While recovering from a stroke, seventy-seven-year-old Utsugi turns to his diary to wryly record his struggle with his ageing body and his growing desire for his beautiful daughter-in-law Satsuko, a chic, Westernised dancer with a shady past.
Junichiro Tanizaki was born in 1886 in Tokyo, where his family owned a printing establishment. He studied Japanese literature at Tokyo Imperial University, and his first published work, a one-act play, appeared in 1910 in a literary magazine he helped to found. Tanizaki lived in the cosmopolitan Tokyo area until the earthquake of 1923, when he moved to the gentler and more cultivated Kyoto-Osaka region. There he became absorbed in the Japanese past and abandoned his superficial Westernisation. All his most important works were written after 1923, among them Naomi (1924) Some Prefer Nettles (1929), Arrowroot (1931), Ashikari (The Reed Cutter) (1932), A Portrait of Shunkin (1932), The Secret History of the Lord of Musashi (1935), several modern versions of The Tale of Genji (1941, 1954 and 1965), The Makioka Sisters (1943-48), 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 an Imperial Award for Cultural Merit in 1949. In 1964 he was elected an honorary Member of the American Academy and the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the first Japanese citizen ever to receive this honour. Tanizaki died in 1965.