The Old Capital by Yasunari Kawabata

Translated from Japanese to English by J. Martin Holman
164 Pages
Published by Charles E. Tuttle Company, Inc. (1989)


This beautifully poignant story was set in the old capital of Japan, Kyoto. The story traces the life of Chieko, the beloved adopted daughter of a kimono designer and wholesaler, Takichiro, and his wife Shige.

Shige had told Chieko over and over again that the latter was not their real child; she was told that she had been kidnapped by Shige and Takichiro when she was a baby. But one day, Chieko learnt that she was instead a foundling who was left abandoned on the doorstep.

However, Chieko had been happy with her adoptive parents that her security and contentment remained undisturbed. Until one day, when she accidentally encountered Naeko, who happened to be her twin sister.

Naeko knew about Chieko and had been searching for Chieko all these years. Luckily they were identical twins, thus it was not too hard to identify Chieko as her long-lost twin sister.

It happened to be that during the time they were born, twins were unacceptable by the society. Thus their parents abandoned Chieko and kept only Naeko. Not long after that their parents died, and Naeko had been brought up by another family. Twenty years passed and Naeko, who knew about the real story, was determined to search for Chieko.

After the meeting, Chieko slowly developed a feeling of love towards Naeko, too. Takichiro and Shige came to learn about Naeko and they insisted that Naeko come live with them permanently. However, Naeko refused, saying that she did not want to be an “obstacle to Chieko’s happiness.” Actually, Naeko was feeling guilty towards Chieko because their parents had chosen her over Chieko when they decided to abandon one of the twins.

Chieko actually harboured no hard feelings towards Naeko. But since Naeko had decided to remain with the family who brought her up, so they did not live together in the end. However, Chieko and Naeko still remain loving of each other.

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