Utajima (the Song Island) is a small island with a population of less than fourteen thousand.
The island boasts two of the most beautiful viewing spots in the area. One of them is the Yashiro Shrine, which faces the north-west and is situated near the highest cliff on the island. As the island is located at the entrance of the Ise Gulf, visitors can enjoy a stunning view of the inside of the Gulf. To the north lies the Chita Peninsula, while the Atsumi Peninsula stretches from the east to the north. To the west, visitors can catch glimpses of the coastline from Ujiyamada to Yokkaichi in Tsu.
To reach the torii of the shrine, visitors must ascend two hundred stone steps guarded by a pair of stone Chinese lions. Upon reaching the top and turning back, the view of the Ise sea surrounded by such a distant landscape is simply breathtaking and appears unchanged and eternal.
After the sun has set, a young fisherman carrying a big flatfish is hurrying up the mountain road from the village to the lighthouse.
He graduated from junior high school only two years ago, so he is still eighteen. He is tall and has a strong body, but only his childlike face corresponds to his age. His skin is over-tanned and his lips are chapped. The good shape of his nose is one of the peculiarities of the islander. His blackish eyes are clear, which is a gift of the sea for fishermen living on the sea, but they are not particularly intelligent or sharp. His school record was notably poor. He is still wearing working clothes – his deceased father’s old trousers and a worn-out jacket.
One strange girl, he has never seen, fixes heavy wood frames called Soroban in the sand, and rest leaning her body against them. The frames are used to pull up fishing boats on the beach by a winch. The frames are means to place under boats, on which a boat is moved one after another. The girl seems to have just finished this work and taken a rest.
Her face is sweating and her cheek is burning. A cold west wind is strong, but she seems to enjoy exposing her flushed face and streaming her hair in the wind.
She wears a sleeveless wadded jacket and a loose work pant, and stained work gloves.Her healthy skin color is almost same as the other girls of the land, but her eyes are quite clear and her eyebrows are thin. Her eyes gaze at the eastern sky, where between the pile of dark clouds, one red point of the sun is setting.
Until then, the boy had been living in poverty but in relative peace. However, he became tortured by anxiety and sunk in deep thought. He was anxious for himself, knowing that he had no charm to attract Hatsue. Although he was quite healthy and had never been seriously ill except for the measles, he didn’t think his exceptional swimming skills, including being able to swim five times around Uta-island, or his unmatched brute strength, would capture Hatsue’s heart.
Afterwards, he didn’t get a chance to meet Hatsue and whenever he returned from fishing, he would look around the shore for her. Even if he found her working busily, he couldn’t muster the courage to talk to her.
The rainwater cascaded down in torrents on the uphill path to the lighthouse, sweeping around the boy’s feet. The wind howled through the tops of the pine trees. His long rubber boots were notoriously difficult to walk in. As he trudged through the rain without an umbrella, he felt the water running down his short-cropped hair and streaming into his open collar.
But the young boy lifted his face to the storm and continued to climb. It wasn’t that he was fighting against the storm, but rather that he was confirming a harmony between his peaceful happiness and the quiet nature around him. In some way, he felt a close connection to the uproarious nature in his heart.
When Shinji woke up, the fire was still burning steadily before his eyes. An unfamiliar shadow stood across the flames. Shinji wondered if he was dreaming. Then, he saw a naked girl standing with her head down, drying her wet white underwear at the fire. As she held the lower part of the underwear, she exposed the whole upper half of her body.
Realizing that it was not a dream, Shinji came up with a cunning idea. He decided to pretend to stay asleep and open his eyes slightly. However, it was too difficult for him to keep staring at her without moving, as her naked body was supremely beautiful.
”Hatsue!” the boy cried.
”Come here and jump across the fire. If you jump over the fire…” The girl was out of breath, but her voice was clear and excited.
The naked boy didn’t hesitate. Gathering momentum on tiptoes, his body, shining in the fire, dashed and jumped into the flames. In a moment, he was standing in front of the girl, his chest lightly touching hers.
”This soft elasticity, this is what I imagined under her red sweater one day,” the young man remembered, feeling the deepest emotion. The two embraced, and the girl softly fell to the floor.
The Kamikaze-maru was sailing on through a light rain. The captain and Yasuo have already slept lying down on the tatami. Since getting on the ship, Yasuo never spoke to Shinji.
The boy closed his face to the round window on which rain drops were rolling down, and in a soft light through the window, he opened Hastsue’s envelope and examined the contents. There contained an amulet of Yashiro Shrine, one Hatsue’s picture and a letter. The letter said that….
“Every day from now on, I am going to Yashiro Shrine to pray for Shunji-san’s safety. My heart is yours. I hope you get back safe and sound. I am enclosing my picture so that I can sail with you together. It is the picture taken at Daio Mountain.
Although my father doesn’t say anything about this sailing, I think, he has some reasons why he has to let Shinji and Yasuo board together on his owned ship. I feel I can see a glimmer of hope for our future. Please keep holding your dream. “
The letter encouraged the young boy. He felt his arms being filled with power and his body were bursting with life.