The Sound of Waves

by Yukio Mishima

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Shinji Kubo, a young fisherman who is strong beyond his eighteen years, is the provider for his younger schoolboy brother Hiroshi and his widowed mother, formerly the best abalone diver on Uta-jima. One day, returning from his day’s work with Jukichi Oyama, a master fisherman and his good friend, Shinji sees an unfamiliar, hauntingly beautiful face among the women helping to beach the fishing boats. The woman is Hatsue Miyata, daughter of the owner of two oceangoing freighters, who has been living with adoptive parents on another island. The boy cannot get her image out of his mind. The next night, he visits the beautiful Yashiro Shrine, dedicated to the god of the sea and within sound of the never-ceasing waves, and prays that the god would in time make him a fisherman among fishermen, worthy of a bride such as Hatsue, the beautiful daughter of Terukichi Miyata, the shipowner.

Shinji’s prayer is to come true, but not without many trials for the young lovers. On a day when the weather is too stormy for fishing, they arrange to meet in an old ruined tower. Shinji, soaked with the rain, arrives first, builds a fire, and falls asleep. He awakens to see Hatsue, unclothed, standing nearby. Innocently, she had decided to dry her wet clothes before the fire while he slept. The tender love scene that follows is as natural, innocent, and idyllic as her act, for Hatsue decides that since they are to be married as soon as her father gives his permission, both have to remain virtuous.

Shinji and Hatsue, however, had been spied on by Chiyoko, daughter of the lighthouse keeper. She, unlike the naïve, wholesome, and unlearned young couple, had “spoiled” her good nature by too much introspection and by acquiring a veneer of learning at Tokyo University. Without an inherent sense of honor, she tells Yasuo Kawamoto, Hatsue’s more acceptable suitor, what she suspects. Yasuo had also been spoiled by the gloss of culture. The whispering campaign that results has to be stoically withstood by the lovers, who can no longer be together; even their innocent letters are intercepted.

Terukichi is stern and proud, but not unjust, and he is sufficiently moved by his daughter’s devotion to Shinji to try a plan proposed by Jukichi. Shinji and Yasuo are of an age to serve an apprenticeship at sea, so they are signed on one of Terukichi’s freighters; the one who shows better character will marry Hatsue. Yasuo, good-natured but lazy, allows Shinji to do part of his work for him. Neither knows he is being watched. Then, in a heavy storm off Okinawa, when a broken cable threatens to set the ship adrift from its mooring buoy, Shinji swims through the rough seas to secure the vessel from disaster. Young Shinji proves himself, and Terukichi accepts him as his future son-in-law.

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