‘‘More than two decades after his death,’’ writes Susan J. Napier in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, ‘‘Mishima Yukio is arguably still the most famous writer modern Japan has produced.’’ Mishima’s admirers point to ‘‘the brilliance of his style, the power of his imagination, and the fascination and variety of his themes. . . all of which are in marked contrast to much of postwar Japanese fiction.’’ Mishima’s work is probably better known to English-speaking readers than any other Japanese writer’s work.
Several collections of Mishima’s short stories were translated while he was still alive, but in 1989 seven stories that had never before been translated were collected in Acts of Worship. In reviewing this volume, Roy Starrs wrote, ‘‘This present sampling . . . will provide a tantalizing glimpse for the Western reader of some of these still undiscovered riches. For in no art did Mishima perform better than in the art of the short story. In fact, he achieved the kind of mature mastery, even perfection, in his short stories that always seems to elude him in his novels.’’
Despite such kudos and despite inclusion in anthologies and college syllabi, Mishima’s ‘‘Fountains in the Rain’’ has elicited little critical attention in English. Its most in-depth analysis comes from Mishima’s translator, John Bester, who wrote the preface to Acts of Worship. ‘‘Fountains in the Rain,’’ with a hero so like many of Mishima’s male characters, invites further investigation.
The story opens with a young man and a young woman walking through the rain. The girl, Masako, is crying incessantly. The boy, Akio, has recently broken off their relationship while they were having tea. Akio had pursued the relationship only in order to break up with her. Once he did so, however, Masako began to cry. She cried soundlessly, with the tears gushing forth in a continuous flow. Akio assumed that the tears would stop, but when they didn’t, Akio felt self-conscious under the curious stares of the tea room’s other patrons. Abruptly, Akio stood up to leave, but Masako followed him because she had no umbrella. Now the pair find themselves wandering through the streets.
Akio decides to head toward a public garden that has three fountains. He thinks that by bringing Masako’s tears and the fountains together, she will stop crying. He thinks that Masako will surely see that her tears—which all go to waste—cannot compete with the fountain, and this will make her stop crying. Akio feels elated by his decision.
The pair walk in silence through the empty streets. Akio thinks that Masako is waiting for him to say something about their relationship. Out of pride, he will not speak.
When they reach the garden, they are alone. Akio and Masako sit down, but Akio...
(The entire section is 744 words.)