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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 375

At the beginning of the book, Kikuji describes the birthmark on Chikako's breast that he'd heard about. He's extremely fixated on it. He had overheard his mother telling his father about it. His father had an affair with Chikako and likely knew. He says:

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When he received the note saying that Chikako meant to make the tea ceremony her excuse for introducing him to a young lady, the birthmark once more floated before him; and, since the introduction would be made by Chikako, he wondered if the young lady herself would have a perfect skin, a skin unmarred by so much as a dot.

Had his father occasionally squeezed the birthmark between his fingers? Had he even bitten at it? Such were Kikuji's fantasies.

He thinks of these things as he approaches the tea ceremony hosted by Chikako.

When Mrs. Ota kills herself after sleeping with Kikuji, he grieves and begins to care for her daughter Fukimo. When he brings Fukimo to Chikako, Chikako says, "Your mother was such a gentle person. I always feel when I see someone like her that I’m watching the last flowers fall. This is no world for gentle people." But Fukimo responds by saying that her mother wasn't that gentle, showing that she's not as susceptible to Chikako as some others are.

Kikuji is so focused on the women his father sleeps with that he can't focus on women in the present, even when he's torn between two of them. When he thinks of Yuriko, who performs a tea ceremony, he thinks that "her eyes and cheeks were abstract memories, like impressions of light; and the memory of that birthmark on Chikako's breast was concrete as a toad."

A turning point for Kikuji is when he realizes that he loves Fukimo in a true way. At first, she was just a reflection of her mother who he loved and who killed herself. As they spend time together, however, he sees her outside the scope of her mother's presence and his father's affair with her mother. He says that "she had become absolute, beyond comparison. She had become decision and fate." This leads them to break the bowl that symbolized their parents' affair and to decide to be together.

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