Katsumi Hosokawa is the founder and chairman of Nansei, the largest electronics corporation in Japan. It is in his honor that the initial birthday party is held that the hostages attend and that the terrorists invade. He is married with two daughters. A workaholic, his greatest love has been opera music since attending a performance with his father as a child. He fell in love with Roxane's voice before he fell in love with her person, and the host country's government bribes him into visiting by booking her to sing at the party. He has a strong bond with his young translator Gen, who always anticipates his needs. He speaks no Spanish and must use Gen for all communication in the host country, though during the hostage period he resolve to learn ten new words every day. He falls in love with Roxane, but knows their relationship can only last for the duration of the standoff. He is gunned down in the final scenes by the soldiers of the host county, in his attempt to save Carmen.
Roxane Coss is an internationally renowned American soprano. She is invited to perform at the party because the host country wanted to convince Mr. Hosokawa to attend the party. In her late thirties, she is a petite woman with dyed blonde hair. While not conventionally gorgeous, she possesses a rare charisma; every man in attendance is in love with her to some extent because of her ethereal singing voice. She is detained when all the other women are freed during the first few days. At first a prima donna who sets herself apart from the rest of the guests, she eventually begins to bond with the others when she receives a box of musical scores and begins singing to them every morning. She is especially touched by her relationships with Mr. Hosokawa, with whom she falls in love; Gen, with whom she forms a strong bond and eventually marries; Carmen, who sleeps in her bed, braids her hair, and comforts her; and Cesar, another young terrorist with a gifted singing voice whom she begins tutoring.
Gen Watanabe is Mr. Hosokawa's translator and assistant. A quiet, sensitive and gifted young man who speaks all the major languages and many minor ones; he divides the languages he speaks into "extremely fluent, very fluent, fluent, passable and could read". He is usually at the center of the action of the novel, since most of the multinational characters communicate through him. He cares deeply for Mr. Hosokawa, and though the other characters rely on him, he feels different from the rest of the hostages because among them he is the only one, besides Father Arguedas, the priest, who is not fabulously wealthy and powerful. He has only slept with three women in his life. He begins tutoring Carmen when she asks him to teach her how to read and write in Spanish and English, and they begin meeting each night in the china closet, reading and eventually making love. When she leads him outside to the garden one night, he later regrets not walking into the street and taking her back to Japan with him. When the authorities come, he plans to tell them she is his wife to save her. Gen eventually marries Roxane and moves to Italy with her.
Carmen is the terrorist Gen loves. Carmen remains incognito in the guise of a male terrorist for the first part of the novel. The leader of the organization, General Benjamin, notices what a beautiful young woman she has become and notes that, "had she been this pretty before, he never would have let her sign up". A Quechua-speaking Indian girl from the jungle, she often prays to Saint Rose of Lima. As he teaches her, Gen realizes that she is as smart as any of the women he knew from university, and she loves him deeply. She knows that after the standoff ends, she might never see him again, and together they build something unique and rare. In the ultimate shootout, she is gunned down before Gen can get to her. In the newspaper articles after the fact, there is no record of her ever existing.