An Artist of the Floating World

by

Kazuo Ishiguro

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Masuji Ono Character Analysis

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 his becoming an artist, then moved to the city in which the novel takes place as a young man. He makes money by painting works for export to foreigners. His work catches the eye of an artist and patron of the arts named Mori-san, and he spends the next seven years living in Mori-san’s villa. Then, under the influence of the nationalist Matsuda, Ono decides to change his style of painting to promote Japanese imperialism. During the war and the years leading up to it, Ono’s propagandist paintings earn him prestige in the city, but after the war’s end, nationalist ideas are discredited and Ono is forced into retirement. In the post-war period, Ono feels that, even if his work pursued a mistaken ideology of nationalism, his good faith effort to do what he believes in and make an important contribution means that he can be proud of his life’s work. Ono lost his wife Michiko and son Kenji in the war, but he doesn’t discuss his grief. Ono also feels that the younger generation’s bitterness towards his generation and desire to sweep away all the old traditions is too extreme a response to the devastation of the war. Instead, he concerns himself with arranging the marriage of his youngest daughter Noriko, who resents her father because of what she sees as his sordid past and the shadow it casts on her marriage prospects. Ono also cultivates a close relationship with his grandson Ichiro. Near the end of the novel, doubt is cast on Ono’s account of his career’s importance and impact by his daughter Setsuko, who suggests he was “merely a painter” who had little impact on the fate of Japan or even, as he had thought, on his daughter’s failed first engagement.

Masuji Ono Quotes in An Artist of the Floating World

The An Artist of the Floating World quotes below are all either spoken by Masuji Ono or refer to Masuji Ono. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Memory, Self-Perception, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of An Artist of the Floating World published in 1986.
October 1948 Quotes

It is now already a thing of some fifteen years ago. In those days, when my circumstances seemed to improve with each month, my wife had begun to press me to find a new house. With her usual foresight, she had argued the importance of our having a house in keeping with our status — not out of vanity, but for the sake of our children's marriage prospects. I saw the sense in this, but since Setsuko, our eldest, was still only fourteen or fifteen, I did not go about the matter with any urgency. Nevertheless, for a year or so, whenever I heard of a suitable house for sale, I would remember to make enquiries.

Related Characters: Masuji Ono (speaker), Setsuko, Michiko Ono
Page Number: 7-8
Explanation and Analysis:

Besides, there was surely much to admire in the idea of 'an auction of prestige', as the elder daughter called it. One wonders why things are not settled more often by such means. How so much more honourable is such a contest, in which one's moral conduct and achievement are brought as witnesses rather than the size of one's purse. I can still recall the deep satisfaction I felt when I learnt the Sugimuras — after the most thorough investigation — had deemed me the most worthy of the house they so prized.

Related Characters: Masuji Ono (speaker), Miss Sugimora
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

Coming out of Mrs Kawakami's now, you could stand at her doorway and believe you have just been drinking at some outpost of civilization. All around, there is nothing but a desert of demolished rubble. Only the backs of several buildings far in the distance will remind you that you are not so far from the city centre. 'War damage,' Mrs Kawakami calls it. But I remember walking around the district shortly after the surrender and many of those buildings were still standing. The Migi-Hidari was still there, the windows all blown out, part of the roof fallen in. And I remember wondering to myself as I walked past those shattered buildings, if they would ever again come back to life. Then I came by one morning and the bulldozers had pulled down everything.

Related Characters: Masuji Ono (speaker), Mrs. Kawakami
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:

"We took him once to the cinema to see an American cowboy film. He's been very fond of cowboys ever since. We even had to buy him a ten-gallon hat. He’s convinced cowboys make that funny sound he does. It must have seemed very strange.”

“So that’s what it was,” I said with a laugh. “My grandson’s become a cowboy.”

Down in the garden, a breeze was making the foliage sway.

Noriko was crouching down by the old stone lantern near the back wall, pointing something out to Ichiro.

“Still,” I said, with a sigh, “only a few years ago, Ichiro wouldn't have been allowed to see such a thing as a cowboy film.”

Setsuko, without turning from the garden, said: “Suichi believes it's better he likes cowboys than that he idolize people like Miyamoto Musashi. Suichi thinks the American heroes are the better models for children now.”

Related Characters: Masuji Ono (speaker), Noriko, Suichi , Ichiro
Related Symbols: Lanterns, Gardens
Page Number: 35-36
Explanation and Analysis:

My respect for reception rooms may well appear exaggerated, but then you must realize that in the house I grew up in — in Tsuruoka Village, a half-day's train journey from here — I was forbidden even to enter the reception room until the age of twelve. That room being in many senses the centre of the house, curiosity compelled me to construct an image of its interior from the occasional glimpses I managed to catch of it. Later in my life I was often to surprise colleagues with my ability to realize a scene on canvas based only on the briefest of passing glances; it is possible I have my father to thank for this skill, and the inadvertent training he gave my artist's eye during those formative years.

Related Characters: Masuji Ono (speaker), Ono’s Father
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:

But as I say, there is a different mood in the country these days, and Suichi's attitudes are probably by no means exceptional. Perhaps I am being unfair if I credit young Miyake, too, with such bitterness, but then the way things are at present, if you examine anything anyone says to you, it seems you will find a thread of this same bitter feeling running through it. For all I know, Miyake did speak those words; perhaps all men of Miyake's and Suichi's generation have come to think and speak like that.

Related Characters: Masuji Ono (speaker), Suichi , Jiro Miyake, Hirayama Boy
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

I have still in my possession a painting by the Tortoise — a self-portrait he painted not long after the Takeda days. It shows a thin young man with spectacles, sitting in his shirtsleeves in a cramped, shadowy room, surrounded by easels and rickety furniture, his face caught on one side by the light coming from the window. The earnestness and timidity written on the face are certainly true to the man I remember, and in this respect, the Tortoise has been remarkably honest; looking at the portrait, you would probably take him to be the sort you could confidently elbow aside for an empty tram seat. But then each of us, it seems, has his own special conceits. If the Tortoise's modesty forbade him to disguise his timid nature, it did not prevent him attributing to himself a kind of lofty intellectual air — which I for one have no recollection of. But then to be fair, I cannot recall any colleague who could paint a self-portrait with absolute honesty; however accurately one may fill in the surface details of one's mirror reflection, the personality represented rarely comes near the truth as others would see it.

Related Characters: Masuji Ono (speaker), Yasunari Nakahara, the Tortoise, Master Takeda
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

You may perhaps think I am taking too much credit in relating this small episode; after all, the point I was making in the Tortoise's defence seems a very obvious one — one you may think would occur instantly to anyone with any respect for serious art. But it is necessary to remember the climate of those days at Master Takeda's – the feeling amongst us that we were all battling together against time to preserve the hard-earned reputation of the firm. We were also quite aware that the essential point about the sort of things we were commissioned to paint — geishas, cherry trees, swimming carps, temples — was that they look ‘Japanese’ to the foreigners to whom they were shipped out, and all finer points of style were quite likely to go unnoticed. So I do not think I am claiming undue credit for my younger self if I suggest my actions that day were a manifestation of a quality I came to be much respected for in later years — the ability to think and judge for myself, even if it meant going against the sway of those around me.

Related Characters: Masuji Ono (speaker), Yasunari Nakahara, the Tortoise, Master Takeda
Page Number: 69
Explanation and Analysis:

“I realize there are now those who would condemn the likes of you and me for the very things we were once proud to have achieved. And I suppose this is why you're worried, Ono. You think perhaps I will praise you for things perhaps best forgotten.”

“No such thing,” I said hastily. “You and I both have a lot to be proud of. It's merely that where marriage talks are concerned, one has to appreciate the delicacy of the situation. But you've put my mind at rest. I know you'll exercise your judgement as well as ever.”

“I will do my best,” Matsuda said. “But, Ono, there are things we should both be proud of. Never mind what people today are all saying. Before long, a few more years, and the likes of us will be able to hold our heads high about what we tried to do. I simply hope I live as long as that. It's my wish to see my life's efforts vindicated.”

Related Characters: Masuji Ono (speaker), Chishu Matsuda (speaker), Noriko
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:
April 1949 Quotes

Mrs Kawakami was quiet for a moment, as though listening for something amidst the sounds the workmen were making outside. Then a smile spread over her face and she said: 'This was such a splendid district once. You remember, Sensei?”

I returned her smile, but did not say anything. Of course, the old district had been fine. We had all enjoyed ourselves and the spirit that had pervaded the bantering and those arguments had never been less than sincere. But then perhaps that same spirit had not always been for the best. Like many things now, it is perhaps as well that that little world has passed away and will not be returning. I was tempted to say as much to Mrs Kawakami that evening, but decided it would be tactless to do so. For clearly, the old district was dear to her heart — much of her life and energy had been invested in it — and one can surely understand her reluctance to accept it has gone for ever.

Related Characters: Masuji Ono (speaker), Mrs. Kawakami (speaker)
Page Number: 126-127
Explanation and Analysis:
November 1949 Quotes

Nevertheless, whenever I find myself wandering around Kawabe Park these days, I start to think of Sugimura and his schemes, and I confess I am beginning to feel a certain admiration for the man. For indeed, a man who aspires to rise above the mediocre, to be something more than ordinary, surely deserves admiration, even if in the end he fails and loses a fortune on account of his ambitions. It is my belief, furthermore, that Sugimura did not die an unhappy man. For his failure was quite unlike the undignified failures of most ordinary lives, and a man like Sugimura would have known this. If one has failed only where others have not had the courage or will to try, there is a consolation — indeed, a deep satisfaction — to be gained from this observation when looking back over one's life.

Related Characters: Masuji Ono (speaker), Akira Sugimura
Page Number: 134
Explanation and Analysis:

You may gather from such recollections that our devotion to our teacher and to his principles was fierce and total. And it is easy with hindsight — once the shortcomings of an influence have become obvious — to be critical of a teacher who fosters such a climate. But then again, anyone who has held ambitions on a grand scale, anyone who has been in a position to achieve something large and has felt the need to impart his ideas as thoroughly as possible, will have some sympathy for the way Mori-san conducted things. For though it may seem a little foolish now in the light of what became of his career, it was Mori-san's wish at that time to do nothing less than change fundamentally the identity of painting as practised in our city. It was with no less a goal in mind that he devoted so much of his time and wealth to the nurturing of pupils, and it is perhaps important to remember this when making judgements concerning my former teacher.

Related Characters: Masuji Ono (speaker), Seiji Moriyama, Mori-san, Sasaki
Page Number: 144
Explanation and Analysis:

'No. He wasn't a bad man. He was just someone who worked very hard doing what he thought was for the best. But you see, Ichiro, when the war ended, things were very different. … after the war, Mr. Naguchi thought his songs had been — well — a sort of mistake. He thought of all the people who had been killed, all the little boys your age, Ichiro, who no longer had parents, he thought of all these things and he thought perhaps his songs were a mistake. And he felt he should apologize. To everyone who was left. To little boys who no longer had parents. And to parents who had lost little boys like you. To all these people, he wanted to say sorry. I think that's why he killed himself. Mr Naguchi wasn't a bad man at all, Ichiro. He was brave to admit the mistakes he'd made. He was very brave and honourable.'

Related Characters: Masuji Ono (speaker), Ichiro, Yukio Naguchi
Page Number: 155
Explanation and Analysis:

I have learnt many things over these past years. I have learnt much in contemplating the world of pleasure, and recognizing its fragile beauty. But I now feel it is time for me to progress to other things. Sensei, it is my belief that in such troubled times as these, artists must learn to value something more tangible than those pleasurable things that disappear with the morning light. It is not necessary that artists always occupy a decadent and enclosed world. My conscience, Sensei, tells me I cannot remain forever an artist of the floating world.

Related Characters: Masuji Ono (speaker), Kuroda, Seiji Moriyama, Mori-san
Page Number: 179-180
Explanation and Analysis:

'Did you have authorization to bum those paintings?’ I asked.

'It's our policy to destroy any offensive material which won't be needed as evidence. We've selected a good enough sample. The rest of this trash we're just burning.'

'I had no idea', I said, 'something like this would happen. I merely suggested to the committee someone come round and give Mr Kuroda a talking-to for his own good.' I stared again at the smouldering pile in the middle of the yard. ‘It was quite unnecessary to bum those. There were many fine works amongst them.'

Related Characters: Masuji Ono (speaker), Plain-clothes Officer (speaker), Kuroda
Related Symbols: The Smell of Burning
Page Number: 183
Explanation and Analysis:

'I've no doubt your new leaders are the most capable of men. But tell me, Taro, don't you worry at times we might be a little too hasty in following the Americans? I would be the first to agree many of the old ways must now be erased for ever, but don't you think sometimes some good things are being thrown out with the bad? Indeed, sometimes Japan has come to look like a small child learning from a strange adult.'

‘Father is very right. At times, I'm sure, we have been a little hasty. But by and large, the Americans have an immense amount to teach us. Just in these few years, for instance, we Japanese have already come a long way in understanding such things as democracy and individual rights.

Related Characters: Masuji Ono (speaker), Taro Saito (speaker)
Page Number: 185
Explanation and Analysis:

'Noriko hasn't told you about the miai? Well, I made sure that evening there'd be no obstacles to her happiness on account of my career. I dare say I would have done so in any case, but I was nevertheless grateful for your advice last year.'

'Forgive me, Father, but I don't recall offering any advice last year. As for the matter of the miai, however, Noriko has indeed mentioned it to me a number of times. Indeed, she wrote to me soon after the miai expressing surprise at Father’s . . . at Father’s words about himself.’

Related Characters: Masuji Ono (speaker), Setsuko (speaker), Noriko
Page Number: 190-191
Explanation and Analysis:

'Let me assure you, Setsuko, I wouldn't for a moment consider the sort of action Naguchi took. But then I am not too proud to see that I too was a man of some influence, who used that influence towards a disastrous end.'

My daughter seemed to consider this for a moment. Then she said: 'Forgive me, but it is perhaps important to see things in a proper perspective. Father painted some splendid pictures, and was no doubt most influential amongst other such painters. But Father's work had hardly to do with these larger matters of which we are speaking. Father was simply a painter. He must stop believing he has done some great wrong.'

Related Characters: Masuji Ono (speaker), Setsuko (speaker), Yukio Naguchi
Page Number: 192-193
Explanation and Analysis:
June 1950 Quotes

'But there's no need to blame ourselves unduly,' he said. 'We at least acted on what we believed and did our utmost. It's just that in the end we turned out to be ordinary men. Ordinary men with no special gifts of insight. It was simply our misfortune to have been ordinary men during such times.'

Related Characters: Masuji Ono (speaker), Chishu Matsuda (speaker)
Page Number: 198-199
Explanation and Analysis:

And all the while I turned over in my mind what might occur when I came face to face with Mori-san once more. Perhaps he would receive me as an honoured guest; or perhaps he would be as cold and distant as during my final days at the villa; then again, he might behave towards me in much the way he had always done while I had been his favourite pupil — that is, as though the great changes in our respective status had not occurred. The last of these possibilities struck me as the most likely and I remember considering how I would respond. I would not, I resolved, revert to old habits and address him as 'Sensei'; instead, I would simply address him as though he were a colleague. And if he persisted in failing to acknowledge the position I now occupied, I would say, with a friendly laugh, something to the effect of: 'As you see, Mori-san, I have not been obliged to spend my time illustrating comic books as you once feared.'

Related Characters: Masuji Ono (speaker), Seiji Moriyama, Mori-san
Page Number: 203
Explanation and Analysis:

It is hard to describe the feeling, for it was quite different from the sort of elation one feels from smaller triumphs – and, as I say, quite different from anything I had experienced during the celebrations at the Migi-Hidari. It was a profound sense of happiness deriving from the conviction that one's efforts have been justified; that the hard work undertaken, the doubts overcome, have all been worthwhile; that one has achieved something of real value and distinction. I did not go any further towards the villa that day — it seemed quite pointless. I simply continued to sit there for an hour or so, in deep contentment, eating my oranges.

Related Characters: Masuji Ono (speaker), Seiji Moriyama, Mori-san
Page Number: 204
Explanation and Analysis:

I smiled to myself as I watched these young office workers from my bench. Of course, at times, when I remember those brightly-lit bars and all those people gathered beneath the lamps, laughing a little more boisterously perhaps than those young men yesterday, but with much the same god- heartedness, I feel a certain nostalgia for the past and the district as it used to be. But to see how our city has been rebuilt, how things have recovered so rapidly over these years, fills me with genuine gladness. Our nation, it seems, whatever mistakes it may have made in the past, has now another chance to make a better go of things. One can only wish these young people well.

Related Characters: Masuji Ono (speaker)
Page Number: 205
Explanation and Analysis:
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Masuji Ono Character Timeline in An Artist of the Floating World

The timeline below shows where the character Masuji Ono appears in An Artist of the Floating World. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
October 1948
Memory, Self-Perception, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
The Relevance of the Artist Theme Icon
The narrator, Masuji Ono, describes his home and how he acquired it. Ono is not, nor has he ever... (full context)
Family Reputation, Family Secrets, and Familial Loss Theme Icon
Ono’s wife Michiko is offended by the Sugimuras’ “high-handedness,” but Ono reminds her that they will... (full context)
Family Reputation, Family Secrets, and Familial Loss Theme Icon
Years later, Ono reflects that after the “surrender” the younger of the two Sugimura sisters came to visit... (full context)
The Relevance of the Artist Theme Icon
City, Nation, History Theme Icon
...the garden to the eastern wing. Miss Sugimura was near tears at the sight, but Ono reassured her that he would repair it. However, supplies remained scarce for a long time... (full context)
Memory, Self-Perception, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
Family Reputation, Family Secrets, and Familial Loss Theme Icon
Intergenerational Conflict Theme Icon
Ono recalls his married daughter Setsuko’s visit the previous month. On the morning after Setsuko’s arrival,... (full context)
Intergenerational Conflict Theme Icon
Ono calls to Ichiro to come sit with him so that they can discuss “men’s things.”... (full context)
Family Reputation, Family Secrets, and Familial Loss Theme Icon
Left alone with her father, Setsuko asks if Noriko’s marriage is imminent. Ono tells her it is not and recounts how Noriko has spoken indiscreetly in the same... (full context)
Family Reputation, Family Secrets, and Familial Loss Theme Icon
...explaining that her husband Suichi believes there must be some secret reason behind it. Coldly, Ono tells her he would have told her the reason if he knew it. (full context)
Memory, Self-Perception, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
In the present, Ono explains that it may seem like he was short with Setsuko, but this was not... (full context)
Family Reputation, Family Secrets, and Familial Loss Theme Icon
Ono provides his own analysis of the Miyakes’ withdrawal from marriage talks, saying that the Miyakes... (full context)
Memory, Self-Perception, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
The Relevance of the Artist Theme Icon
Digressing further, Ono says he gives little thought to status and is often surprised at how highly he... (full context)
Memory, Self-Perception, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
Ono says that, even if Shintaro seems naïve, it is nice to spend time with someone... (full context)
The Relevance of the Artist Theme Icon
City, Nation, History Theme Icon
Ono’s favorite haunt in the area was called Migi-Hidari. He helped the bar become the most... (full context)
Memory, Self-Perception, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
The Relevance of the Artist Theme Icon
Ono recounts how he once told his students assembled at the Migi-Hidari about the incident with... (full context)
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City, Nation, History Theme Icon
In the present day, the atmosphere in Mrs. Kawakami’s place feels to Ono like it has never changed, but the rest of the pleasure district is unrecognizable. Right... (full context)
Intergenerational Conflict Theme Icon
City, Nation, History Theme Icon
Ono returns to his account of Setsuko’s visit of the month before. Leaving his daughters talking... (full context)
The Relevance of the Artist Theme Icon
Ono picks up a sketchpad that he gave to Ichiro as a gift the night before.... (full context)
The Relevance of the Artist Theme Icon
Family Reputation, Family Secrets, and Familial Loss Theme Icon
City, Nation, History Theme Icon
Ono offers to help Ichiro make his drawings better, which interests Ichiro. He asks his grandfather... (full context)
Memory, Self-Perception, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
Intergenerational Conflict Theme Icon
Ono tells Ichiro that, as a reward for his good work on the drawing, he will... (full context)
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City, Nation, History Theme Icon
Eventually Ono goes out to the veranda and finds Setusko sitting there. Noriko and Ichiro are in... (full context)
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After supper that evening, Ono tells Noriko about his plan to take Ichiro to the monster movie. Noriko says they... (full context)
Family Reputation, Family Secrets, and Familial Loss Theme Icon
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Ono rejoins his daughters. Setsuko asks him gently if he will accompany them the next day,... (full context)
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City, Nation, History Theme Icon
The next day, Setsuko enters the reception room to find Ono standing there lost in thought. Ono explains that this would have been unusual for him... (full context)
Family Reputation, Family Secrets, and Familial Loss Theme Icon
Intergenerational Conflict Theme Icon
The narrative jumps back to Ono’s childhood, in Tsuruoka Village. Ono is twelve when his father begins to summon him to... (full context)
The Relevance of the Artist Theme Icon
Intergenerational Conflict Theme Icon
The narrative skips ahead to a moment in Ono’s adolescence. One night when Ono is fifteen, his father calls him into the reception room.... (full context)
Intergenerational Conflict Theme Icon
Ono’s father says he hears his wife in the hallway, but Ono hears nothing. Ono’s father... (full context)
Memory, Self-Perception, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
Intergenerational Conflict Theme Icon
Ono’s father tells Ono that when he was only a baby, the family was visited by... (full context)
The Relevance of the Artist Theme Icon
Family Reputation, Family Secrets, and Familial Loss Theme Icon
Intergenerational Conflict Theme Icon
Ono’s father picks up his paintings and again asks his son if his mother is wrong... (full context)
The Relevance of the Artist Theme Icon
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Later that night, Ono is walking through the darkened hallway when he runs into his mother. He says that... (full context)
Family Reputation, Family Secrets, and Familial Loss Theme Icon
In the present, Ono says that he sees he has digressed. He returns the narrative to the second day... (full context)
Family Reputation, Family Secrets, and Familial Loss Theme Icon
...Looking at her floral arrangement, she says that she has little skill at these things. Ono says the flowers look splendid. Setsuko laughs self-consciously. (full context)
Intergenerational Conflict Theme Icon
The narrative shifts to the present, and Ono describes how, reflecting on this conversation he had with Setsuko, he feels irritated. He realizes... (full context)
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Intergenerational Conflict Theme Icon
Ono recalls how, a few days before, Noriko told him about running into Jiro Miyake. She... (full context)
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Family Reputation, Family Secrets, and Familial Loss Theme Icon
Ono says that this exchange with Noriko reminded him of the time he ran into Jiro... (full context)
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Family Reputation, Family Secrets, and Familial Loss Theme Icon
Ono says even a week after the conversation, he could hardly remember it. He explains that... (full context)
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Family Reputation, Family Secrets, and Familial Loss Theme Icon
...instilled in her by Suichi, for why Noriko’s marriage fell through. Since her recent visit, Ono has been thinking over his encounter with Jiro again, even though he could hardly remember... (full context)
Memory, Self-Perception, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
Family Reputation, Family Secrets, and Familial Loss Theme Icon
Intergenerational Conflict Theme Icon
Ono recalls part of his conversation with Jiro that he hadn’t previously seen as significant. While... (full context)
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As Ono reflects on that conversation now, he wonders whether Jiro really said those words. They sound... (full context)
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The narrative turns to the day of the ceremony for the burial of Ono’s son Kenji’s ashes. The ashes do not arrive until a year after Kenji’s death and... (full context)
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Later, with the guests gathered in the reception room, Ono approaches Suichi, who is standing alone, to ask him why the ceremony made him angry.... (full context)
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Looking back, Ono thinks that it was at this moment that Suichi used the phrase, saying that those... (full context)
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Ono sees something of the same bitterness in the fact that the Hirayama boy has recently... (full context)
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Ono turns his narrative to the trip he took the day before on the tram to... (full context)
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Digressing again, Ono explains that the introduction of these tramlines stretching all the way to Arakawa gave those... (full context)
The Relevance of the Artist Theme Icon
City, Nation, History Theme Icon
Ono had been coming to the bars in the Furukawa area for twenty years before the... (full context)
The Relevance of the Artist Theme Icon
Family Reputation, Family Secrets, and Familial Loss Theme Icon
City, Nation, History Theme Icon
Ono explains that, in 1933, he had been coming to Yamagata’s place for twenty years already,... (full context)
Memory, Self-Perception, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
The Relevance of the Artist Theme Icon
A year after Ono started working for Master Takeda, an artist named Yasunari Nakahara joined the firm. Nakahara never... (full context)
The Relevance of the Artist Theme Icon
...The Tortoise asked for their patience, but they continued to insult him. At this point, Ono stepped in and defended the Tortoise, saying he had more artistic integrity than the others... (full context)
Memory, Self-Perception, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
The Relevance of the Artist Theme Icon
City, Nation, History Theme Icon
Looking back, Ono cannot be sure that he defended the Tortoise exactly as he has said he did.... (full context)
Memory, Self-Perception, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
The Relevance of the Artist Theme Icon
The narrative jumps to a couple of months after Ono intervened on the Tortoise’s behalf. Ono and the Tortoise run into one another on the... (full context)
The Relevance of the Artist Theme Icon
Family Reputation, Family Secrets, and Familial Loss Theme Icon
Intergenerational Conflict Theme Icon
The Tortoise is uncomfortable at Ono’s suggestion that he leave Master Takeda’s firm. He says that he got the job because... (full context)
Memory, Self-Perception, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
Reflecting on this in the present moment, Ono says he is not sure that he expressed his thoughts on loyalty to the Tortoise... (full context)
Memory, Self-Perception, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
The Relevance of the Artist Theme Icon
City, Nation, History Theme Icon
Ono says he often told the story of leaving the Takeda firm to his pupils gathered... (full context)
The Relevance of the Artist Theme Icon
Intergenerational Conflict Theme Icon
Ono reflects that the Migi-Hidari became a patriotic hub, where people got drunk and were merry,... (full context)
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These days, Ono and Shintaro often reminisce about old times as they sit drinking at Mrs. Kawakami’s place.... (full context)
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Ono says that he has only seen his former protégé Kuroda once since the end of... (full context)
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Ono says he would not be giving Kuroda any thought if his name had not come... (full context)
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On the tram, Ono and Ichiro run into Dr. Saito, the father of Taro, the man with whom Noriko... (full context)
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A little before his tram stop, Dr. Saito tells Ono that they have a mutual acquaintance: a Mr. Kuroda. Dr. Saito says that Kuroda mentioned... (full context)
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At the theater, Ono and Ichiro see the poster Ichiro copied in his drawing. Ichiro laughs and says that... (full context)
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...Ichiro to the monster movie, then goes to sit with her nephew, leaving Setsuko and Ono alone together. Setsuko says how good Noriko is with children and how sad it is... (full context)
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The narrative again shifts to Ono’s recent tram ride to Arakawa. Ono noticed many changes to the neighborhoods he passed on... (full context)
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Ono tells the story of the first time he met Matsuda. At the time, he had... (full context)
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That day, Matsuda arrived at the villa and asked to speak to Ono. He told Ono that he represented the Okada-Shingen Society, which Ono explains was an organization... (full context)
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...answered the door. He is very ill and weak. He expresses his surprise to see Ono, saying they didn’t part on the easiest terms. Ono says he didn’t think they had... (full context)
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Matsuda apologizes for having missed Michiko’s funeral and begins to reminisce about when Michiko and Ono first came together. Ono says that Matsuda facilitated their match, since his uncle was too... (full context)
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...with tea, and Matsuda introduces her as Miss Suzuki. He tells her that he and Ono were close colleagues once and tells Ono that Miss Suzuki is his nurse and housekeeper.... (full context)
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...he would share with an old colleague in need, especially since he has no heirs. Ono laughs and says this is not why he has come. Matsuda tells the story of... (full context)
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Ono tells Matsuda the reason he has come: his daughter Noriko is in marriage talks and... (full context)
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Matsuda tells Ono that he has already assured him that he will only say good things. Ono repeats... (full context)
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Matsuda asks who else Ono has visited. Ono tells him he is the first person he has come to see,... (full context)
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Waiting for the tram from Arakawa after this visit, Ono is comforted that Matsuda will speak positively about him. He feels it was worthwhile to... (full context)
April 1949
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Often Ono walks from his house to the Bridge of Hesitation that leads to the pleasure district... (full context)
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Over the winter, Shintaro told Ono that he was applying for jobs teaching art at high schools. Although Ono has not... (full context)
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Ono says he does not recall this disagreement. Shintaro says he was drunk at an engagement... (full context)
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Looking back on this conversation from the present moment, Ono says that it may seem that he treated Shintaro harshly, but what had been going... (full context)
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Mr. Kyo arranges the miai for a day in November at the Kasuga Park Hotel. Ono is unhappy with the choice of location but gives his agreement when he hears the... (full context)
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The weeks leading up to the miai are tense ones for Ono and Noriko. Ono does not tell Noriko about all his efforts to make sure things... (full context)
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One afternoon, Ono sits on the veranda looking at shrubs he has pruned. Noriko has just gotten home... (full context)
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Looking back on this conversation from the present moment, Ono reflects that, if he were to tell Noriko how much he had been doing on... (full context)
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Ono reports that he had easily found where Kuroda lives. A professor at Uemachi College had... (full context)
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Ono goes to Kuroda’s apartment and rings the bell twice. A young man answers the door... (full context)
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Enchi tells Ono not to hurry away, because Kuroda will want to thank him. Ono is surprised at... (full context)
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Ono tells Enchi that he must have been a very young man back when Ono and... (full context)
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Looking back on this scene from the present moment, Ono says he did not allow Enchi’s words to upset him but was disturbed that Kuroda... (full context)
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On the day of the miai, Noriko seems especially anxious. Ono tries to lighten her mood by joking about how long she is taking to get... (full context)
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Ono describes the Kasuga Park Hotel. It used to be one of the city’s best Western-style... (full context)
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The evening is not completely clear in Ono’s memory, because the tension makes him drink more quickly than he usually does. He has... (full context)
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...around people she knows, she often has difficulty striking the right tone with strangers. But Ono can see from the way the family treats Mrs. Saito that they are not looking... (full context)
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...man who had been injured but intended to return immediately to the demonstrations and asks Ono’s opinion of this. Ono thinks the whole table fixes their attention on him, waiting for... (full context)
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Dr. Saito asks Ono whether he sides with Mrs. Saito and Taro in believing his attitude towards the demonstrations... (full context)
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Ono is once again struck by how badly Noriko seems to be handling the tension. Taro’s... (full context)
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...Saito brings up Kuroda, explaining that his younger son Mitsuo studies at the Uemachi College. Ono asks Mitsuo if he know Kuroda well, and Mitsuo says he has no artistic talent... (full context)
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Ono interrupts Mr. Kyo, asking Mitsuo if Kuroda has spoken to him about Ono. Mitsuo is... (full context)
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Taro tells Ono that he is sure he is being too harsh with himself. Turning to Noriko, he... (full context)
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Reflecting on the evening from the present moment, Ono says that it was not easy for him to make the declaration he did about... (full context)
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Ono now believes that Shintaro has a cunning side to his nature that he had not... (full context)
November 1949
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Ono remembers the first time he met Dr. Saito clearly. It was sixteen year ago, the... (full context)
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...was one of the only times they had to speak. It makes sense, then, that Ono is still turning over some of the things she said in his mind a month... (full context)
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Ono says that Kawabe Park is one of the city’s nicest parks and holds a special... (full context)
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That day, Setsuko and Ono met Noriko and Ichiro by a statue, and then Ono took Ichiro to lunch at... (full context)
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Ono explains that people not only take on traits as children, but also in early adulthood... (full context)
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Ono reflects on his seven years living at Mori-san’s villa, saying they were some of the... (full context)
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...was disloyal to Mori-san’s teachings, the offender often gave up on the painting entirely. When Ono and the Tortoise first arrived at the villa, the Tortoise often had to destroy his... (full context)
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Ono reflects that every group of students will have a leader. The leader sets an example... (full context)
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...he demanded total loyalty. Although it is easy to be critical of this in hindsight, Ono says, it should be recognized that Mori-san had ambitions to change the culture of painting... (full context)
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One night Ono walks away from the revelry and sits in a storeroom where no one goes. He... (full context)
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...beauty of the “floating world,” fearing that it was decadent and a waste of time. Ono says that perhaps he is struggling with something similar, and he will try to rectify... (full context)
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Reflecting on this exchange from the present, Ono says that he cannot be sure that this was what Mori-san said. Indeed, it sounds... (full context)
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Ono returns to his account of his lunch with Ichiro at the department store. Ichiro pours... (full context)
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Ono tells Ichiro that he since he is eight years old now, he will see that... (full context)
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Ichiro asks Ono if he knew Yukio Naguchi, and Ono says that he didn’t personally. Ono thinks that... (full context)
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That evening, Ono and Ichiro go to the Izumimachi area, where Noriko and Taro’s apartment is. The area... (full context)
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Ono tells Setsuko and Noriko that he wants to give Ichiro a taste of diluted sake,... (full context)
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Ono says he remembers how his wife objected when he gave Kenji his first taste of... (full context)
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...colleague who never meets the deadline, saying he has been given the nickname “the Tortoise.” Ono excitedly tells them that he also once had a colleague nicknamed the Tortoise, but Taro... (full context)
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Ono recalls his relationship with the Tortoise, of whom he was fond, but whom he never... (full context)
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A few days later when he entered the kitchen, the Tortoise looked at Ono in alarm. Gesturing towards Ono’s painting, he asked if it was a joke. Ono recalls... (full context)
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...the Tortoise was shocked by is called “Complacency,” and it was inspired by a walk Ono took with Matsuda. Ono and Matsuda were walking along a bridge overlooking the Nishizuru district,... (full context)
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Ono didn’t think about the boys much at the time, but later he made them the... (full context)
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Ono adapted this work in the 1930s for his painting “Eyes to the Horizon,” which became... (full context)
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Reflecting from the present, Ono says that he recognizes that the sentiments in the painting are outdated, but he brings... (full context)
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One evening not long after their visit to the slum, Ono and Matsuda sit in a bar having a dispute. Ono proposes raising money for the... (full context)
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Matsuda tells Ono that weak politicians and greedy businessmen are leading Japan into a crisis. He says the... (full context)
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Turning away from his recollections of Matsuda’s remarks, Ono looks back on the moment when  the Tortoise discovered “Complacency.” He thinks that the Tortoise... (full context)
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Ono shifts his narrative to a conversation he has with Mori-san a week after the confrontation... (full context)
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...visits the pavilion with Mori-san, the lanterns are unlit when they arrive, so Mori-san asks Ono to light them. Mori-san asks Ono what is troubling him. Ono says it is a... (full context)
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...thing for a young artist to experiment, as long as he returns to serious work. Ono says that he feels his recent work is the best work he has done. Mori-san... (full context)
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Looking back years later, Ono reflects that Mori-san’s treatment of him may seem harsh, but it should be remembered how... (full context)
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Ono reflects on visiting Kuroda’s house the winter before the start of the war. Upon arriving... (full context)
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The uniformed officer leads Ono through the house to the back yard, where a plain clothes officer is standing by... (full context)
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In the present, Ono says that this story is of limited relevance, because he means to recount what happened... (full context)
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Ono asks Taro if he thinks all the sweeping changes in Japan are entirely a good... (full context)
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Ichiro reaches over, taps the sake flask, and looks at Ono. To distract him, Taro asks what Ichiro would like to be when he grows up.... (full context)
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After dinner, Ono goes into the spare room where Ichiro is going to sleep. Ichiro asks Ono if... (full context)
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Ono goes to rejoin the adults in the main room. He says to Taro that it... (full context)
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Ono describes the events that passed earlier that day in Kawabe Park: walking along, Ono and... (full context)
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Ono and Setsuko continue walking. Setsuko says that Taro told her that Ono brought up Yukio... (full context)
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Setsuko continues, saying the Saitos were puzzled by Ono’s behavior at the miai. Ono says he was under the impression that Dr. Saito appreciated... (full context)
June 1950
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Ono reflects on a walk he took yesterday over the Bridge of Hesitation. He has just... (full context)
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On that visit, Miss Suzuki answers the door and tells Ono that Matsuda is much stronger than he was eighteen months before when he last visited.... (full context)
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Matsuda asks after Noriko, and Ono tells him that Noriko is pregnant with her first child, and Setsuko is also expecting... (full context)
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Matsuda asks if Ono is painting. Ono says he has started painting flowers in watercolor to pass the time.... (full context)
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Matsuda recalls how angry Ono used to get when Matsuda teased him for his narrow artist’s perspective. He says it... (full context)
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Ono looks out at the garden. He can smell something burning faintly and tells Matsuda that... (full context)
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...it is time to go feed the carps in his pond. They go outside, and Ono sees a boy of four or five peering over a fence. Matsuda greets the boy,... (full context)
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...military, politicians, and businessmen for what happened to the country, but people like himself and Ono made only a marginal contribution. Despite what Matsuda says, Ono thinks that he is not... (full context)
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Ono shifts the narrative to recall a proud moment in his life: in 1938, he has... (full context)
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Most people, Ono thinks, never feel this kind of contentment. Certainly, the Tortoise or Shintaro would be incapable... (full context)
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After hearing of Matsuda’s death, Ono walks across the Bridge of Hesitation to the area that used to be the pleasure... (full context)