The Sound of Waves Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: Shiosai, 1954 (English translation, 1956)

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Pastoral

Time of work: The 1950’s

Locale: The Japanese island of Uta-Jima (Song Island)

Characters DiscussedShinji Kubo

Shinji Sound of Waves, TheKubo, a bashful eighteen-year-old fisherman. He is well built and sunburned, with clear, dark eyes. He is levelheaded for his age but is sometimes conscious of his poverty, especially when confronted with the wealth and social status of Hatsue, the young woman he loves. Before meeting her, he had led a peaceful, contented life. His only driving ambition in life, other than winning Hatsue’s hand, is to acquire his own fishing boat and do coastal fishing with his younger brother. Basically unselfish and thoughtful, he has a “haphazard” respect for morality. When he finally gets a job on a fishing vessel, Shinji, unlike his rival, shows courage during a typhoon at sea and proves to himself that his own strength kept him safe through the perilous night. His efforts are rewarded: Despite an ugly rumor of Shinji having slept with his daughter, Hatsue’s father relents and allows Shinji to court her.

Hatsue Miyata

Hatsue Miyata, the daughter of Terukichi Miyata, the wealthiest man on the island. Her three sisters left the family through marriage, but she was adopted out to another family. Later, however, her father decides that she should return and marry Yasuo Kawamoto. On returning, she finds that she prefers Shinji Kubo, even though there is little likelihood that he could provide the kind of life to which she has been accustomed. Hatsue herself, however, works hard. Her healthy, glowing skin and cheeks suggest a wholesome country girl. She is a kindred spirit to Shinji.

Yasuo Kawamoto

Yasuo Kawamoto, the son of a leading family in the village. He is Hatsue’s suitor. Fat and red-complexioned, he seems both naïve and crafty. He knows how to make others follow him, and he takes pride in speaking with no trace of the local dialect. By the age of nineteen, he has become hypocritical. Something of a bully, he boasts of being able to seduce a girl and know that she would never tell anyone about it. His laziness, shown in his work on a fishing vessel, leads to his downfall as a contender for Hatsue’s hand, for he is unable to prove himself superior to Shinji.

Mrs. Kubo

Mrs. Kubo, Shinji’s mother. She is a widow, her husband having been killed during World War II. Until her son finishes school and can work, she must support the family by diving for abalone. Neither a complainer nor a gossip, Mrs. Kubo is naturally cheerful and is proud of her good health. She has never worried about unknown things. When a rumor spreads that her son Shinji has been less than honorable with his girlfriend, Mrs. Kubo trusts her son’s honesty when he denies having slept with Hatsue. Although a simplehearted woman, she is sensitive to the feelings and motives of others, especially when Hatsue presents her with a purse that she won in a competition. She respects the girl’s gesture to make amends for an earlier time when unpleasant words had passed between them.

Terukichi Miyata

Terukichi Miyata, Hatsue’s father, a widower and the wealthiest man on the island. With some justification, he is proud of having raised his family from nothing to wealth in a single generation, and he is highly respected in the community. After changing his mind about having had Hatsue adopted out, he sends for her and plans for her to marry someone of equal station. He is no fool, however; when Shinji proves himself to be more worthy than his rival Yasuo, he is willing to admit that Shinji, though poor, is more deserving of his daughter’s hand than is the wealthier Yasuo.

Chiyoko

Chiyoko, the daughter of the lighthouse keeper. She left the island to go to a university in Tokyo. After a long absence, she returns home for a visit. She is decidedly unsociable. Her plain dress is accented by the fact that she never wears makeup. Even more characteristic, however, is her gloomy demeanor. She is obsessed with the notion that she is unattractive, an idea underscored in her presence by her father, who blames it on fate. She excels in being able to memorize material by rote, even to the point of recording her professor’s sneezes. When Chiyoko sees that Shinji is interested only in Hatsue, she circulates a hurtful rumor that he has been dishonorable with Hatsue. Chiyoko longs to be told that she is pretty. When she finally elicits from Shinji an assurance that she is attractive, her unhappiness is lifted, and she repents having caused trouble with her rumor. A virtue is her honesty in recognizing beauty in another woman.

BibliographyNapier, Susan J. Escape from the Wasteland: Romanticism and Realism in the Fiction of Mishima Yukio and Oe Kenzaburo. Cambridge, Mass.: Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University, 1991. Declaring The Sound of Waves devoid of realism, Napier explores the romantic, idyllic quality of the novel. Emphasizes the story’s purity and simplicity.Nathan, John. Mishima: A Biography. Boston: Little, Brown, 1974. In Mishima’s biography, the background and context of The Sound of Waves are established. Inspiration for the novel is identified as the myth of Daphnis and Chloë.Petersen, Gwenn Boardman. The Moon in the Water: Understanding Tanizaki, Kawabata, and Mishima. Honolulu: University Press of Hawaii, 1979. Sees the classical male body as a dominant figure in all of Mishima’s works, including The Sound of Waves. Notes associations of fire and desire in the novel.Scott-Stokes, Henry. The Life and Death of Yukio Mishima. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1974. A brief section on The Sound of Waves discusses Mishima’s visit to Greece as an influence on the novel. Explains the widespread popular acclaim given the novel in Japan, unmatched by its critical attention.Viglielmo, Valdo H. “The Sea as Metaphor: An Aspect of the Modern Japanese Novel.” In The Sea, from Elemental Stirrings to Symbolic Inspiration, Language, and Life-Significance in Literary Interpretation and Theory. Part 1 in Poetics of the Elements in the Human Condition: Boston: D. Reidel, 1985. Argues that unlike Mishima’s other novels, The Sound of Waves is exceptionally positive and even idyllic. Identifies Shinji and Hatsue as creatures of the sea.
Categories: Characters