Spring Snow, 1969
Shigekuni Honda, the protagonist, a young Japanese man who is studying to become a lawyer. A natural leader, he is exceptionally mature, sometimes appearing to be almost pompous. He is already committed to governing his life by the rule of reason instead of being controlled by his emotions. When he is at the deathbed of his friend Kiyoaki Matsugae, he realizes somewhat regretfully that he can never give himself fully to any passion.
Kiyoaki Matsugae, the best friend of Honda. At the age of eighteen, he is handsome, with dark eyes and an elegant air. The descendant of a distinguished samurai family, he lacks the vigor of his forebears. Instead, he drifts aimlessly, enthusiastic about nothing. Even though he knows that a childhood companion loves him deeply, he rejects the possibility of marriage to her until she has become engaged to a member of the Imperial Household. Then he falls passionately in love with her, and although he cannot persuade her to run away with him, he has an affair with her. His walk through the snow in a vain attempt to see her results in his getting pneumonia. He dies at the age of twenty.
Satoko Ayakura, the childhood companion and, later, the lover of Kiyoaki. A beautiful, graceful, bright-eyed girl of twenty, she has loved Kiyoaki hopelessly for years. When her secret meetings with Kiyoaki result in a pregnancy, she has an abortion, breaks off her engagement to a prince, and retires to a convent.
Shigeyuki Iinuma, Kiyoaki’s tutor, in his middle twenties. He is reserved and bitter. After he becomes involved with a maid in the Matsugae household, she is dismissed.