Beauty and Sadness (美しさと哀しみと Utsukushisa to kanashimi to) clearly isn't an easy read. I had started it some 5 years ago, read till the middle and abandoned it. Now, I picked it up again and found a reading mark at the start of chapter 7 - Summer Thinness (Or, as I read it in German: Sommermagerkeit).

I thought I remembered the story somewhat well enough to resume where I left it off, but just at the middle of the page I realized: Who were all these people again?!

  • 1
    I'm not sure whether this style of question is within the scope, but I like it.
    – Benjamin
    Oct 5, 2018 at 15:40

2 Answers 2


I'm not sure how much detail to go into here or even how to write what I do put in. But anyways, here's a list of notable characters, with first/last names pulled directly from my translation (Howard Scott Hibbett). The order is completely random: it's the order I remembered them when I sat down to write the answer.

  • Oki Toshio: When Otoko was a teen they had an affair. Later, he wrote a book fictionalizing it. It is the most famous of his several novels, continuing to bring in a steady stream of royalties to support the family. He is married to Fumiko and has two children by her: one born before the affair and one after. The events of the novel are set into motion by his decision to go to Kyoto and hear the New Year's Eve bells with Otoko.
  • Uneo Otoko: Her baby by Oki died after birth, and Otoko was committed to an asylum due to a suicide attempt. In the present day she is a famous painter (also known as the real-life analog of Oki's book's character) in Kyoto. Though she still harbors feelings for Oki, she now has a protégé/lover in Keiko. Several times during the novel she urges the younger girl to not take revenge on her behalf against Oki.
  • Sakami Keiko: Right after she graduated high school, and enamored by Otoko's paintings and personal beauty, Keiko asked to study under her. She paints in a far more abstract style than her teacher. The two soon developed a romantic relationship. It is this which drives Keiko, in the present day, to extract vengeance upon Oki and his family for hurting her lover.
  • Oki Fumiko*: Oki's wife and typist. She miscarried from emotional shock after typing out A Girl of Sixteen (the book about the affair) but has now moved past it - or mostly moved past it, since once her husband and son start getting tied up with Fumiko the worries come back out.
  • Oki Taichiro: A professor of Japanese literature and Oki's older child, he lives with his parents, occasionally inviting students over but mostly doing research that interests him. He manages to get himself wrapped up into an affair with Otoko which eventually leads to the boat incident.
  • Otoko's mother**: While of course worried about her daughter having an affair with an older man, she tried to support Otoko through the difficult times. At her behest they moved away in an attempt to reestablish a life. She died of lung cancer without ever telling her daughter about a half-sister (husband's mistress), and still trying to get Otoko to marry.

* Frustratingly, I can't find or remember anywhere in the book with Oki's wife's or children's names written out completely. (To be fair, I gave up after fifteen minutes of flipping around.) However, "Oki" is 「大木」 in the original, which is a surname, and "Toshio" is 「年雄」, a given name; some dialog on page 22 of my Japanese edition confirms the kanji. Thus I swapped out "Toshio" for the family member's names.

** That's the only way she's referred to.


The back of the book in conjunction with the contents of chapter 7 allow at least a partial set of Dramatis Personae:

Otoko Ueno is the female that was once the lover of Oki, and seemingly protagonist of chapter 7. When she was 15, she was pregnant by him, but the baby it was born early and dead. As the affair ended, she tried to take her life with poison. She started to only wear Kimono in her mid-twenties and by the time when the present of the book is set she's closing in on 40. She's an unmarried famous painter and lover/friend of a girl named Keiko.

Toshi Oki is a male that once was the lover of Otoko, and he left her when she was about 16. Back then he had been 31. He wrote a novel about the affair.

Keiko Sakami I can place as the girlfriend of Otoko, and she is (according to the back text), planning to exact revenge on Oki for his treason on Otoko. She lives with Otoko and studies painting under her.

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