Shingo, a businessman. At roughly sixty-three years old, he is a year younger than his wife and preoccupied with some of the principal concerns of aging. His unreliable memory at one point makes him forget momentarily how to knot his tie, whereas his longing for his beautiful, long-dead sister-in-law is disturbingly fresh. It is right before her death that he first hears the sound of the mountain. Concerned that the problems of his son and daughter point to his failure as a father, he feels inept trying to straighten out their lives as adults. Unable to sleep soundly, he dreams frequently and is forced to remember his old friends as they pass away. A man sensitive to the beauty of nature, especially of flowers, he takes refuge in a subtly erotic but platonic friendship with his daughter-in-law, who seems to care more about him than do his own children.
Yasuko, Shingo’s wife of some forty years. She is a plain woman who grew up in the shadow of her beautiful sister. When her sister died, Yasuko, in love with both her sister and her brother-in-law, went to live in her sister’s home, willingly becoming a maid. Rescued from this domestic slavery by her marriage to Shingo, Yasuko has settled into a comfortable matronly role. She annoys her husband with her snoring and her habit of collecting newspapers for several days before reading them, sometimes aloud, to her family. Her relationship with her daughter is strong, but her long marriage has made her...
(The entire section is 621 words.)