(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Staying at an inn near the southern tip of the Izu Peninsula, Tomoko Ikuta escapes the summer heat by taking a nap in her room. She sends her daughter Keiko, age five, and her sons Kiyoo and Katsuo, ages six and three, to play on the beach under the supervision of her sister-in-law Yasue. Proud of the whiteness of her skin, Yasue does not want to tan, so she remains under a beach umbrella and the children play near the edge of the water. Keiko and Kiyoo are caught in an undertow and pulled under the water; Yasue hurries toward them but collapses in the water from a heart attack. People on the beach pull her out and take Katsuo and Yasue’s body back to the inn. They do not know that the other two children are missing.

Awakened with the news that Yasue has had a swimming accident, Tomoko hurries to the lawn and finds a man administering artificial respiration to her sister-in-law. She sees Katsuo in the arms of a local fisherman. Four hours pass before the doctor gives up the effort to revive Yasue, and only then does Tomoko find out from her youngest son that the other two children have drowned. It is already after sunset, but young men begin to dive to locate the children’s bodies. Tomoko waits until nearly morning before she sends her husband, Masaru, a telegram advising him that Yasue is dead and that Kiyoo and Keiko are missing.

Masaru leaves Tokyo immediately for the inn on the Izu Peninsula. When he arrives, both Tomoko and he play the roles expected of them. Tomoko kneels before her husband and says that the accident was her fault, and Masaru expresses understanding and sympathy. The two bodies are found the next day, and both parents begin to experience the emotions associated with a traumatic loss. Tomoko resents her husband’s grief over the death of Yasue, for example, thinking that it somehow diminishes his feelings for his dead children. She masters her feelings and does the conventional...

(The entire section is 787 words.)