Study Guide

Hatsue Imada Miyamoto in Snow Falling on Cedars

By David Guterson

Hatsue Imada Miyamoto

Hatsue is the wife of Kabuo Miyamoto, who spends most of the book on trial for killing Carl Heine. She was once an exceptionally beautiful young girl, but apparently her loveliness is now "fading" at the ripe old age of 31 (7.33).

In addition to her looks, we get a lot of details about her extreme composure and outward appearance of serenity, which she learned to cultivate under the guidance of Mrs. Shigemura. Sent to Mrs. S. to ensure she maintained a connection to her Japanese roots, Hatsue learned all kinds of things from her mentor, including odori dance, the tea ceremony, singing, calligraphy, painting, makeup, hair dressing, and how to comport herself (i.e., how to walk and talk). The lessons about how to carry herself have remained with Hatsue to the present day; by all reports, she still walks incredibly gracefully.

Despite the fact that events involving her and her family are featured prominently in the novel, it's kind of striking how little we actually learn about her as a person. Sure, we get details about her thought processes going into the war and her breakup with Ishmael, as well as some info about her marriage and life in the camp, but we get surprisingly little information about who she is or what makes her tick. Of course, she's supposed to be kind of inscrutable (Ishmael never knows what she's thinking), so maybe it's appropriate that the book doesn't get a whole lot of access to the nitty gritty of her psychological complexity?