart this life and float ceaselessly through the atmosphere, share the space around the living, and become alive in various masks and costumes and in dreams.

Yasuko Togan

Yasuko Togan, Akio’s widow of a year. She is described as a flowerlike beauty who has just opened her petals. Her study of Heian spirit possession is a continuation of her dead husband’s research. Long after Akio’s death, Yasuko sees him in her dreams, in which she stabs him in his eyes and kills him. From that moment on, she feels that her body no longer belongs to Akio but rather to Mieko. Harumé, who is possessed by dog spirits, bites and draws blood from Yasuko. Yasuko consents with Mieko to switch places in bed with Harumé when Ibuki comes to spend the night with Yasuko.

Harumé Togan

Harumé Togan, Akio’s twin sister, who is severely mentally retarded. She does not really know what is going on when in bed with Ibuki. Ibuki does not immediately realize that the even-featured face, with closed eyelids relaxed as camellia petals, is not that of Yasuko. In bed with Ibuki, Harumé resembles the zo-no-onna mask, from the N drama, with Akio’s features. Harumé bears a child but dies at its birth. The child is brought up with an old nurse at the Shrine of the Fields. When Ibuki visits there and sees his and Harumé’s child, he has the impression that his friend Akio has emerged from death. Harumé’s child has Akio’s features.

The Characters

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 580

It is typical of Fumiko Enchi’s treatment of women that the novel Masks focuses on the unconscious processes by means of which Mieko Togan gains control of the minds of her daughter Harume and daughter-in-law Yasuko. It is also characteristic that Enchi does not approach the material from the perspective of clinical psychology. The irony is intentional that the psychologist Mikamé is less perceptive than Ibuki, the scholar of literature, about Mieko’s motives and actions. Both men are essential, however, to the reader’s gradual acceptance of the premise on which Enchi bases her characterizations of the three women at the novel’s center. That premise is that Mieko, Yasuko, and Harume are a valid instance of the spirit possession which many of the characters study in Japanese folklore, classical poetry, and the No drama. Enchi’s handling of the material, however, has nothing of the self-consciousness of deliberate archaism. Her emphasis is resolutely feminist, in a sense, for in Harume, Yasuko, and Mieko, she portrays the efforts of women to be free of the male domination which causes them so much pain.

Enchi’s statement that Harume was beaten about the head by the feet of her brother while both were in Mieko’s womb may seem strident, but it also conveys the novelist’s conviction that Harume is a victim of her own femaleness. Her retardation is so extreme, for example, that Harume is not conscious of the significance of her menstrual periods. Like an animal in heat, she is excited and restless during the early part of the cycle and leaves a trail of blood spots about the house during the later stage. Mieko arranges for Harume to take Yasuko’s place in bed with Ibuki at the point in her menstrual cycle at which she is most likely to conceive. Harume is unaware that her physical nature betrays her dependence on the male, but Yasuko is conscious of the degree of her physical and emotional victimization. Like so many Japanese women, she defines herself chiefly in terms of her relationships with men. Struggling to escape Mieko’s gradually unfolding plot, Yasuko turns to Ibuki and Mikamé in her effort to escape. She encourages the bachelor Mikamé to approach her mother-in-law for permission to ask Yasuko to marry him, and she embarks, at first secretly, on the affair with Ibuki. Both actions, ironically, meet with Mieko’s approval.

The characterization of Mieko Togan is the most complex portrait of a woman in Enchi’s Masks. Outwardly passive and uninterested in Yasuko’s emotional life, Mieko manipulates her daughter-in-law in accordance with a half-conscious plan to regain for the Togan family a male heir totally free of the Togan blood. Nevertheless, Mieko also represses her own awareness of what she is doing. When she comforts Yasuko, awakened from a recurring nightmare in which she sees Akio’s face disfigured by the avalanche, she does not recognize that she encourages both Yasuko’s guilt over Akio’s death and her feeling of relief that he is gone. Here Mieko projects onto her daughter-in-law the feelings she had for Akio’s nominal father. These are the impulses which prompt Yasuko to betray Akio’s memory by considering marriage to Mikamé and an affair with Ibuki. These options, which Yasuko exercises openly because of her status as a widow, are those Mieko considered, perhaps toyed with half fearfully, in her involvement with the man who fathered Harume and Akio.

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