Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 592

Gaston (Gas) Bonaparte

Gaston (Gas) Bonaparte, a native of the Savoy region in France and a descendant of Emperor Napoleon I. Having failed to qualify as a missionary priest in France, he has followed an inner call to journey to Japan to act out some nebulous missionary role despite his limited knowledge of Japanese. A gigantic man resembling a sumo wrestler, he has a long, horselike face, with sad eyes. Despite his size and his obvious strength, he is a coward who will not even defend himself against an attacker. Moreover, he is both a simpleton and a bungler. He is a man of peace, love, and compassion who seeks to aid any creature he sees suffering from misfortune, oppression, or a physical handicap, whether it is a man, woman, or a dog; he is the “wonderful fool” of the novel’s title.

Takamori Higaki

Takamori Higaki, a young bachelor and university graduate who works in a bank in the Otemachi district of Tokyo and is a former pen pal of Bonaparte. He lives in the residential district of Kyd in Setagaya Ward, quite removed from the heart of Tokyo, with his mother and younger sister, who, to his annoyance, is in the habit of “policing” him. Although he takes his position at the bank seriously, after work he likes to make merry with friends in the amusement district of the city. He is a spendthrift and always lacking in funds. When Bonaparte arrives in Japan, the Higakis invite him into their home as a guest.

Tomoe Higaki

Tomoe Higaki, Takamori’s sister, six years his junior. She is strong-minded, shrewd, a bad loser, and independent. She saves her money and invests it in the stock market. A university graduate, she studied Italian as well as typing and shorthand. She works for the Disanto Trading Company, located in the Marunouchi Building across the street from Tokyo Station. Although she is very attractive, she resembles in her character the Japanese Amazon Tomoe Gozen of The Tale of Heiki, who rode to battle with her lord, Yoshinaka Kiso.

Takuhiko Osako

Takuhiko Osako, a business associate of Tomoe at the Italian trading company where she works. A grandson of Baron Osako, a member of the prewar nobility, he is a very thin man who wears rimless glasses and dresses with sartorial splendor, being unusually careful of his personal appearance. He is, however, effeminate in voice and manner. Although he courts Tomoe, she regards him strictly as a friend whom she dates on occasion.

Chtei Kawaii

Chtei Kawaii, an old, emaciated Oriental diviner, formerly a teacher and school principal, who makes a meager living telling people’s fortunes and writing love letters for women. He befriends Bonaparte.


End, a tubercular gangster with a face like General Tojo. A lone wolf and a “hit man” for the Hoshino gang of Tokyo, he is a pitiless killer who does what he likes without rancor or lament. A sniper in the army during World War II, he lost faith in people entirely and became a nihilist after his brother was executed at the end of the war for a war crime of which he was innocent. He trusts nobody and nothing but his Colt pistol. A university graduate, he speaks French.

Major Kobayashi

Major Kobayashi, a land surveyor in the small city of Yamagata and a former army officer of the battalion in which End’s brother served. A thin man in his early fifties, he has a ratlike face and very round eyes, and he looks mean.

The Characters

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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 365

Wonderful Fool features as protagonist the bumbling Gaston “Gas” Bonaparte, who is far from the debonair, suave Frenchman Tomoe had imagined him to be while reading his correspondence. Physically awkward and culturally naive, he quickly becomes a burden for the sophisticated Japanese. As the story progresses, however, he evolves into a classic “fool for Christ’s sake,” whose selflessness and genuine love for his fellowman—and even for a mongrel pet—reflect the Christian attributes Shsaku End wants his reader to recognize and embrace. Like Christ, Gas has “no place to stay” and finds his greatest joy in the company of children and the “unrighteous,” those who recognize their unredeemed state and lack a smug pretense of goodness. Gaston Bonaparte is thus a “fool” in a Shakespearean sense, one who may unexpectedly speak as well as dramatize the truth in a most poignant way with his own life.

Takamori and Tomoe emerge as “typical Japanese” in End’s view, oblivious to the “good news” of the self-giving love which Gas wishes to impart. It is only after Gas disappears that his redemptive personality and mission are revealed to Takamori and Tomoe and they are enabled to act in humanitarian compassion toward their fellows within their own land. Takamori, a young office worker with no particular ambition, comes to see his rejection of Gas as “abandoning the best part of myself.” Tomoe is herself a pragmatic career woman, lacking in personal commitment or sentiment and unable to recognize until the very end that while Gas may have been a fool, “he is a wonderful fool.”

In the long run, neither Takamori nor Tomoe is as well developed or as personalized as Gas; by contrast, End, the hardened criminal whom Gas lovingly confronts, is precisely drawn, an underworld character worthy of any Dickens novel. End becomes symbolic of the despondency and regret, deep-seated in Japanese society, that only a transcendent, divine love can penetrate and transform. That the novelist named this gangster after himself seems too much of a coincidence not to reflect the extent to which he himself has struggled with his identity as a Christian in a society whose Christian population numbers less than 2 percent.

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