The Makioka Sisters

The Makioka Sisters

Book - 1995
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Junichirō Tanizaki's magisterial evocation of a proud Osaka family in decline during the years immediately before World War II is arguably the greatest Japanese novel of the twentieth century and a classic of international literature.

Tsuruko, the eldest sister of the once-wealthy Makioka family, 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 shy, unmarried Yukiko is a hostage to her family's exacting standards, while the spirited Taeko rebels by flinging herself into scandalous romantic alliances and dreaming of studying fashion design in France. Filled with vignettes of a vanishing way of life, The Makioka Sisters is a poignant yet unsparing portrait of a family--and an entire society--sliding into the abyss of modernity. It possesses in abundance the keen social insight and unabashed sensuality that distinguish Tanizaki as a master novelist.

From the Hardcover edition.
Publisher: New York : Vintage Books, 1995.
Edition: First Vintage International edition
ISBN: 9780679761648
Branch Call Number: TANIZAKI
Characteristics: 530 pages ; 21 cm.
Alternative Title: Sasameyuki (Motion picture)


From Library Staff

LPL_KimberlyL Nov 04, 2017

Recently I read and raved about Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, which is a family saga about Koreans living in Japan. It was interesting to read The Makioka Sisters directly after Pachinko, because this book is set around the same time (the years just before WWII) in Japan, only the content is dramatica... Read More »

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LPL_KimberlyL Nov 04, 2017

Recently I read and raved about Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, which is a family saga about Koreans living in Japan. It was interesting to read The Makioka Sisters directly after Pachinko, because this book is set around the same time (the years just before WWII) in Japan, only the content is dramatically different. This book follow three sisters (a fourth living away from them) and their daily lives. The Makioka family name was once highly regarded, though recently their status has begun to decline. As the family holds on to the past, the world is quickly moving in to the future. This novel gives a glimpse of Japanese culture in the late 30's/early 40's and is truly a fascinating read.

Jan 05, 2017

The tale of sisters and their trials and tribulations of them getting married off. A very family drama type story.

Feb 19, 2015

Considered by many to be one of the greatest post-war Japanese novels, this just might be Tanizaki's masterpiece.

It's a quiet book, what I would call "domestic fiction" -- the novel deals with the lives of three sisters who are living in the years just before WWII... their concerns are mundane: the older sister is trying to marry off the middle sister; the youngest sister tries to set up a business and deals with romantic disappointment; the middle sister is patiently waiting for her marriage to finally happen. Life is punctuated by disasters big and small -- family members get sick -- they go out to dinner, take small trips and celebrate holidays.

Yet even though nothing of huge import happens, what sets this novel apart is the melancholy mood that overlays every scene. Tanizaki was writing and publishing this novel in the midst of the war -- essentially celebrating a way of life (uniquely Japanese) that would soon be destroyed or permanently altered.

In his other novels, Tanizaki set the clash between East (traditional) and the West (liberal and new) as a battle. Here, in the Makioka Sisters, it's a bittersweet melange -- just people trying to live their lives as best they can as the whole world threatens to slip away.

Dec 10, 2014

The Makioka Sisters is a 1940s masterwork by the Japanese novelist Junichiro Tanizaki. This is the story of four daughters of the prewar Osaka Makioka family struggling against their fading fortune while meeting the demands of their high social status.

The dynamic of the novel is provided by the younger, unmarried sisters, Yukiko and Taeko. Yukiko is a pale beauty, diffident to the point of indifference toward the series of prospective suitors presented to her by her older sisters, Tsuruko and Sachiko, and their husbands, and an array of go-betweens. Meanwhile, the marital prospects of the youngest sister, Taeko, are in disarray as long as Yukiko’s fate is in suspense. While her elders follow the silken guidelines and conform to iron mandates of tradition, Taeko indulges her own instincts and develops her own understanding of the world she inhabits, with wrenching results.

As a longtime resident of Japan recently returned to the United States, I was intrigued by the vibrant display in time past of these customs and their practice. In fact, the flower viewing, the arranged marriages, the gift giving, and the constant, obsessive discrimination of Japanese and western practices, and the contrast of the cultures of Tokyo and Osaka, still animate lifestyle and conversation.

Junichiro Tanizaki and The Makioka Sisters get an A+. Make that an A++.

Oct 12, 2014

I expected a messy, sprawling family saga but instead got a hyper-real, documentary look at various traditions and family practices. The Makioka Sisters details the decline of Japanese society and its struggles with modernization through the banal lives of these siblings. It's an apt dramatic lens, and I was excited to immerse myself in this family's story. But frustratingly no grand events or central conflicts take place. Much of the plot hinges on the family trying to find a husband for one of the unmarried sisters and dealing with the youngest sibling who is dating around and trampling all over social codes. Soap opera material, right? Yet Tanizaki steps nobly around that gutter storytelling. Still, I wished he did deal more viscerally and dramatically with those aspects, just to shake things up a bit. Also, even though the book takes place before WWII, the drumbeat of impending war doesn't enter into the characters' lives in any significant way, which I found rather strange. Lost opportunity?

I admire Tanizaki's writing, which is fluid and eloquent and psychologically penetrating in parts. What really shines in this book is how it evokes Japanese life with such a fine-tooth comb. The writing is strewn with rich period details. But the overall effect of this book is ho-hum.

Sep 14, 2011

Highly rcommend this brilliant book. The whole world was in flux in the 1930's, including Japan. This book is so well written. Each family member copes in their own way, some resisting the changes in society, some embracing them. Inevitably, as the reader knows, their futures are even more unstable. I would call this book a very special piece of work, glad to have had the opportunity to read it.

Dec 05, 2009

Took me a while to read this book. It immerses you totally in Japanese culture - not too much plot, but still very enjoyable.


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