The Temple of the Golden Pavilion Characters

Yukio Mishima

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Mizoguchi, a young Zen acolyte, from a poverty-stricken background, at the Temple of the Golden Pavilion and a student at Otani University. He is a physically frail only child, and he recognizes early that he is ugly and that his speech impediment (a stutter) locks him away from easy communication with the rest of the world. Alienated and isolated, he lives virtually in an inner world, stubbornly proud that no one understands him. From his youth, he is obsessed with the beauty of the Golden Temple. At the age of twenty-one, to become free of that obsession, he sets fire to the beautiful Zen temple, a revered architectural wonder more than five hundred years old.


Kashiwagi, a clubfooted student at Otani University. Misanthropic and selfish, he uses his disability to take advantage of other people’s feelings and to promote his own selfish desires. He is a negative influence who counsels Mizoguchi to be more active in life, but in a selfish, nihilistic manner. By reporting to Father Dosen that Mizoguchi failed to repay a personal loan, Kashiwagi nearly gets Mizoguchi expelled from the temple.


Tsurukawa, a Zen acolyte at the Golden Temple and a student at Otani University. Seemingly cheerful and gentle, he comes from the suburbs of Tokyo, the son of affluent parents. He befriends Mizoguchi, urging him to break out of his quiet isolation. When the two acolytes begin to matriculate at Otani University, their relationship falters. Tsurukawa’s death, at first reported as an accident, later is revealed as a probable suicide caused by an...

(The entire section is 671 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The narrator-protagonist of The Temple of the Golden Pavilion is based on a historical figure, a young Zen acolyte who burned an ancient Zen temple in Kyoto in 1950. Mizoguchi and the historical arsonist share certain traits—ugliness, a stutter, a preoccupation with the beauty of a Zen temple. Yet Mizoguchi’s story is not simply a transference of an actual event into literary form. The historical incident of the burning of the temple serves as the impetus for the novel, but Yukio Mishima creates his own fictional world and characters to serve his artistic purposes.

All the other characters in The Temple of the Golden Pavilion are secondary to the narrator-protagonist. He dominates the novel, and it is from his stance that the other characters are viewed. Despite the dominance of the narrator-protagonist, the reader never gets close to Mizoguchi. In part, this fact may be the result of his characterization: He holds himself aloof; he lives mainly in his internal world and scorns close association with others. Furthermore, the narrative method seems to promote distance rather than involvement with Mizoguchi. Although the novel is narrated in the first person, Mizoguchi is quite stolid in detailing the events of his problematic young life.

It is important to recognize Mizoguchi as a dual character in the novel: The narrator Mizoguchi tells the story of the protagonist Mizoguchi in retrospect; some differences between the...

(The entire section is 576 words.)