Spring is nearing its end already, yet Shinji still has not found a way to meet with Hatsue. Sometimes, Shinji wanders the neighborhood around her house at night, and sometimes he is able to glimpse her through an open window—but the two of them only look at one another and never dare to speak. Shinji feels guilty about these outings, as he promised Jukichi he would not become morose or lovelorn but would instead practice patience and faith.
Shinji is doing his best to resist the temptation to give into the narcissism of his own emotions. He knows that if he gets too wrapped up in self-pity or sadness, he will shirk his responsibilities to his work and his family—and he is determined to avoid that happening, even as he longs to honor his devotion to Hatsue.
One night, Shinji takes comfort in visiting the shrine at the ancient burial mound of Prince Deki, a prince who drifted to the island of Uta-jima from a faraway land and married an islander woman, whom he called heya, or “room.” No accounts exist of his life, and many villagers now wonder if he was some sort of heavenly being, or whether his life was just so happy and calm as to be exceptional. The next morning, Ryuji delivers Hatsue’s daily letter to Shinji, and Shinji is excited to find that within it she talks about having had a dream in which a god told her that Shinji was a reincarnation of Prince Deki. In the dream, Hatsue and Shinji were happily married and had a child. Shinji feels his visit to the shrine and Hatsue’s dream are too uncanny to be a coincidence.
This coincidence between Hatsue’s dream and Shinji’s visit to the shrine suggests that there is hope, after all, for the young lovers. The legend of Prince Deki is interesting—Deki was not necessarily endowed with any special gifts or wealth, but simply lived a life so full of happiness that he has been held up as a beacon of hope for centuries. This suggests that devotion to loved ones and a willingness to trust in where the forces of nature lead are keys to a happy life.
As the weather turns warm, Shinji’s mother longs to get back to pearl diving. She is bored of doing housework and she is anxious all the time because of the gossip about Shinji. One sunny day, she decides to take matters into her own hands. She goes down to the beach to “take counsel with the sea” about what she should do. When she spots a butterfly flying near the surface of the water, defying the violent waves as it climbs higher and higher into the sky, the mother feels she has received a sign. Newly encouraged, she leaves the beach.
Shinji’s mother, like her son, has an intense and reciprocal relationship to nature. As a pearl diver, she engages in a physically demanding and dangerous occupation—she must trust in nature at all times while being sure to watch for its signs and learn the lessons it has to teach.
Shinji’s mother approaches the surprisingly modest home of Terukichi Miyata. She is nervous—she knows that simply being seen approaching the house is enough to set off a whole new wave of rumors—but as she walks up to the entrance, she stands up tall and proud in spite of her plain appearance. Inside the house, Shinji’s mother announces her presence. Hatsue excitedly flies into the room to greet her. Shinji’s mother asks Hatsue if Hatsue will fetch her father—Shinji’s mother wants to speak to him and plead her son’s case. Hatsue looks uneasy, but she nonetheless hurries off to find him.
Shinji’s mother makes a selfless move in this passage as she puts her own reputation on the line in hopes of finding a way to salvage her son’s. It is humiliating for her to visit the house of one of the village’s wealthiest men and essentially beg for an audience—but she feels her humiliation is tolerable, while her son’s is not.
A moment later, Hatsue returns and sheepishly announces that her father will not see Shinji’s mother. Shinji’s mother, enraged, shouts that she will never again cross the threshold of the Miyata household.
Terukichi Miyata offends Shinji’s mother by refusing to meet with her. She has nothing but contempt for a wealthy man who isolates himself from those he’s wronged without a second thought.
In the aftermath of the incident, Shinji’s mother is embarrassed. She doesn’t tell Shinji what transpired right away—but when she finally confesses the truth, she learns that Shinji already knew all about the encounter from one of Hatsue’s letters. Shinji, too, feels angry and humiliated that Terukichi turned his mother away. He begins to feel guilty about telling his mother so much about his love for Hatsue and for burdening her with his problems.
Shinji and his mother are both deeply selfless people who want to do as much for the other person as they possibly can. Shinji doesn’t want to burden his mother with his problems, yet she wants to be the one to help take his burdens away from him.
One day, Ryuji brings Shinji a letter from Hatsue that tells of her father’s impending visit from some prefectural officials. Hatsue knows that whenever her father has guests over, he drinks a lot and falls asleep early—she tells Shinji to wait for her at eleven at the Yashiro Shrine. The following night, Shinji excitedly sets out at nine, deciding to go to the beach for a while before heading to the shrine. In front of the ocean, he contemplates whether he and Hatsue will decide tonight to elope or perhaps commit double suicide so that they can be together. Ultimately, Shinji decides that either option would be selfish—he has to stay on the island and support his family.
Shinji is so devoted to Hatsue that he feels, from time to time, that he’d truly do anything for her—sometimes he believes he would leave his family or his life behind if need be. When Shinji actually stops to consider the ramifications of such decisions, however, he finds that at a certain point devotion becomes a selfish thing. Shinji’s priority is his journey toward selflessness and the preservation of his family’s happiness—though of course his intense feelings for Hatsue, pure and committed as they are, are important to him as well.
Shinji doesn’t have a watch, but he is so attuned to the rhythms of nature that he instinctively knows that eleven o’clock is approaching. He heads over to the shrine and waits. Soon, he hears footsteps coming toward the shrine. He resists the urge to run down the steps to meet Hatsue. Just then, he hears a rageful voice call Hatsue’s name. Shinji sees Terukichi come out of the shadows—he has been hiding and waiting for Hatsue. He grabs her by the wrist and drags her home. Shinji stands motionless near the shrine, terrified and bereft.
Shinji and Hatsue’s long-awaited meeting goes terribly, terribly wrong. It seems that Terukichi knew what Hatsue would do—and planned to catch her in the act all along. This incident threatens to tear Shinji and Hatsue even farther apart by setting off yet another wave of gossip, lies, and misunderstandings.