The Utajima-maru returns to the mainland several days behind schedule, toward the end of August. From there, Shinji takes the ferry back to Uta-jima, where Shinji immediately visits the Yashiro Shrine to give thanks for his safe return. At Jukichi’s there is a large party celebrating Shinji’s success on the journey. Two days later, while out on Jukichi’s fishing boat, Jukichi says he heard of Shinji’s great deed in Okinawa. Shinji insists he simply did his job. Jukichi asks if Shinji has heard anything from Uncle Teru. Shinji says he hasn’t, and Jukichi is silent.
Jukichi seems to know something that Shinji doesn’t. It’s clear that news of Shinji’s brave exploits has already made its way back to the island—and there is the sense that Shinji is going to be further recognized or even rewarded for his heroic actions.
At dusk, as Shinji returns to shore, he spies one of Terukichi’s big freighters out on the ocean. He marvels at how, just a few months ago, he knew nothing of life on the freighter—now, however, he can feel in his bones the memory of touching the unknown. He holds his hand up and waves to the freighter.
Shinji has had new experiences that have changed him profoundly and allowed him to see the world in a different way. He has learned nature’s lessons and grown stronger for it.
The lighthouse-keeper and his wife, meanwhile, grow fretful when Chiyoko refuses to return to the island for the end of summer vacation. They write her many letters begging her to come home. At last she replies, writing down the truth of the rumor she began about Shinji and Hatsue earlier in the year. She says she is tormented by guilt and refuses to return to the island until Shinji and Hatsue are together. She asks for her mother to act as a go-between and persuade Terukichi to let Shinji marry his love. The lighthouse-keeper’s wife immediately puts the letter down, changes into her best clothes, and heads down to the village toward the Miyata house.
This passage makes it clear that Chiyoko feels genuine and deep regret for her actions earlier on in the year. She knows the magnitude of what she has set in motion—and while she is too ashamed and fearful to confront it head-on, she is determined to somehow find a way to right the wrongs she’s done.
On the way to Terukichi’s, the lighthouse-keeper’s wife spies Shinji’s mother doing laundry in the stream with some other diving women. Realizing how strange it is to greet them and then head onward to arrange Shinji’s mother’s son’s own marriage, she stops and quietly asks Shinji’s mother if there is any news where Shinji and Hatsue are concerned. Shinji’s mother says that while Shinji and Hatsue are in love, Hatsue’s father stands between them. The lighthouse-keeper’s wife divulges the truth of Chiyoko’s letter—and her own intentions—to Shinji’s mother. Shinji’s mother expresses her gratitude for the lighthouse-keeper’s wife’s generosity.
The lighthouse-keeper’s wife wants to visit Terukichi in order to repair her own family—but here, she selflessly stops to consider that her actions may have wide-ranging ramifications. She has learned from Chiyoko’s mistakes. Age and wisdom have brought her the foresight to see that the cycle of gossip, subterfuge, and lies must stop somewhere—and she wants it to stop with her.
At the Miyata home, the lighthouse-keeper’s wife enters and finds Terukichi already descending the stairs. He greets her happily and asks what she has to say. He is shocked, however, when five other women, including Shinji’s mother, enter the sitting-room. The lighthouse-keeper’s wife says she wants to talk to Teruichi about Hatsue and Shinji. Terukichi cuts her off—he says he has already chosen Shinji to be Hatsue’s husband. He believes they are too young to be married—when Shinji comes of age, the two can have a proper wedding. He even volunteers to take in Hiroshi and Shinji’s mother.
The village women bind together to confront Terukichi and demand he change his point of view on Shinji—but little do they know that Terukichi has been up to his own sleuthing in order to determine Shinji’s character and worth. Terukichi proves himself to ultimately be a generous, selfless man as he offers to take care of not only Shinji, but also his entire family, so that Shinji’s mother doesn’t have to work so hard and worry about her sons’ well-being.
Terukichi continues explaining himself to the shocked women. He admits that after he stopped Shinji and Hatsue from seeing each other, Hatsue became so depressed that he engineered a test to see if Shinji was truly the man his daughter believed him to be, or if Yasuo would be the better match. He recruited both young men to work on the freighter—and when the captain reported Shinji’s great deeds in Okinawa, Terukichi realized that Shinji was indeed “the one” for Hatsue. “The only thing that really counts in a man,” Terukichi observes, “is his get-up-and-go.”
Terukichi reveals his master plan in this passage. He knew that whether or not the rumors were true, he had to find a way to test Shinji’s character. Seeing the lessons Shinji has learned from nature put into action has confirmed to Terukichi that Shinji is brave, devoted, selfless, and willing to test the limits of what he’s capable of rather than hide from responsibility.