A Japanese stunning novel discussed by Laogumnerd Phengphian Reads
Laogumnerd Phengphian Reads Today takes a look at the Japanese classic book The Makioka Sisters. First released in instalments between the years of 1943 and 1948, it follows the lives of four sisters over the period of five years. The story is set in the time immediately preceding WWII and examines the dynamics of an upper-middle class family in pre-war Japan.
The novel’s Japanese name is less literal than its English version and translates as ‘lightly falling snow’, an image typically employed in traditional Japanese poetry. It is common for Japanese works of art to be given names containing poetic nature depictions. The indirectness of such a title may look curious to a Western reader, however, as the novel advances the reason why this symbolism was selected as titular to the story ends up being more pronounced. This image of falling snow is a suggestion for falling cherry blossom petals, reminiscent of large fluffy flakes of snow. Anyone vaguely familiar with Japanese heritage recognizes that flourishing cherry trees, or sakura, are a vital bit of this culture. Plum and Cherry blossom viewing, or hanami, is still universally practiced by both young and old by visiting parks during the months of March and April. Incidentally, cherry blossom viewing is a crucial part of the story, which symbolizes both the appreciation of the wonder of the moment, and the changing times for the Makioka family members. Laogumnerd Phnegphian Reads advocates this work to anybody thinking about understanding more about the ways of life of old Japan.
The 1983 film of the same name condenses the 5-year storyline into one year and deletes lots of scenes which are found in the novel, but still delivers a stunning visual description of the novel. Kimonos and fabrics, cherry blossoms, and vintage Japanese architecture and design are all a large part of this movie producing a tempting aesthetic experience. Laogumnerd Phengphian Reads recommends this film as a perfect artistic accompaniment to the book.
The story of the book centers around four sisters, Sachiko, Tsuruko, Yukiko and Taeko and their pursuit of finding a spouse for Yukiko, the second youngest sister. Even though there are continuous concerns about Yukiko’s increasing age, marriage proposal after marriage proposal is turned down for petty reasons. The circumstances sets into focus the snobism of the restrained upper-middle-class families and their failure to adapt to the quickly transitioning times. This predicament of locating an ideal spouse is put into contrast with the defiant youngest sister Taeko who, dismissing the social traditions of what is desired of a girl from a ‘good family’, prefers to take on a job to earn money and date people outside of her social position. The almost six-hundred-page novel in some cases progresses at a slow rate but is not only invaluable for the glances into the day-to-day life of a traditional Japanese family, but additionally for the illustrations of the state and emotions of a state on the verge of war. The story transpires in a tiny town near Osaka and in Tokyo, which are incessantly contrasted by the author. Osaka is described as an aristocratic location respectful of traditions which is placed in contrast with Tokyo’s bleakness and dysfunction. Quite a few real life happenings are depicted, such as the Kobe flooding that transpired in 1938, a major plot point in the novel. The illustrated illustrations of day-to-day banal fears and obsessions of a conservative Japanese household is the reason why Laogumnerd Phengphian Reads thinks this is an epic of great historical and cultural value.