Ozu, an aging Japanese businessman entering his senior years. Ozu is a humble clerk, preoccupied with memories of his youth and greatly troubled by his increasing fear of the different moral vision animating the youth of postwar Japan, as exemplified in the unadorned avarice and ambition of his son, Eiichi. Nostalgic for an older, more disciplined, and even militaristic Japan, he finds in the present a predatory industrial power immune to simple human compassion and idealism. His mental search recalls Nada Middle School and his impish friend Flatfish, who whiled away his youth with Ozu, longing for female companionship. Both had sought the affection of the nubile, beautiful Aiko. Ozu’s flashbacks and reveries of his youth and postadolescent contacts with Flatfish come crashing to a halt when he learns of Flatfish’s death from a battlefield disease. He determines to search for Aiko to report this bad news. Finding her accidentally, as one of his son’s terminal cancer patients, Ozu sees Aiko as merely one laboratory rat, prey to medical science’s preoccupation with advanced objective knowledge at the expense of nurturing care and concern for individual persons. While locating Aiko’s childhood home, now bulldozed in the name of progress, Ozu sinks into despair as his generation fades into the bleak sunset of Japan’s moral resignation in the midst of its economic and technological triumphs.
Flatfish, Ozu’s childhood friend and constant companion in the idyllic days before World War II. Flatfish is an undisciplined, unintellectual parody of Japanese manhood, always in trouble at the Nada Middle School, where he and Ozu met, and unconcerned about career advancement in his chosen employment. Irrepressible,...
(The entire section is 727 words.)