The Makioka Sisters

( 3 )


In Osaka in the years immediately before World War II, four aristocratic women try to preserve a way of life that is vanishing. As told by Junichiro Tanizaki, the story of the Makioka sisters forms what is arguably the greatest Japanese novel of the twentieth century, a poignant yet unsparing portrait of a family–and an entire society–sliding into the abyss of modernity.

Tsuruko, the eldest sister, clings obstinately to the prestige of her family name even as her husband ...

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In Osaka in the years immediately before World War II, four aristocratic women try to preserve a way of life that is vanishing. As told by Junichiro Tanizaki, the story of the Makioka sisters forms what is arguably the greatest Japanese novel of the twentieth century, a poignant yet unsparing portrait of a family–and an entire society–sliding into the abyss of modernity.

Tsuruko, the eldest sister, clings obstinately to the prestige of her family name even as her husband prepares to move their household to Tokyo, where that name means nothing. Sachiko compromises valiantly to secure the future of her younger sisters. The unmarried Yukiko is a hostage to her family’s exacting standards, while the spirited Taeko rebels by flinging herself into scandalous romantic alliances. Filled with vignettes of upper-class Japanese life and capturing both the decorum and the heartache of its protagonist, The Makioka Sisters is a classic of international literature.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Junichiro Tanizaki's The Makioka Sisters

“A masterpiece of great beauty and quality.” –Chicago Tribune

“Skillfully and subtly, Tanizaki brushes in a delicate picture of a gentle world that no longer exists.” –San Francisco Chronicle

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679761648
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/28/1995
  • Series: Vintage International Series
  • Edition description: 1st Vintage International ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 544
  • Sales rank: 208,598
  • Lexile: 980L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.17 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.95 (d)

Meet the Author

Junichiro Tanizaki was born in Tokyo in 1886 and lived there until the earthquake of 1923, when he moved to the Kyoto-Osaka region, the scene of his novel The Makioka Sisters (1943-48). Among his works are Naomi (1924), Some Prefer Nettles (1928), Quicksand (1930), Arrowroot (1931), A Portrait of Shunkin (1933), The Secret History of the Lord of Musashi (1935), modern versions of The Tale of Genji (1941, 1954, and 1965), Captain Shigemoto's Mother (1949), The Key (1956), and Diary of a Mad Old Man (1961). By 1930 he had gained such renown that an edition of his complete works was published, and he was awarded Japan's Imperial Prize in Literature in 1949. Tanizaki died in 1965.
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Read an Excerpt

Makioka Sisters

By Jun'ichiro Tanizaki

Alfred A. Knopf

Copyright © 1957 Jun'ichiro Tanizaki
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0394434706

Chapter One


Would you do this please, Koi-san?"

Seeing in the mirror that Taeko had come up behind her, Sachiko stopped powdering her back and held out the puff to her sister. Her eyes were still on the mirror, appraising the face as if it belonged to someone else. The long under-kimono, pulled high at the throat, stood out stiffly behind to reveal her back and shoulders.

"And where is Yukiko?"

"She is watching Etsuko practice," said Taeko. Both sisters spoke in the quiet, unhurried Osaka dialect. Taeko was the youngest in the family, and in Osaka the youngest girl is always "Koi-san," "small daughter."

They could hear the piano downstairs. Yukiko had finished dressing early, and young Etsuko always wanted someone beside her when she practiced. She never objected when her mother went out, provided that Yukiko was left to keep her company. Today, with her mother and Yukiko and Taeko all dressing to go out, she was rebellious. She very grudgingly gave her permission when they promised that Yukiko at least would start back as soon as the concert was over--it began at two--and would be with Etsuko for dinner.

"Koi-san, we have another prospect for Yukiko."


The bright puff moved from Sachiko's neck down over her back and shoulders. Sachiko was by no means round-shouldered, and yet the rich, swelling flesh of the neck and back somehow gave a suggestion of a stoop. The warm glow of the skin in the clear autumn sunlight made it hard to believe that she was in her thirties.

"It came through Itani."


"The man works in an office, M.B. Chemical Industries, Itani says."

"And is he well off?"

"He makes a hundred seventy or eighty yen a month, possibly two hundred fifty with bonuses."

"M.B. Chemical Industries--a French company?"

"How clever of you. How did you know?"

"Oh, I know that much."

Taeko, the youngest, was in fact far better informed on such matters than her sisters. There was a suggestion occasionally that she took advantage of their ignorance to speak with a condescension more appropriate in someone older.

"I had never heard of M.B. Chemical Industries. The head office is in Paris, Itani says. It seems to be very large."

"They have a big building on the Bund in Kobe. Have you never noticed it?"

"That is the place. That is where he works."

"Does he know French?"

"It seems so. He graduated from the French department of the Osaka Language Academy, and he spent some time in Paris--not a great deal, though. He makes a hundred yen a month teaching French at night."

"Does he have property."

"Very little. He still has the family house in the country--his mother is living there--and a house and lot in Kobe. And nothing more. The Kobe house is very small, and he bought it on installments. And so you see there is not much to boast of."

"He has no rent to pay, though. He can live as though he had more than four hundred a month."

"How do you think he would be for Yukiko? He has only his mother to worry about, and she never comes to Kobe. He is past forty, but he has never been married."

"Why not, if he is past forty?"

"He has never found anyone refined enough for him, Itani says."

"Very odd. You should have him investigated."

"And she says he is most enthusiastic about Yukiko."

"You sent her picture?"

"I left a picture with Itani, and she sent it without telling me. She says he is very pleased."

"Do you have a picture of him?"

The practicing went on below. It did not seem likely that Yukiko would interrupt them.

"Look in the top drawer on the right." Puckering her lips as though she were about to kiss the mirror, Sachiko took up her lipstick. "Did you find it?"

"Here it is. You have shown it to Yukiko?"



"As usual, she said almost nothing. What do you think, Koi-san?"

"Very plain. Or maybe just a little better than plain. A middling office worker, you can tell at a glance."

"But he is just that after all. Why should it surprise you?"

"There may be one advantage. He can teach Yukiko French."

Satisfied in a general way with her face, Sachiko began to unwrap a kimono.

"I almost forgot." She looked up. "I feel a little short on 'B.' Would you tell Yukiko, please?"

Beri-beri was in the air of this Kobe-Osaka district, and every year from summer into autumn the whole family--Sachiko and her husband and sisters and Etsuko, who had just started school--came down with it. The vitamin injection had become a family institution. They no longer went to a doctor, but instead kept a supply of concentrated vitamins on hand and ministered to each other with complete unconcern. A suggestion of sluggishness was immediately attributed to a shortage of Vitamin B, and, although they had forgotten who coined the expression, "short on 'B'" never had to be explained.

The piano practice was finished. Taeko called from the head of the stairs, and one of the maids came out. "Could you have an injection ready for Mrs. Makioka, please?"


Excerpted from Makioka Sisters by Jun'ichiro Tanizaki Copyright © 1957 by Jun'ichiro Tanizaki. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2008


    'The Makioka Sisters' is a MUST on your list of books to read before you die. I could NOT put it down once I began reading this beautiful story. The author has a wonderful way with descriptions and he really gives the audience an intimate glimpse into Japanese culture and familial tradition, which I find to be so fascinating. I love how each sister has her own set of issues/questions which are addressed to completion. Do yourself a favor and READ THIS BOOK!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2005

    Introduction to Japan

    Tanizaki was a writer of multifaceted talent. In a career spanning five decades he wrote a dozen books on themes as diverse as Japanese arts and crafts to 'woman-worshipping,' a Tanizaki specialty as far as weaknesses go. The Makioka Sisters is thought by many to be his greatest literary achievement. There is considerable truth in this claim, for in The Makioka Sisters Tanizaki has distilled his authorial genius in a way that he never quite did either before or after this book. Woven around a Japanese joint family living in Tokyo and Osaka, The Makioka Sisters touches upon the essential Japan: the Spring Cherry Blossoms, The family hierarchy, the quintessential Japanese woman who is if anything verbose. The book is barely short of a visit to Japan of the 1930s, a rare feat for a book to achieve. Along with the tour-Japan theme the book has typical, Tanizaki's brand of storytelling strengths: the reader is continually surprised as the characters disintegrate suddenly or vanish altogether. Family values, which I may add seem universal, are unfailingly upheld in the book, as the reader gets a feeling that Tanizaki were secretly holding society to order. Few books can move a reader so much they produce a feeling in her akin to that of an achievement, an experience to be forever relished, an aftertaste diminished over time but never fully going away. The Makioka Sisters aroused all this in me, as it will for you, provided you are not unduly in love with your cell phone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2012

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