An aging artist who created propaganda for the Japanese during the Second World War and is now preoccupied after the war with assessing his legacy. Ono grew up with a father who did not support… read analysis of Masuji Ono
The younger, prettier, and more outspoken of Ono’s two daughters, Noriko is unmarried for much of the novel and, at nearly twenty-six years old, is becoming worried that she will not find a husband… read analysis of Noriko
Mannerly, self-deprecating, and indirect, Setsuko is Ono’s older daughter. Ono thinks she is not as attractive as her sister, but gains in dignity and attractiveness as she ages. She marries Suichi before the war… read analysis of Setsuko
Formerly a polite and friendly man, Setsuko’s husband Suichi has become angry and sullen, scarred by his experiences as a soldier in Manchuria. He is bitter toward the older generation, holding them responsible for the… read analysis of Suichi
An art professor with a good social status, Dr. Saito is a confident, pleasant man. Ono believes he met Dr. Saito before the war and that Dr. Saito knows his work, but Setsuko tells Ono… read analysis of Dr. Saito
A potential husband for Noriko, who pulled out of marriage negotiations a year before the beginning of the novel’s action. Ono dwells on his memory of an interaction he and Jiro had while waiting… read analysis of Jiro Miyake
Ono’s most promising student, Kuroda eventually strikes off in his own direction artistically. Disapproving of the new direction of Kuroda’s work, Ono gives Kuroda’s name to the Committee of Unpatriotic Activities, which leads to… read analysis of Kuroda
One of Ono’s less promising students, Shintaro is nonetheless someone whose company Ono seeks out. While Ono’s most promising students gather at the Migi-Hidari for high-minded discussions about art and patriotism, Shintaro frequents the… read analysis of Shintaro
A bar owner in the pleasure district, Mrs. Kawakami has been greatly aged by the war. Even after all the other buildings in the area have been torn down, and Ono and Shintaro are her… read analysis of Mrs. Kawakami
A prominent, wealthy, and eccentric man who is very influential in the city where the novel takes place from 1913 until 1920. Sugimura attempts to enrich the city by establishing cultural institutions in Kawabe Park… read analysis of Akira Sugimura
A nationalist and art-appreciator, before the war, Matsuda influences Ono to take a new direction in his art. Matsuda believes that artists are failing to address the social and political problems around them, and he… read analysis of Chishu Matsuda
Seiji Moriyama, Mori-san
A rich and talented artist who takes on young pupils, including Ono and the Tortoise, inviting them to live in his villa and study his aesthetic. Mori-san lives in a large decrepit villa in… read analysis of Seiji Moriyama, Mori-san
Yasunari Nakahara, the Tortoise
The Tortoise is an artist who paints very slowly and earns the mockery of Ono’s colleagues at the Takeda Firm, until Ono defends him and takes him under his wing. Ono convinces the Tortoise… read analysis of Yasunari Nakahara, the Tortoise
A middle-aged woman who cares deeply about her father’s legacy, Akira Sugimora’s younger daughter comes to visit Ono to sell him her house. She and her older sister propose an “auction of prestige,” in… read analysis of Miss Sugimora
President of Kimura Company
The President of the parent company of Kimura Company, where Jiro Miyake works. Jiro tells Ono that the President killed himself as a way to atone for the things the company did during the war… read analysis of President of Kimura Company
A friendly young man who works in an office, Taro Saito becomes Noriko’s husband at the end of a stressful courtship for the Ono family. He is a good conversationalist, who enjoys joking. At the same time, he has a reverent attitude toward the corporation where he works.
Taro’s mother, Mrs. Saito, is a pleasant, confident, well-coifed woman who is respected in her family. From the Saitos treatment of Mrs. Saito, the Onos infer that the Saitos are looking for a more modern, less submissive wife for Taro.
The younger brother of Taro Saito, Mitsuo is studying at the school where Kuroda teaches. Because of his troubled history with Kuroda, Ono worries that Mitsuo is against his brother marrying Noriko.
Shintaro’s brother who receives a white-collar job with a good trajectory after receiving a recommendation from Ono.
Kuroda’s protégé and a talented artist by Ono’s standards, Enchi welcomes Ono into Kuroda’s apartment because he believes he is someone else, but upon learning Ono’s identity, chastises Ono for having reported Kuroda to the police, telling Ono that Kuroda was beaten in prison and denied medical care.
The owner of a firm producing art for import to foreigners, Master Takeda pressures his employees to work around the clock to meet deadlines. Ono and the Tortoise leave his firm to move to Mori-san’s villa.
The owner of the Migi-Hidari, the bar that Ono frequents with his best pupils and where he has a table reserved for him.
Mori-san’s favorite pupil when Ono first starts his residence at the villa, Sasaki later changes his technique and is branded a traitor. He is forced to leave the villa without any of his paintings, which seem likely to have been destroyed.
Business-minded and strict, Ono’s father disapproves of his son’s aspiration to become an artist, at one point making a threat (on which he perhaps follows through) to burn all of teenaged Ono’s drawings.
Sympathetic to the values of both her son and husband, Ono’s mother tries to prevent a confrontation between them over Ono’s future.
The commanding officer overseeing the burning of Kuroda’s paintings.
The policeman guarding the door to Kuroda’s house while his paintings are burned and his mother is interrogated.
Ono’s son, who was killed in Manchuria as he charged across a mine field.
Ono’s wife, who is killed at the very end of the war in June 1945 by a bomb.
A developmentally disabled man of fifty, the “Hirayama boy” learned that he would get praise and money from strangers by singing patriotic songs during the war. After the war, he gets beaten up for singing these songs.
A young boy who looks over a wall at Matsuda as he feeds his carp.
The go-between for the meeting of the families of Taro Saito and Noriko.
A famous composer of patriotic songs during the war, Naguchi was one of many prestigious men who committed suicide as an act of atonement for his role in encouraging Japan to persist in its war effort.
An unhappy actor past his prime who comes to visit Mori-san’s villa.