Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Makioka Sisters” as Want to Read:
The Makioka Sisters
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Makioka Sisters

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  6,405 ratings  ·  703 reviews
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.

Paperback, 530 pages
Published September 26th 1995 by Vintage (first published 1948)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Makioka Sisters, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Klaas Roggeman I don't know why he ended it so abruptly but in the afterword by the Dutch translator it says that the last sentence could signify that the marriage w…moreI don't know why he ended it so abruptly but in the afterword by the Dutch translator it says that the last sentence could signify that the marriage will not be a lucky one. Apparently the whole book is highly autobiographical, if fictionalised, about the sisters of Tanizaki's second or third wife. The sister who compares to Yukiko apparently was married to the illegitimate son of a viscount. But after the war the gentry was abolished (all titles) and her husband died early. So it was indeed not a happy marriage. The book appeared in three stages so he might have known the end by the eh end.(less)
Mateus Levi There's a brief explanation for this on the Wikipedia page for the book:

"The novel's title, Sasameyuki (細雪), means lightly falling snow and is also us…more
There's a brief explanation for this on the Wikipedia page for the book:

"The novel's title, Sasameyuki (細雪), means lightly falling snow and is also used in classical Japanese poetry. The image suggests falling cherry blossoms in early spring—a number of poets confess to confusing falling cherry blossoms with snow. Falling cherry blossoms are a common symbol of impermanence, a prevalent theme of the novel. The "yuki" (雪, snow) in Sasameyuki is the same as the yuki in Yukiko's name, suggesting that she is the central character of the novel.

These nuances do not translate well into English. The translator, Edward Seidensticker, struggled over the title. Translations like "Fine Snow" and "Snow Flurries" do not convey the elegance or layers of meaning in the Japanese title."(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.03  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,405 ratings  ·  703 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Makioka Sisters
Nov 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: readers to like to ponder on family relations
Let me hide at least a petal
In the sleeve of my flower-viewing robe,
That I may remember the spring.

Five years ago, we planted two trees in our enclosed garden, a gingko biloba, which bright yellow unique fan-shaped leaves beguile in autumn , and a cherry tree, for its refined and daintily colored blossoms in spring.


Although some of our relatives at first criticized the choice of the Gingko, skeptical and worried about its stature in our miniature garden, the mighty Gingko is now firmly est
Adam Dalva
Feb 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A sweeping, propulsive masterpiece, the story of four sisters with divergent paths in a Japan caught between two eras in the late 1930s. When I first read this, ten years ago, I was drawn to the setpieces, particularly the famous, dramatic flood scene. And those are indeed great, but the subtleties - the book's focus on the body decaying, on western mores seeping their way into a family that wants to hold on to traditional values, the steady humor - make this a masterpiece.

It is in some ways a
May 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: I prefer walking than running.
Recommended to Dolors by: Marina
Shelves: dost, read-in-2015, asian
The yearly peregrination to the natural spectacle of the cherry blossoming in Kyoto is a millenary tradition in Japan. The symbolism attached to that ritual renders the transience of beauty. The constant collision between the explosion of exuberant vitality and the withering that precedes the inevitable defoliation marks the unrelenting passage of time and the virtuous circle of life rekindled from the ashes.

It’s through the annual expeditions that The Makioka Sisters take to witness such a natu
ἀρχαῖος (arkhaîos)(RK)
My 'better late than never' review.

Several weeks ago, I put out a request for a recommendation of a good Japanese book to read. My good friend Marita immediately popped up with The Makioka Sisters. This recommendation was seconded by friend Silvia Cachia. I read their reviews and ordered the book, then forgot about it.

Then I became frustrated with the slowness of my current reading choices and complained on GR that I felt like I was stuck in a bog. Friend Travelin piped in with, "Go random." O
I wasn’t sure what to expect from my first time reading Tanizaki, but feeling like I was reading a cross between a Tolstoy, Wharton and Austen novel set in pre-WWII Japan was definitely not what I was expecting. And what an amazing surprise it was, to feel in somehow familiar territory whilst reading the words of a previously unknown author and to be transported into the Makioka home as the whole family tries to figure out a way to marry the third daughter, the quiet Yukiko.

There’s an elegant si
It's been such a long time since I've read a translation of the Japanese language. I had completely forgotten how calm and subtle the prose is, how patient you have to be in probing it. It's true that enough happens on the surface to make for a lengthy story, but it is the hidden depths that make the story engaging.

Most of the story is occupied with the lives of the Makioka sisters, focusing on the third sister who even at her advanced age has not yet been married. The book starts with discussio
Michael Finocchiaro
This is one of Junichiro Tanizaki's major novels covering a family of women in early 20th C Japan. It is beautifully written with extremely well fleshed out characters and an entrancing plot. It is probably my favourite Tanizaki book.
Sep 16, 2007 rated it liked it
I really wanted (and fully expected) to love this book. I loved Tanizaki's Naomi but for reasons that I can't properly express I never found myself engrossed in this as I'd hoped to be. I'd get into for a bit, get bored, put it down for a few weeks and then pick it up again.

I can however understand why this book is so well regarded and I really keep vacillating on how to rate it. Set in Japan, it's an intimate look at a family of four sisters, their husbands, lovers or lack thereof and immediate
Mar 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2016, own, classics
 photo image_zpswilcnjny.jpeg
“The cherries in the Heian Shrine…of all the cherries in Kyoto, were the most beautiful. Now that the great weeping cherry in Gion was dying and its blossoms were growing paler each year, what was left to stand for the Kyoto spring if not the cherries in the Heian Shrine?”

I really enjoyed this Japanese classic. In it, four Kyoto sisters attempt to navigate the waves of change that are rapidly engulfing Japan prior to WWII. The Makiokas are an old, wealthy Osaka family, that soon find the
A quiet book that portrays Japan at a time of great change, the late 1930s to early 1941, through the story of one family and their interactions with provincial and larger Japanese world. The Makioka sisters represent a culture on the brink, struggling to retain it's traditional identity in the face of change both internal and international. The modern world is coming whether this family wants it or not.

This is not a novel for those looking for adventure or action. It's for those who want charac
Oct 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I had only been familiar with Tanizaki's small classic "In Praise of Shadows" (I've reviewed here on GR)--a window into Japanese traditional culture/aesthetics I absolutely treasure--but had not read any of his fiction. The Makioka Sisters is a beautiful novel set just on the brink of WWII in Japan, the story of four sisters of an old but down at heels Osaka family, the Makiokas, and their efforts to marry off the third sister so that the fourth one too can marry...

Gently-paced and fully detail
Caro the Helmet Lady
Throwback review! I read this in 2014.
My impression - reading this book was like watching the immaculately beautiful woman putting on an immaculate make up.

For hours.

First you're impressed and excited but later you're definitely taking a sneak peek at your watch.

Don't get me wrong - it's a beautifully written even if rather slow paced novel, where the author definitely misses good old times that are going, going, gone, with all the traditions that are slowly changing and vanishing - by the wa
Dec 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This was really a very interesting novel - it felt simultaneously very cozy and like you were peaking into 1930/40s japan and the lives of these people, but also very intense and emotional with the war aspects. It definitely could get dry in places but I really felt like these girls became my friends by the end of it!

But, for how long it was it ended in such a weird place?? Like it felt like the author ended in the middle of a chapter and turned it in. Legit ending with talking about on
Phillip Kay
Dec 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The Makioka Sisters (Sasame Yuki, Light Snow), first published in 1948, was written by Junichiro Tanizaki (1886-1965). Tanizaki wrote The Makioka Sisters after translating the Tale of Genji into modern Japanese and the Murasaki novel is said to have influenced his own. It tells of the declining years of the once powerful Makioka family and their last descendants, four sisters. It has been translated by Edward G. Seidensticker in 1957. Powerfully realistic, it mourns the passing of greatness whil ...more
Inderjit Sanghera
A wonderful and at times whimsical exploration of the Makioka family in pre-WW2 Japan, the slow, somnambulistic pace and prose fit well with the exploration of the day-to-day lives of the Makioka sisters and their husbands and maids. Nothing much really happens in the novel and something as quotidian as a character catching the flu is treated as a major event in the novel-but therein lies the beauty and uniqueness behind this novel. In part an exploration of the emotional inter-play between four ...more
May 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Tanizaki has a delicate sensibility all his own, and his ability to make the incredibly complex, sensitive world of upper class Japanese courtship and sibling relations not only comprehensible but also engaging, is remarkable. I became weirdly hooked on the lives of the four sisters and everyone in their social orbit. Everything from their petty dramas to their sincere attempts to navigate a complicated social order as the specter of WWII gets closer and closer is rendered with a slow, confident ...more
My, what a subtle, graceful thing this is. Tanizaki wrote The Makioka Sisters in the late '40s, amid the rubble and chaos of postwar Japan. The world Tanizaki describes has been destroyed, utterly and irrevocably. You can sense that this is a somewhat decadent society... the Makiokas live a life of idle wealth and appearance-keeping, constantly fretting about the youngest sister's Westernized ways and the loss of respect for old Osaka families. Throughout the book, we get glimpses that war is on ...more
Jul 08, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people interested in traditional Japanese culture
Recommended to Laura by: Ruth Moore
A bit long but still interesting story of four aristocratic Japanese sisters in the late 1930’s, which I thought would be fun as that’s one of my favorite periods in English literature. However, these ladies might as well be living in a different century as well as a different hemisphere — their daily rituals and cultural traditions were out of another world. While the various relationships among the sisters seem familiar (probably everyone with sisters has to negotiate the bossy, the overly sen ...more
Al Bità
Apr 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I read this masterpiece many years ago, and still retain a great fondness for it. Set in Japan in the early 20th century in the period before World War II, it's concern is the 'fate' of the Makioka sisters who still cling to the old aristocratic attention to detail and the minutiae of life while trying to survive the period they are living in. The pace is leisurely, meditative, and beautifully written. Its overall impact, however, belies the quiet exterior: the internal emotional drama builds up ...more
Katie Lumsden
Jun 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful, fascinating melancholy novel, examining marriage, family and sibling relationships on the eve of the Second World War. Poignant and solemn and complicated throughout. I will definitely be reading more Tanizaki in the future!
Feb 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Originally posted at

The Makioka Sisters is one of the most lovely things I’ve read in a long time. That is, if one can put it out of one’s mind that life in Japan in the late 1930s and early 1940s was not a fantastic time for women. This was my first Junichiro Tanizaki book and I was rather surprised at how well he wrote these women. It is odd especially as Tanizaki has a reputation for writing about characters with erotic obsessions and desires.

I may hav
Aug 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
this book tells the story of 4 sisters growing up in Osaka, Japan. In the thirties, in the eve of the second world war, the four sisters are struggling to cope with their day to day life, trying to live up to the standards of their prestigeous family. Each of them has their own struggles, problems and faces and deals with them in very different ways. Although this book is very slow paced, and in fact not much happens, I was immeresed into the story of these four sisters throughout the whole, qui ...more
Gabrielle Dubois
Oct 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 20th-century
First, I put this novel in my 20th century authors bookshelf, even though Jun'ichirō Tanizaki was born in 1886, because he wrote in the 20th century about the 20th century.
Second, I read this book in French, the transaltion was good.
In this big novel (900 pages or so), in an old family of well-to-do traders which everyone knows the name in Osaka, four girls led a luxurious life until the death of their father. His death and the life changes in Japan between the two world wars (late 1930s) left t
Dioni (Bookie Mee)
Nov 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Mee's rating: 4.5/5

First published at:

My last book of 2017 is The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki (if you want to be pedantic, it's Jun'ichirou - which implies him being the first born son, but I couldn't find much information on this). At 530 pages it's no mean feat for me, and actually took me 2 months to finish. But I'm very happy to have finally read it. This is only my second book by Tanizaki. I really liked The Key, which I read aeons ago, and
Oct 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Anna by: Rae
Shelves: fiction, japanese-lit
To begin at the end, this novel finished more abruptly than any I’ve read for a very long time. There is something fitting about this. Reading ‘The Makioka Sisters’ consists of observing the family Makioka through the eyes of the second sister, Sachiko, for an arbitrary amount of time. Family life proceeded prior to the start of the novel and will evidently continue on after it concludes. The narrative is one of subtle detail and minor incident, with even major happenings treated in a matter-of- ...more
Emm C²
A capturing in words of a lost way of life, as well as the struggles and serenity unique to it.
The Makioka Sisters unfolds gently like a bud on a tree. Tanizaki tells these women's stories in thoughtful, observant prose while making no assumptions of the reader, creating a beautiful but isolated world with a tinge of sadness to its edges.

You have to be prepared with patience for this drama, as it is slow-paced, but that doesn't detract from its admirable beauty as a piece of fiction. It is a gli
Elizabeth (Alaska)

Tanizaki provides a wonderful insight into a pre-war way of life, a culture that was changing even then. There is no sense of foreboding about war, even though the China Incident is mentioned several times and later in the book the women have knowledge of war in Europe.

What is important is getting the two younger sisters married, and doing so in such a way that the family status is recognized and honored. Told primarily from the viewpoint of Sachiko, the married second daughter, each of the sis
Jennifer Hale
Jul 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who likes fiction
Recommended to Jennifer by: A school teacher whom I met on a plane
The English version of this book is absolutely engrossing and beautifully written - I am extremely tempted to seek out Tanizaki's original manuscript and read the Japanese and English versions side by side. It's difficult to preserve the poetry of Japanese literature once it's translated - probably true for any language - but Seidensticker is a master at making the most of what the English language has to offer. To me, the story of the four Makioka sisters in early 20th century Japan is as addic ...more
Jul 03, 2007 rated it it was ok
This is the first early 20th century Japanese novel I couldn't finish and didn't love unconditionally. I kept pushing through it waiting for something to happen. . .ANYTHING to happen but after over 300 pages nothing really did. . .sorry. . .but this is just not my fault.
Jan 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a masterpiece, a must-read!

« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Please add cover image 1 2 Oct 23, 2019 06:33PM  
Goodreads Librari...: Book Cover extremely low quality scan 2 18 Feb 04, 2019 06:18PM  
Never too Late to...: 2018 July Classic in Translation Makioka Sisters 17 33 Aug 06, 2018 09:38AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Housekeeper and the Professor
  • Out
  • Spring Snow
  • The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories
  • The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea
  • Kokoro
  • Snow Country
  • The Tale of Genji
  • Thousand Cranes
  • Sanshirō
  • The Gate
  • Masks
  • Botchan
  • The Sound of the Mountain
  • The Old Capital
  • The Temple of Dawn
  • The Pillow Book
  • Runaway Horses
See similar books…
Jun'ichirō Tanizaki (谷崎 潤一郎) was a Japanese author, and one of the major writers of modern Japanese literature, perhaps the most popular Japanese novelist after Natsume Sōseki.

Some of his works present a rather shocking world of sexuality and destructive erotic obsessions; others, less sensational, subtly portray the dynamics of family life in the context of the rapid changes in 20th-century Japa

Related Articles

Thirty-four years after the publication of her dystopian classic, The Handmaid's Tale, Atwood returns to continue the story of Offred. We talked...
368 likes · 59 comments
“The ancients waited for cherry blossoms, grieved when they were gone, and lamented their passing in countless poems. How very ordinary the poems had seemed to Sachiko when she read them as a girl, but now she knew, as well as one could know, that grieving over fallen cherry blossoms was more than a fad or convention.” 26 likes
“Teinosuke preferred not to be too deeply involved in domestic problems, and particularly with regard to Etsuko's upbringing he was of the view that matters might best be left to his wife. Lately, however, with the outbreak of the China Incident, he had become conscious of the need to train strong, reliant women, women able to support the man behind the gun.” 3 likes
More quotes…