Tradition and Modernity: Marital Challenges in 'Some Prefer Nettles'

The intricate dynamics of marital relationships often serve as compelling narratives, offering insights into the complexities of human emotions. In Junichiro Tanizaki's novel, "Some Prefer Nettles," the troubled marriage between Kaname and Misako unfolds against the backdrop of the Taisho period in Japan. As I navigate through the nuances of their relationship, I aim to unravel the intricacies of their struggles, motivations, and the underlying issues that contribute to their marital discord.

Kaname and Misako's Struggle with Divorce

At the heart of the narrative lies the clandestine battle of Kaname and Misako as they grapple with the idea of divorce.

Their indecisiveness, shrouded in secrecy and known only to Kaname's confidant, Takanatsu, becomes a focal point. Despite Takanatsu's counsel, the couple remains ensnared in the complexities of their emotions, unable to reach a conclusive decision.

Delving deeper into their internal conflicts, Kaname's hesitation appears rooted in a mixture of societal expectations, personal fears, and a reluctance to confront the reality of a failed marriage.

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Misako, on the other hand, wrestles with a desire for love and emotional fulfillment that has eluded her within the confines of their relationship.

The socio-cultural milieu of the Taisho period adds layers of complexity to their predicament. The societal norms and expectations of the time weigh heavily on Kaname, influencing his actions and contributing to the intricate dance of their marital interplay.

Kaname's Materialistic Nature

Kaname's upbringing in a wealthy merchant family casts a shadow on his character, shaping his sensitivity to societal perceptions and materialistic tendencies.

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His obsession with physical appearance, particularly evident in his meticulous clothing choices, unveils a utilitarian view of Misako's role. She becomes instrumental in enhancing Kaname's image, showcasing the transactional nature of their relationship.

As I explore Kaname's materialistic inclinations, it becomes apparent that his focus on appearance is not merely a superficial concern. Instead, it serves as a coping mechanism for his deeper insecurities and the societal pressures he grapples with. Kaname's journey into self-discovery unfolds as a central thread, influencing his interactions with Misako and shaping the trajectory of their marriage.

Impact on Hiroshi - Their Son

Their son, Hiroshi, becomes an unwitting observer of his parents' failing marriage. Kaname's reluctance to finalize the divorce, citing concern for Hiroshi, is explored. However, a closer examination reveals that Kaname's actions are driven more by cowardice than genuine consideration for his son's well-being.

As Hiroshi's awareness of the strained relationship grows, the impact on his psyche becomes a poignant subplot. The narrative intricately weaves the effects of parental discord on the emotional landscape of a child, adding layers of poignancy to the overarching exploration of marital complexities.

Misako's Reasons for Divorce

Misako's dissatisfaction with the marriage stems from a profound lack of love from Kaname. Her confession, expressing the desire to be loved even if it means being used, lays bare her emotional turmoil. Despite the emotional strain, Misako conscientiously fulfills her duties as a wife, demonstrating a respect for Kaname that surpasses his shallow considerations.

In delving into Misako's perspective, her internal conflicts and emotional resilience come to the forefront. The societal expectations placed on her as a wife in the Taisho period, coupled with her personal yearning for genuine affection, create a tapestry of conflicting emotions. The dichotomy between societal roles and personal desires forms a central theme, resonating beyond the confines of the novel and inviting readers to reflect on the universal challenges of navigating societal expectations within intimate relationships.

Kaname's Shallow Reasons for Marriage Failure

Kaname's reasons for the marriage's deterioration revolve around his diminishing sexual appeal for Misako. His idealized perception of women, rooted in unrealistic expectations, further complicates their relationship. The contrast between Misako's genuine emotional needs and Kaname's childish desires becomes apparent as the narrative unfolds.

Exploring the intricacies of Kaname's sexuality, it becomes evident that his expectations of an ideal woman are deeply entrenched in societal norms and personal whims. This exploration opens a window into the broader societal constructs that shape individual desires and expectations within the realm of marriage during the Taisho period.

Kaname's Passive Attitude

As the narrative progresses, Kaname's passive and dismissive attitude towards Misako's concerns takes center stage. His secret hope for Misako to find another man serves as a mechanism to deflect blame onto her, absolving himself of any responsibility for the failing marriage. The revelation of his prolonged contemplation on leaving Misako exposes the depth of his indecisiveness.

Unpacking the layers of Kaname's passivity, a broader exploration of societal norms and expectations emerges. Kaname's internal struggle becomes a microcosm of the larger societal forces at play, inviting readers to question the impact of external pressures on individual agency within the realm of intimate relationships.


In conclusion, the troubled marriage between Kaname and Misako in "Some Prefer Nettles" is a layered exploration of personal problems, societal expectations, and the intricate dance between love and selfishness. The narrative serves as a mirror reflecting the complexities of human relationships, inviting readers to navigate the emotional terrain of its characters.

As we unravel the threads of this marital tapestry, it becomes evident that Misako's sincere considerations far outweigh Kaname's shallow and self-centered approach, ultimately driving the narrative towards a poignant exploration of love, respect, and the human condition. The Taisho period serves as a rich backdrop, influencing the characters' motivations and adding layers of depth to the exploration of marital complexities.

Updated: Jan 11, 2024
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Tradition and Modernity: Marital Challenges in 'Some Prefer Nettles'. (2016, Oct 07). Retrieved from

Tradition and Modernity: Marital Challenges in 'Some Prefer Nettles' essay
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