The rainy season brings Shinji nothing but boredom. Hatsue’s letters have stopped since the incident at the Yashiro Shrine. Shinji is surprised, then, when the captain of one of Terukichi’s coasting freighters, the Utajima-maru, comes to his house and asks Shinji to join the crew as an apprentice seaman. Shinji says he must discuss matters with Jukichi, but the captain insists Jukichi has already given his permission. Shinji is confused—he knows that Terukichi owns the freighter, and he has no idea why a man who hates him so would want to give him a job. The captain, however, insists that Uncle Teru knows Shinji to be a good, hardworking sailor. Shinji at last agrees. The next day, he learns that Yasuo, too will join the crew—he is anxious and pained, but his excitement drowns out his negative feelings.
Shinji is skeptical when an opportunity that seems too good to be true comes along. The captain seems to be recruiting Shinji on Terukichi’s behalf—but Shinji has no idea why the man would want to recruit him for one of his freighters when he hates Shinji so much as to bar him from seeing Hatsue. Nevertheless, Shinji is restless and eager to see new things given how things have been going on the island.
On the day of departure, Shinji and Yasuo board the ferry to the mainland. At the docks, Shinji sees Hatsue whisper something to his mother, then hand her a small package. Shinji’s mother approaches him to say farewell and wish him luck. She hands him the package. As the ship pulls out into the ocean, Shinji’s wistfulness is replaced by a sense of freedom. Down in the cabins, he quietly opens the package, which contains a charm from Yashiro Shrine, a picture of Hatsue, and a letter. Hatsue writes that her heart belongs to Shinji and that she will pray for him every day until his safe return. She says she believes her father has some special reason for putting Shinji and Yasuo on the same freighter—she begs Shinji to stay strong and keep fighting for their future. The letter encourages Shinji, as does the beautiful photograph.
As Shinji embarks on the journey—his first time away from the island in all his life—he is intimidated and excited all at once. The package from Hatsue helps to give him strength and confidence as he sails bravely into a new situation. Hatsue’s suggestion to Shinji—to remain strong and to refuse to give up hope that their love will prevail—tips Shinji off to the idea that he may be being watched closely throughout the journey.
In the city of Toba, Shinji, Yasuo, and the captain board the massive Utajima-maru. The captain shows Shinji and Yasuo to their tiny, humble bunks and leaves them to settle in. Yasuo, who has not spoken to Shinji once, at last speaks up and suggests the two of them should put the things that happened on the island behind them and become friends. Shinji nods and smiles in agreement. That night, Shinji and Yasuo receive their assignments—the ship is to set sail at nine in the morning, and Shinji’s task is to take the anchor-light off the mast at the crack of dawn. After a sleepless night, Shinji wakes up very early to complete his task on time.
This passage demonstrates that while Shinji and Yasuo may be willing to put aside their differences and issues for the time being, the two men remain profoundly different in terms of priorities and morals. Shinji is still the hardworking, humble young man he’s always been. He is not brash and loud like Yasuo, and he is determined to make an impression and fulfill his duties quietly and thoughtfully.
The Utajima-maru begins its journey to Okinawa, one of the southernmost islands in the archipelago. The six-week-long voyage takes the sailors through towns large and small, and at each new harbor, Shinji feels excitement. Over the course of the long journey, he bonds with his fellow seamen during long discussions about matters small and large. Yasuo dominates these conversations, while Shinji mostly sits silently in the corner, observing others.
While Shinji fades into the background of the journey, keeping his head down and learning about his fellow crew members by observing them, the brash Yasuo fails to learn anything about anyone and instead focuses on glorifying himself.
Life aboard the ship is busy, but Shinji does his best to keep up with his duties. Yasuo, on the other hand, is profoundly lazy. He often brags to the other crewmembers that after this journey, Terukichi will make him his son—and then Yasuo himself will be the owner of the freighter. One day, while Yasuo is bragging about being adopted into the Miyata family, Shinji asks if Yasuo has a picture of Hatsue. Yasuo says he does, but Shinji can tell he is lying. Yasuo asks if Shinji has a picture of Hatsue—Shinji says he doesn’t have one. It is the first lie he has ever told.
As Shinji and Yasuo clash on board the ship, Shinji finds himself disgusted by Yasuo’s privileged entitlement. Shinji knows that Hatsue loves him alone—and even though Yasuo’s elevated social status might threaten Shinji’s ability to wed Hatsue, the pompous young man will never be able to threaten the sanctity of their love.
Bad weather keeps the crew held up at the last port before Okinawa for several days. When it’s time for them to set sail, they receive news that a large typhoon is headed for Okinawa. When they reach the harbor, the atmospheric pressure is dangerously low. The Utajima-maru and a nearby bonito ship tie themselves together with ropes and make their way into the shelter of the harbor, then tie their bows to a large buoy and prepare to ride out the storm. Many of the crewmembers fall asleep for the night afraid that the buoy will not hold.
Mishima uses this passage to demonstrate the might of nature—and to set up a test for Shinji as the freighter reaches its destination. Nature is about to seriously threaten the lives of the ship’s crewmembers—but luckily, Shinji is a careful student of nature, and he is ready for any challenge.
Just before midnight, Shinji and Yasuo wake up for their shift to watch the ropes and buoy lines in case they snap. Up on deck, the fierce winds and rains batter their bodies. Shinji watches nervously as the sea tosses the buoy in and out of the water. He stares at the taut lines nervously, praying they hold. Suddenly, Yasuo cries out—one of the cables is about to break. As it snaps, it flashes like a whip up onto the deck. Yasuo runs off to tell the captain, who comes back to the deck and suggests someone swim out to the buoy and tie a lifeline to it. He asks who will volunteer. Shinji is the only one who speaks up and offers to tie the line.
In this passage, things grow dire. Yasuo acts cowardly, refusing to even look at the captain as the captain asks for a volunteer to help save both their own ship and the bonito ship. When Yasuo is silent, Shinji speaks up and proves himself to be the bravest member of the crew by far. Shinji’s selflessness in volunteering to risk his life for the good of his crew—plus a crew he doesn’t even know—signals that he has truly come into his own.
Shinji grabs the line, stands still, and listens. He can tell the typhoon is right above them. It feels somehow “natural” to him that he should be the one to swim into the storm. Shinji removes his raincoat as the other crew members tie the end of the line to the boat. At last, it is time for Shinji to tie the other end around his own waist and swim for the buoy. As he leaps into the sea, he realizes that Hatsue’s picture is in his raincoat.
Even though Shinji has a momentary hesitation, fearing either that if he is wounded or killed in the storm, he might not make it back to Hatsue (or simply that his photo of her will be discovered, leading to a new cycle of gossip and rumor), he decides to work with nature rather than against it to accomplish the task ahead.
Shinji swims through the roiling waves, exhausted as the buoy seems to only be growing farther away. Nonetheless, Shinji swims onward. At last he reaches the buoy. A wave lifts him and deposits him on its flat surface. Shinji catches his breath for a moment, then begins untying the line from his waist. Shinji wrestles with the wind, the sea, and the weight of the rope as he ties the lifeline to the buoy. At last the line is secure. Shinji raises his arm in excitement and sees the crew wave back. Forgetting his exhaustion, he dives back into the sea. As he arrives back at the ship, the crew hoists him aboard and helps him straight to bed. In the morning, Shinji wakes to find a glittering sea and a clear blue sky shining seemingly just for him.
In this passage, as Shinji fights against the powerful storm to do what is right for his ship and his crew, it is clear that Shinji works with nature at every turn rather than against it. Because he has spent his life studying the lessons nature has to teach, he is able to commune with nature even in the deadliest of circumstances. After the storm breaks and the sun at last shines through, Mishima illustrates the incredible feats one can accomplish—and the gifts they can receive—when one respects nature properly.