In a Grove

In a Grove Summary and Analysis of Masago’s Confession and Takehiro’s Testimony


The next section of the story is Masago’s confession. Though in some translations it is assumed that Masago is giving testimony to the magistrate, the original Japanese contextualizes her speech as the “penitent confession of a woman in the Kiyomizu Temple,” implying that she is confessing to a religious authority, as opposed to a legal one.

Masago says that after Tajōmaru raped her, he taunted her humiliated husband, who was squirming in the ropes. She tried to run to his side, but Tajōmaru kicked her down. She then saw an indescribable glint in Takehiro’s eyes that makes her shudder to recall. In that glint, she saw her husband’s contempt for her, which was more painful than the bandit’s kick. She let out a cry and collapsed.

She says that, once conscious again, the bandit was gone and Takehiro was tied to the cedar, alive. The contempt was still in his eyes, which made her feel shame, sorrow, and anger. She says that, having been raped, she wished to die, but she wanted him to die as well, since he had witnessed her rape; she couldn’t leave him living with such knowledge. He continued to stare at her in disgust.

Unable to find Takehiro’s sword, bow, or arrows, Masago discovered her dagger at her feet. She asked him to allow her to take his life, then, with contempt for her, he told her to do it. In a moment that felt surreal to her—between dream and reality—she thrust the dagger into his chest, then lost consciousness again.

When she woke up, he was dead. She untied the rope and cast it aside. She tried to stab herself in the throat and threw herself in a pond at the foot of the mountain, but she couldn’t kill herself. She is not proud of her inability to commit suicide. Her confession ends with her suggesting that Kanzeon, bodhisattva of compassion, has forsaken her for being weak. She doesn’t know what to do now that she has killed her husband and been violated by a bandit. She breaks into violent sobs.

The final testimony of the story comes from Takehiro’s spirit, as told through a spiritual medium. Takehiro begins his narration by saying that, after raping Masago, the bandit sat on the ground and tried to comfort her. Tied up and with his mouth stuffed with leaves, Takehiro was unable to speak or move, so he tried to communicate with Masago using his eyes; he tried to tell her not to believe what the bandit was saying. She stared at her knees and listened to the bandit tell her that, now that he had raped her, she should be his wife. Takehiro says that the bandit said he loved Masago, which drove his violent lust.

The bandit’s smooth talking spellbound Masago, and Takehiro angrily reports that Masago told the bandit to take her anywhere he liked. As Tajōmaru and Masago walked out of the bamboo grove, Masago stopped to tell the bandit to kill Takehiro, because she couldn’t be with him as long as her husband was alive. She became livid, repeating the words “Kill him!”

Takehiro says the bandit went pale when he heard Masago disrespect her husband like this. Laughing derisively, Takehiro says that the bandit then kicked Masago to the ground. The bandit then asked Takehiro to nod if he wanted him to kill her. Takehiro says he would forgive Tajōmaru for his crimes because of this respect. While Takehiro was hesitating to answer, Masago sprang up and Tajōmaru went after her, but she escaped.

Tajōmaru took the bow, arrows, and sword, then cut the rope that bound Takehiro. After the bandit ran off into the thicket, Takehiro realized he could hear himself crying as the only sound in the silent grove. Exhausted, he picked up the dagger his wife had dropped and shoved it into his chest. Without feeling pain, blood rose to his mouth. He slowly bled internally, appreciating the perfectly still and silent environment, watching the sun fade over the tops of the cedar and bamboo.

In the dark, Takehiro heard footsteps move stealthily toward him. Someone pulled the dagger from his chest with an invisible hand. The story ends with Takehiro saying that another rush of blood filled his mouth, and then he died, having sunk into the darkness between lives.


Masago delivers her confession in a Buddhist temple, leading the reader to determine that she must have fled the forest and is perhaps in hiding. While it had been possible to imagine the previous testimonies and confession being written down by a court observer, it is unclear how Masago’s account is collected.

The story's structure of inconsistent and conflicting accounts of the same event is most dramatically apparent in the way Masago’s confession differs from Tajōmaru’s. In contradiction of his claim that Masago asked him to kill her husband, Masago presents a version of the story where Tajōmaru rapes her, taunts her husband, kicks her, and then disappears with Takehiro’s weapons.

With Tajōmaru gone, a new and unexpected dynamic arises between Masago and her husband as she sees the contempt in his expression, as though Tajōmaru’s actions were her fault. In response to her husband’s contempt and the shame of having been raped, Masago’s sense of honor leads her to decide that she and Takehiro must die together. With permission, she stabs him with her dagger, but fails to kill herself.

The issue of subjectivity arises again in Masago’s confession: Her view of herself as an honorable person leads her to claim that she wanted to commit suicide, but her inability to do so suggests that her desire to continue living was stronger. This leaves the reader not only skeptical of Masago’s account but retroactively distrustful of Tajōmaru’s, as both characters claim to have taken Takehiro’s life.

In the last section of the story, Takehiro’s embittered spirit depicts Tajōmaru as a positive figure and Masago as disrespectful—a stark contrast to both Masago and Tajōmaru’s confessions. In Takehiro’s version of events, Masago betrayed Takehiro by insisting Tajōmaru kill him, and Takehiro forgave Tajōmaru for his crimes after he gave Takehiro the option of killing Masago instead. In another refutation of the previous two confessions, Takehiro claims that Masago fled and Tajōmaru politely untied Takehiro, leaving Takehiro to take his own life and sink into the spirit realm, from which he is delivering his testimony. Akutagawa also introduces a character who removes the dagger from Takehiro’s chest, giving no hints as to the person’s identity.

The story leaves the reader with no clear understanding of what the true course of events was—only differing accounts that are compromised by the individual characters’ biases and self-perceptions. By giving no unifying conclusion, Akutagawa rejects the literary conventions of objective realism in favor of a modernist depiction of reality as impossible to reconcile among individual perspectives.