The next day, on the Taihei-maru, Jukichi reaches into his pocket and pulls out a piece of paper. He tells Shinji that earlier, when he passed the Miyata household, Hatsue came outside and gave him the note—it is for Shinji. Shinji takes the note and opens it carefully. In the letter, Hatsue writes about how the night before, Terukichi overheard the gossip about her and Shinji and has forbidden her not just from seeing Shinji, but from leaving the house almost entirely. Hatsue begs Shinji to think of a way for them to meet. In the meantime, she says, she will leave a letter under the water jar at the front of the house each day—Shinji should leave his replies there as well. She concludes her letter by begging Shinji to join her in “go[ing] on truly, with strong hearts!”
Shinji devours Hatsue’s letter, greatly relieved by her declarations of love and devotion and her desire to continue seeking out ways to be together in spite of the cruel gossip and the painful class divisions that threaten to pull them apart. Mishima illustrates the sanctity of Shinji and Hatsue’s relationship by portraying their intense, committed devotion to one another on an emotional level, not just a physical one.
Shinji is relieved to know that Hatsue still cares so deeply for him. He grows lost in thoughts of love as Ryuji and Jukichi read the letter aloud colorfully. Jukichi urges Shinji to tell him what really transpired between him and Hatsue. Shinji tells the story of his and Hatsue’s courtship, and insists that while they did embrace while naked, they remained pure and did not consummate their love—despite what the rumors state. Jukichi insists that everything will work out all right for Shinji and Hatsue. As gentle waves rock the boat, they calm Shinji nearly as much as Jukichi’s kind words.
As Shinji finds comfort and solidarity in the support his friends give to him, he finds himself comparing the ways in which their words and actions soothe him to the ways in which nature soothes him. This represents yet another example of Mishima drawing connections—sometimes large and sometimes small—between the lessons of nature and the responsibilities of humanity.
Ryuji volunteers to pick up Hatsue’s letters each morning, and soon, the letters are the principal topic of conversation between the three fishermen while they’re out on the water. Ryuji and Jukichi become just as emotionally invested in Hatsue’s letters as Shinji himself—especially in one letter in particular that describes Yasuo’s assault. Hatsue writes that though she told her father about what Yasuo did to her, Terukichi is still on good terms with Yasuo’s family. As Shinji reads the letter aloud, he laments that he is in the position he’s in because he’s poor. He immediately regrets making a statement that’s so weak and self-pitying.
In this passage, the young and naïve Shinji and Ryuji at last begin to understand that alliances based on class and wealth are more important to many people than integrity. Shinji is angry that, because he is of a different class than Yasuo and the Miyatas, he is subject to harsher judgement—but as a person on his way toward selflessness and openness, he knows that to languish in these feelings of futility and anger is counterproductive.
The wise old Jukichi, sensing Shinji and Ryuji’s anger, warns them not to pick a fight with a fool like Yasuo. When it comes to love, what’s needed, as in fishing, is patience.
Jukichi, an old fisherman, has learned the lessons of nature and is able to apply them to his life—and the lives of others—with skill and grace.
The news that Terukichi has forbidden Hatsue to see Shinji reaches the lighthouse that evening. Chiyoko, overhearing the gossip, is immediately overcome with guilt. She is relieved that Shinji doesn’t seem to know that she is the source of all of this turmoil—but she still can’t meet his eyes when he comes by to bring her parents their fish. She is due to return to Tokyo soon, and she is determined to confess the truth to Shinji and beg his forgiveness before she goes.
Chiyoko knows the magnitude of the chain reaction she has set in motion by vindictively spreading rumors about Shinji. She knows the power that gossip has on the island—and while she may have wanted to weaponize that against Shinji at one point, now, she just wants to clear the air.
On the morning of her departure, Chiyoko goes down to the beach early in the morning to say goodbye to Shinji. She catches him before he boards the Taihei-maru and bids him farewell—but she cannot bring herself to tell him the truth. As Shinji turns away from her and back toward the boat, Chiyoko realizes that what she truly wants is Shinji’s attention. Chiyoko asks Shinji if he thinks she’s ugly. Shinji kindly replies that Chiyoko is pretty. He boards the boat. Chiyoko remains on shore, feeling happy.
Even though Chiyoko doesn’t do what she set out to do in this passage, she still is able to identify one of her impulses and, in a way, exorcise it. Chiyoko has already begun her coming-of-age journey—even if she doesn’t know it yet, and even if she’s still tempted by selfish insecurities.
Later that afternoon, as she heads back to Tokyo by ferry, Chiyoko is overwhelmed by tenderness for Shinji. She accepts at last that he loves another, and she decides she must find a way to make up for the wickedness she has brought into his life.
This passage is a major turning point for Chiyoko. She has at last grown up and matured because she has decided to opt for selflessness and generosity rather than narcissism and pettiness.