Silk and Insightby Yukio Mishima, Frank Gibney, Hiro Sato
This is a tale based on the strike which took place in the mid-1950s at Omi Kenshi, a silk manufacturer not far from Tokyo. The events described reflect the management / labour tensions of the period and is a piece of social commentary on the transformation of Japanese business.
This is a tale based on the strike which took place in the mid-1950s at Omi Kenshi, a silk manufacturer not far from Tokyo. The events described reflect the management / labour tensions of the period and is a piece of social commentary on the transformation of Japanese business.
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Komazawa Zenjiro's Artistic Interest
Okano met Komazawa Zenjiro for the first time on September the first, 1953, during breakfast at a certain restaurant-hotel in Arashiyama, Kyoto. He happened to be staying there for a rest and knew that since the previous night captains of the textile industry had gathered for a fraternal meeting; the next morning in the hallway he happened to run into Murakawa, an old friend of his and president of Sakura Textiles, who coerced him into joining them for breakfast. Whatever he did, Okano always "happened" to do it.
As he entered the dining hall, he noticed that Komazawa was seated farthest from the guests of honor and surmised that though the gathering appeared to be of the sort that required each participant to pay his dues, it was in fact held at Komazawa's invitation, and a rather extravagant invitation at that.
Because Komazawa's attitude as he welcomed him was somewhat forced, somewhat arrogant, and somewhat nervous, because, that is, he lacked naturalness toward him, Okano's swift eyes weighed in an instant the man's honesty, the shallowness of his experiences, the narrowness of the circle of people he associated with, as well as his self-indulgence and anxiety.
At the time Komazawa was fifty-five years old.
Okano's first impression of Komazawa was later revised, but not for so bright a version. As Komazawa had just begun associating on an equal footing with the presidents of the great textile companies whom he had once looked up to as exalted, he must have been tense to aconsiderable degree.
Half bald and ruddy, he was, if you have to make such a judgment, of an ordinary, middle-aged merchant type, but his small, triangular eyes had the sort of gleam that, like those of a cop in the old days, would not allow you to be completely off guard; also, because he was a little wall-eyed, his eyes played the role of covering up the workings of his mind, which would otherwise have shown up too straightforwardly. His nose wasn't big, with the nostrils in a state of violent anger, and his mouth tended to remain pursed, chevron-like. What gave the impression of exquisite softness was his skin, which was smooth and rosy, with no traces of bitter experience. If there was one thing in his features that made you associate silk, which was his business, you could safely say that it was his skin.
Murakawa, having Okano seated next to him, spoke of the day's schedule. As if on a school excursion, they would be led by Komazawa to Hikone, where they would tour the factory of Komazawa Textiles, after which they would attend a variety of welcoming sessions; then they would return to Otsu, where the gathering would end after dinner. Murakawa insisted that Okano come along. Okano agreed without bothering to check Komazawa's reaction. This he did because since his first meeting with Komazawa he had been drawn to the man.
Today Okano is known as a mysterious figure with a mind-boggling array of connections in the political and financial worlds; yet he once went to Germany, attracted as he was by Heidegger's school of thought, and studied at the University of Freiburg. By then it was ten years since Heidegger had established a worldwide reputation with his principal publication, Being and Time, and his sympathy with Nazism was deepening.
Upon his return to Japan, Okano opened a pseudo research institute called The Holy War Philosophy Institute. Young military officers congregated there, and through them he made himself known to politicians, businessmen, and bureaucrats. Immediately following the war, he opened a club to entertain the Occupation personnel, thereby making himself even better known in political, financial, and bureaucratic circles. As the Occupation ended, he got together some money and opened a golf club in a suburb of Tokyo, which became a success. Yet he seldom showed up at the club, preferring to obtain various benefits by making himself an "uninvited guest" at gatherings of important people. He also played the role of intermediary in large financial deals. He once helped Murakawa himself in such a deal.
In the fall of 1952, the government recommended reduced work in cotton yarn production. But two months before it announced "the ending of the confirmation" of new facilities, Okano brought the news to Murakawa, which made Sakura Textiles decide on a rapid capacity expansion; on top of that, for the difficult financing of the expansion, he went straight to the office of the Director-General of Accounting at the Ministry of Finance and had the Director-General himself telephone a city bank and say, "Well, go right ahead and do it. It will benefit our country." That's how Murakawa knew Okano's way of making a deal. He was astonished by it all, while Okano, in his turn, began to develop an interest in the textile industry.
In the meantime, Okano continued to buy and read Heidegger's new books, never neglecting his philosophical pursuits in other ways as well. After reading Interpretations of Holderlin's Poetry, published in 1951, he became, through Heidegger, a lover of Holderlin's poetry. When drunk, he would occasionally recite a passage from that difficult poem, "Heimkunft," bewildering the people present.
The morning the group headed to Hikone in a cavalcade of cars, the summer light was still strong, and the wind carried a refreshing fragrance, so that it was difficult to think it was, on the calendar, the very day most frequently hit by an autumnal typhoon.
"Choosing a day like this is just like Komazawa," Murakawa said to Okano in the car. "He must have been confident that he could bring sparkling weather."
Until then Murakawa had avoided speaking about Komazawa in deference to the president of Mine Textiles, who was in the same car, deliberately choosing nonprovocative topics, such as the Crown Prince's trip abroad to attend the coronation of the Queen of England and how long the fifth Yoshida cabinet might survive.
But his remark on Komazawa's choice of day touched off an explosion of talk about the man. And Okano, while thinking all that was natural, was nevertheless taken aback by the fiercely contemptuous expressions the two presidents used about Komazawa.
During the tour of the factory, the presidents inspected the machinery and equipment with great interest, delighting in shocking Komazawa's executives by asking unexpectedly expert questions from time to time. But Okano made the tour mainly looking at each of the employees, who were tense facing these unprecedentedly exalted visitors. Among the male workers he saw a couple with brightly shining eyes that shone not with simple pride but with a colder, inner light.
"What a wonderful factory! It's even equipped with symptoms of danger," Okano thought to himself, feeling drunk.
After the tour, lunch was offered; then the group was led to the jetty adjacent to the factory grounds, to the main event of Komazawa's entertainment. He had chartered the 150-ton yacht Lake Moon to take his guests to see the Eight Spectacles of Omi.
The Eight Spectacles of Omi lay south of Hikone, in effect requiring the guests to go back whence they had come. Blanching at such a dowdy, boorish entertainment for busy people, as many as four out of the ten principal guests excused themselves, suddenly remembering the appointments they had made, and parted company with the group. As a result, fewer than fifty people--seven presidents, including Komazawa; the fifteen deputies accompanying them; geisha hired to entertain them; and twenty-odd other people, with chefs among them--went on board the Lake Moon, which had a capacity for two hundred fifty people. As the yacht cast off its moorings, Komazawa seemed no longer able to contain the disappointment he had tried to suppress in the presence of the people who stayed on. Okano noticed it and felt sorry for him, but that proved premature. For he was soon to witness one concrete example of the remarkable way Komazawa would fall into adverse feelings and then reverse himself.
Helped by some tipsiness, Komazawa became extravagantly merry. He no longer talked about work. Instead, he launched into a discussion of Utagawa Hiroshige with the liquid rapidity of water running down an erect board.
Okano did not hear Komazawa's loud voice at first, reflecting as he was on the eerie sight of about a thousand female employees of Komazawa Textiles lined up in neat formations, waving the company's silk banner with a white design depicting a horse to represent the first half of Komazawa's name, and singing the company song,
The castle of silk rises above the lake,
etc., to see their exalted visitors off as the yacht left the jetty.
"You can't beat Hiroshige," Komazawa was saying with a heavy Kansai accent. "See, he has a solid grasp of the heart of landscape. In doing my business, I don't just collect pierced cocoons and think I can make silk fabric and yarn by doing this and that, that I can make so much by doing this and that. That may be the way things work. But that's not the heart of it all. If you look at the whole thing and get a solid grasp of the heart of the matter, the rest will work out all right.
"When it comes to the Japanese approach to artistic enjoyment, every artist has this grasp of the heart of the thing, you see, so whether you look at an old work of art or visit a famous place, all you have to do is not miss the heart of the thing. We have no use for complicated things like proper artistic appreciation; all we have to do is feel the heart of the thing directly with our own heart. This is what I tell my executives. It was with the same sort of thing in mind, well, so I might show you this philosophy, or, if the word is too highfalutin, then the spirit of my business, that I set up this boat ride today.
"To make a long story short, Hiroshige's Eight Spectacles of Omi, well, his wood-block prints of famous places are, as you all know, very popular with people, but among the original prints I have collected, of the Eight Spectacles, only two of them, the Chinese Bridge of Seta and the Geese Flying Down to Katada, remain, I mean the really real ones, and Professor Matsuyama, of the University of Kyoto, was gracious enough to authenticate them for me...."
So this was his purpose, Okano thought. What a complicated thing he's done for that!
It appeared that Komazawa thought he needed to have his artistic interests recognized in order to associate with first-class businessmen. But the people who had gathered that day were all far more sophisticated and far removed from the sort of inclination that would mix artistic interests with moralizing talk.
Even now Okano can remember how that day Komazawa became more isolated the harder he worked to make something out of the situation and how even his display of his artistic treasures was merely greeted with routine expressions of wonderment.
Murakawa nudged Okano on the elbow. It appeared that this was the scene that he, a man deeply knowledgeable about art, had wanted Okano to see.
Murakawa was enjoying all such spectacles with a singular expansiveness. Once he decided to enjoy something, he could find a seed of joy even in things vulgar or base.
"This is a good Sabbath for you, isn't it?" Okano said with an understanding of Murakawa's way implied in his tone of voice.
"A holiday I couldn't get even if I wanted it," Murakawa replied, puffing on an expensive, hand-rolled Romeo y Julieta cigar.
After the display of artwork, the guests dispersed to various parts of the yacht. Okano was leaning on a rail by himself, allowing his mind to wander over Lake Biwa, when for the first time that day he saw Komazawa coming toward him. Having seen him on friendly terms with Murakawa, Komazawa seemed to have begun to realize that Okano was also an important guest. As he came near, Okano spoke up first.
"Your employees seeing us off a while back was an extremely moving scene. A thousand women workers in neat formations singing the company song in such beautiful voices...."
"I'm glad you said that, sir. As I watched them from this boat, I myself, I'm embarrassed to say, but for some reason I felt tears rise to my eyes."
This must be a belated attempt, Okano thought, to make an excuse for himself for the disappointment he had shown in his honesty, despite himself, at the time of the yacht's departure.
"If the president wept at something like that, the employees might be shocked."
"Business is tears, Mr. Okano. I truly think that I am the father and those who work in my factory are my daughters and sons. They guessed that this was the day their father finally made it big, and sang our company song so intently, with all their hearts, and sent our guests on their way, that sentiment, that's what's valuable. Precisely the same sentiment has borne Komazawa Textiles along."
Such a splendid lineup of conventional phrases was almost a form of self-concealment, Okano had to conclude; yet, he also had to think that Komazawa wasn't exactly telling a lie when he said the following words without any prodding.
"I devote my entire life to my company. I have no assets to leave my children and grandchildren. My personal assets are limited to the small house my parents left me in Hikone and the company stocks; everything else is registered in the name of the company. I myself am the business, and I exist for myself only when I'm eating, when I'm taking a bath, when I'm in the toilet, and, one more, when I'm doing that unmentionable thing, only these four acts. Truly, limited to these four."
The hilltop of Hira was shrouded in clouds, and one couldn't even begin to get the feel for one of the Eight Spectacles, the Evening Snow on the hill. But as Komazawa said, "Look, the Floating Hall is coming into view," and pointed, yes, at the tip of the space where the shores on both sides of the lake suddenly narrowed, with numerous slender columns under the floor of the hall, looking like skinny white naked calves half submerged in a field of reeds, the Ukimido of Katada began to take shape.
It was a year since Japan's independence. The Korean War had come to a close and various things recalling the old days were reviving. The light summer-kimono, the Japanese-style women's hairdo, "The Battleship March," and the theater featuring actresses impersonating swordsmen made their appearances on the streets once again that year.
The day after returning from Kansai, Okano went to Ginza to buy shoes by way of doing some business. In the bustle of the town, for some reason, he smelled the smell that he had once experienced for certain: the way his "holy war philosophy," which everyone at first took as a joke while ballyhooing it, in time developed into something solemn and authoritative.
His encounter with Komazawa had left a strong impression, and that seemed to strengthen the feeling, especially after he witnessed with such raw clarity the old-fashioned monster that Komazawa was now--when almost all the big corporations were permeated with American-style management theory--someone who had survived to bring himself up to such a high point.
Okano regarded himself as a monster, but in a way Komazawa evidently was not. Okano could take thought from his mind and lay it aside like a pistol any time and freely lend himself to various kinds of money-making ventures. Even so, he could not forget the good times of a certain period during the war when thought and money-making co-habited on friendly terms. From time to time he would stick his head out of his hole and smell the air outside. Not yet, be patient a while longer, he would mutter to himself. Yet, he did not really believe in the arrival of that time.
In contrast, Komazawa deserved to be envied. If his words and thinking weren't meant as a way of concealing himself, no one could be as happy as he was. In him, thought and money-making marvelously coincided. His thought might be of a country-music variety and flatly conventional, but it was part and parcel of the man; and even if the money he made wasn't of the kind that would affect the course of Japanese industry, the amount was good enough to be envied. Now, in Okano's memory, Komazawa's image was more clearly visible than that of any of the other, modern presidents of big textile companies.
The shoe store was very open toward the outside, and you could easily read the faces of the people on the street through the display windows. Okano had his feet measured and selected the styles for a pair of cordovan shoes and a pair of black kid-leather shoes. While waiting, through a window he recognized the face of a woman, who in turn recognized his. Two women wearing excessively high-heeled sandals briskly came into the store, and the older one said: "So you're dating someone in a shoe store. You'll leave footprints."
"No kidding. I'm by myself. A lone wolf having his hind legs measured. These days I have so much time to kill."
"While doing that, why not have your tail measured, too?"
So they started to talk about sizes. Kikuno and her geisha sister, Makiko, had come to the neighborhood to buy negligees. Finished with the shoe store, Okano felt amused enough to offer to be their companion. On their way he made a joke about sizes of negligees. Is there a negligee large enough to wrap the Pacific Ocean? he wondered aloud. "Such foul talk!" Kikuno said. "I am at most the size of Lake Biwa."
Okano made an inept pun, mumbling something like, "I've been negligeed."
Kikuno led the way into a negligee store. When a clerk asked the size, she surprised Okano not a little by responding coolly, "Well, do you have anything the size of Lake Biwa?"
They dawdled away half an hour at the store, not really selecting anything. Kikuno then said she and her sister geisha had some time before their first work assignment that day and that she wanted Okano to take them to a restaurant for some leisurely chat. Taking the hint graciously, Makiko left. Okano took Kikuno to the restaurant of a nearby hotel, called Prunier. Kikuno, who was approaching forty, was good-naturedly called the Literary Geisha: she read a vast number of foreign novels translated into Japanese and had a soft spot for old-style heroines who invariably went to a convent whenever things took a wrong turn, though she herself was a follower of the Nichiren sect of Buddhism. Among the many men she entertained, at any rate, Okano was virtually the only one who could talk about things like foreign novels.
He ordered for her a shrimp cocktail, turtle soup, and a sole meuniere, and had a Chablis cooled. He then put on a somber face and said, "I am sorry for the sad news." Kikuno burst into tears.
The man Kikuno had been associating with as her "husband" for nearly twenty years had died just recently. Okano had heard that the man, the president of Daia Trading, died of liver cancer but left her some of his fortune in his will, and that as a result she was thinking of quitting her work as geisha. He knew that was what she wanted to talk about today.
Okano liked the way a geisha ate Western-style food, finding something elegant about the way she handled her fork as deftly as she dealt with her long sleeves.
The matter on which Kikuno had wanted his advice during the meal was somewhat unexpected. She loathed the usual "retirement" years of a geisha, running a small restaurant on a small fund or using part of her geisha repertoire and teaching, for example, kouta ditties. Besides, none of the skills she had learned in the geisha repertoire was good enough for establishing a reputation, and she didn't have any burdensome relatives she had to look after. What she wanted, rather, was to "work for society." To give a specific example, she could take advantage of her thorough knowledge of the complications that arise in any group of women and become the head or a director of a women's dormitory somewhere.
Okano knew that a decision made at the so-called turning point for a woman, reaching her fortieth year, was most often no more than a whim of the moment. In Kikuno's case, she had grown bored, perhaps aided by her fondness for literary reclusiveness, of a life of beautiful clothes and delicious food, and, once she decided she was bored, that had become a fixed notion, Okano thought.
Okano was, on the other hand, fascinated enough to imagine Kikuno in the garb of the head of a women's dormitory. For some curious reason, he had met her one summer in the house of the sister of her "mother," who lived in Chigasaki. She had gone there to rest for a couple of days. It was the house of an old geisha who had retired; the guest room, surrounded by summer blinds, had an enormous gilded Buddhist altar, which added to the oppressive air, and the lintel was covered with talismans. In a sleeveless print that didn't become her at all, Kikuno was sitting there, her legs laid sidewise, using a fan. That was the image of Kikuno that Okano immediately conjured up.
As the image came to him, and this often happened with him, so did a wish to suddenly transform this beautiful, though slightly weathered, geisha, who right before his eyes was delicately plying her carved silver fish fork, into a clumsily dressed dormitory mother with callused hands.
Okano by nature did not like the unchangeable form of being. This applied to man, society, and the age. Everything needed grotesque transformations. During the war, when even geisha were required to wear pantaloons and actors and actresses to wear drab, military-inspired suits, Okano could not see in them anything like the beauty of the Nazi uniform or group activity; yet, in his own way, he saw some elegance in the distortion of things. There was indeed true elegance in transformations such as the reluctant admission of the need to increase productivity and the sycophancy that derives from it, the camouflage of those engaged in production and the general, relaxing, comfortable, shameless hypocrisy that derives from it ... and so forth.
To Kikuno, Okano was a remarkable man. Many of the guests who come to the geisha world to be entertained do so after succeeding in making money and so like to put on cultured airs. But Okano was cultured from the beginning and chose to "degrade himself" into the dubious world of money-making. When she saw him, she would sometimes say to herself vaguely, with a sense of affinity, "He isn't too different from us."
"I'll put up with anything," Kikuno said, enjoying the clear sound she made as she clinked her wine glass with her diamond ring. "All I want is to get out of Tokyo, out of the city. Of course, I can't do anything like farming. Do you know any company tucked away in some rustic place?"
"A while back," Okano said as if he had hit on an idea, "you were talking about the size of Lake Biwa, weren't you?"
"I am not joking," Kikuno showed a flush of anger.
"No, I don't mean it that way. But why did you bring up Lake Biwa?"
"How do I know?"
"Well, I just remembered something. What would you say about living near Lake Biwa? It has spectacular views, it's countrified, there's even a women's dormitory...."
"My, that's just what I had in mind."
Kikuno's interest provoked, Okano told her about Komazawa Textiles in detail. Kikuno said that geisha in other localities had heard about Komazawa, but his name wasn't familiar to the geisha group in Tokyo. Because she listened with deep interest, Okano took pleasure in telling her about that curious tour, leaving nothing to the imagination. Many of the presidents who showed up in his narration were known to her.
When the story finally reached the Floating Hall of Katada, Kikuno said, "Then, what happened?" and urged him on.
"Well, it certainly was a noisy sort of artistic interest," Okano said and continued.
The Lake Moon approached the port of Katada where a certain number of people had already been lined up to welcome the tour group, waving to the yacht, with the company banners decorated with a white horse placed up front, as it stopped its engine and glided up to the jetty.
Okano felt wearied by the prospect of having to see Komazawa's greatness again, but Komazawa himself appeared quite unflustered. He's the sort of fellow, Okano decided, who doesn't feel annoyed by any racket, as long as it is arranged for him.
They went down to the jetty. Out of the stand of trees to the left, the tiled roof of the Floating Hall with its delicate curve radiated a silvery gleam in all directions. The mayor, who was out on the jetty to welcome the group, bowed to Komazawa with excessive politeness, then made a round of the other presidents, handing each his business card. He did this in the midst of the welcoming group he himself had brought, so the crowded jetty became a tricky place to be, with some people at its edge holding on to the backs of other people lest they fall into the lake.
Led by the mayor, the group started to walk toward the Floating Hall through the narrow town of Katada. Because of the cryptic instructions Komazawa had given, the geisha brought from Hikone still didn't know whether they were supposed to make merry or look cool and detached, eyeing in quiet bemusement a young geisha squealing helplessly as the president of Yamaguchi Textiles teased her. The group crossed a small bridge over a creek mostly covered with reeds. Amid the reeds an abandoned boat was listing, the bilge that seeped out of it gleaming in the sun. The dark suits and the black formal kimono of the people crossing the bridge went well with the fierce red of the cannas and Ganges amaranths outside the house at the end of the bridge.
Murakawa, who was walking somewhat apart from the group, said to Okano, "What fine weather."
"What do you mean by that?"
"I meant what I said: it's fine weather. A cunning fellow like you might immediately think of bringing down the rain."
"If you wish, I'll pray for rain."
"That's what upsets me. The moment I start talking with you, everything becomes suggestive. I didn't mean anything like what you implied. What upsets me is that even I immediately allow you to set the pace."
Murakawa was still in an excellent mood. His cigar, his suit that was better made than anybody else's, the youthful, finely featured face he had kept from his athletic days while a student, the good posture he invariably maintained--he was, in short, a hunk of self-confidence, and the moment he started to enjoy something, a wonderfully good-natured malice spread around him.
In the meantime, Mine, the president of Mine Textiles, had ended up as Komazawa's companion.
"I handle little silk," Mine was saying, "but the future for its export is indeed as vast as an ocean. I feel it everywhere, in Europe, in the United States. Wherever you go, people want silk products. They aren't limited to women. Men also want silk shins, silk pajamas. That's the rich people's life they dream of. The expression, `Wrapped up in silk cocoons,' must have been transplanted to Europe and the States."
"I must make overseas trips myself," Komazawa said. "Except, you see, I must first put my company on a sure footing. Otherwise, it would be like a mother going overseas, leaving her suckling baby behind, and that would go against humanity. They say the silk in France is no good because of labor shortages and high wages. Pretty soon Japan alone will be making silk, though on a shoestring. Westerners can no longer bother to do something as complicated as this.
"It would be wonderful if you got to be as good as Mr. Mikimoto and his pearls," he continued. "But the Japanese still haven't shed the habit of letting Westerners tell them that they aren't aware of good things that are uniquely Japanese and then telling themselves, `Well, I see. In that case, I'll do it.' It wouldn't do, wouldn't you say, unless the Japanese awake to the good things about Japan. Why is it? We have the best landscapes in the world, the best girls in the world, we have such beautiful sentiments...."
The group passed an old-fashioned post office. The afternoon sun was shining on its eaves, which held the nests of swallows that hadn't left yet, and their tangled straws cast their shadows on the wall. Turning left at the end of the road, they reached the Floating Hall.
A Zen temple of the Murasakino Daitokuji sect and formally called Kaimonzan Mangetsuji, "Full Moon Temple on Mount Sea Gate," the hall started when Eshin, known as the Monk of Yokawa, built a complex on the lake and enshrined a thousand Buddhist statues in it toward the end of the tenth century. At the small bell tower, which was built to resemble the gate to the imagined Dragon Palace, the resident monk welcomed the group. At the end of the narrow garden in the dark shadows of pine trees was the bridge jutting out to the Floating Hall.
Half the thousand Amida Buddhas stood like arrowheads in the dark hall, facing the lake. From the railing you could see Mount Chomeiji on the opposite shore and Omi Fuji in the distance. The lake was under the protection of these two thousand watchful eyes of dulled gold.
"Buddhism is a strange thing," Okano was thinking. "The idea is that if you look out with compassionate eyes, you can protect both the boats and people on the lake from difficulties. And do that with these dead golden eyes."
For him, seeing was part of cruelty. And placed under the domination of the lake with the weight of the dark gold, the compassion, the seeing of these thousand Buddhist statues, his favorite lines from Holderlin seemed to lose their power in no time:
Out on the level lake one impulse of joy had enlivened
All the sails, and at last, there on a new day's first hour
Brightening, the town unfurls....
Inside the hall, next to the offertory box, an old woman was ringing a small gong with no expression on her face. Her rhythm was regular, each sound lasted long, and her wrinkled face, illuminated by the many candles that wavered in the breeze from the lake, looked like an illusion in broad daylight. Among the people who crowded the place, only she did not show a deferential attitude toward authority.
"It's good weather, isn't it, O-tsune," Komazawa, as he came by, said to her. But she merely responded, without changing her expression, "You're right."
"This old woman is eccentric, you see, she doesn't even give me a smile," Komazawa explained to Okano loudly, as if he were really directing his words to her. "What happened was, her son was killed in the war and she had no one to depend upon, so I rescued her from that pitiful state and asked the resident-monk here to employ her. She ought to be a little nicer to me, but as you see, she's as impassive as the Buddha, scarcely saying hello to me. A truly interesting woman this is."
This gossiping was done close to her ears, but her ringing of the gong remained perfectly regular. Somewhat bemused, Okano went to Murakawa to tell him about her. Interested, Murakawa came to see her.
"Mr. Komazawa's parental concerns don't seem to work on a frigid mind like hers," Okano said in a low voice.
"Interesting." Murakawa, who hadn't urged his secretary to take photographs of the beautiful landscapes, asked him to photograph the old woman's face. "Make sure to get some shots of her."
"The face of an ordinary person, I see," Okano said to Murakawa. Komazawa forced himself into the conversation.
"Sir, what do you think ordinary people are? This is the face of an eccentric," he asserted. "Ordinary people are those who appreciate the favors done them and respond with gratitude, that's what truly ordinary people do."
The old woman must have heard all this but did not even raise an eyebrow.
"I say no. They're sweetfish."
"You know nothing. There are no sweetfish like that. They are called daces."
"They're no daces. They're known as Lake Biwa sweetfish."
Leaning over the railing, the president of Yamaguchi Textiles was arguing with the young geisha. Below, near the water's edge, were growths of reeds exquisitely arranged like the clouds in a picture scroll and swimming among their roots were near-transparent fish eight to twelve inches long. Their bodies occasionally gleamed against the light-brown mud at the bottom of the shallow water.
After leaving Katada, the Lake Moon skipped some of the Eight Spectacles of Omi, such as Karasaki where the fabled pines had all withered away, leaving not a trace, and the Mii Temple, as it ran along the east coast of the lake, finally bringing itself close to the "Sailboats Returning to Yabase" against the backdrop of beautifully misty Omi Fuji.
But Okano lay at the stern, watching the pretty sight of clouds in the sky.
The spot where he lay was normally the second-class cabin, though it was no more than a mid-deck room with tatami mats laid on the floor. For this occasion, however, brand-new tatami had been installed and silk cushions were placed here and there, so that any guest who became tired of a Western-style cabin might come here for a rest. A geisha came to offer sake, but Okano declined, asking her to leave him alone for a While.
The sun creeping in from the railing to the west would come close to reach his elbow as he lay on his side, then recede. His eyes trying to see the clouds were blocked by the railing whose white paint emitted a sheen. In the dazzling sunlight bouncing back from the railing he recognized a pair of flies mating in utter silence. At first he had thought it was the carcass of a fly.
Although the light in the sky was intense, the faintness of its blue suggested a weakening. The murky outlines of the clouds melted into the blue, and the regions where the clouds and the sky crossed each other were blurred with moistness and were truly beautiful. There was also a solemn cloud that retained the feel of summer. But it was like a pantheon that had begun to collapse, feebly illuminated by the light within.
The mating flies still did not move. Do flies also have ecstasy? Okano wondered. That in the single stain before the vast expanse of the sky there was a progression of time of self-oblivion, and that the unclean golden bodies of the flies were filled with sensuality bound to silence.... As he reflected on the world from such a perspective, he grew terribly confused as to where between the sky and the flies was situated the weight of such things as people rebuking him for his change of heart and people forgiving him for making money but not tolerating the revival of his thought. His Holderlin was in the clouds beyond, and his means of living was on this side, in the mating of flies. That was enough. That certainly was enough, but the truth of the matter was that he wanted to directly link the sublime clouds and the mating of flies and mix up the two.
How about Komazawa?
Just when he thought that, as if summoned by his idea, Komazawa stepped into the room.
"You look so comfortable. I'm sorry to disturb you. I'm a little tired of tending to our guests. Do you mind if I lie down?"
As he rolled his rotund body down, he did not forget to add an unnecessary footnote: "Oh, it feels so good." Evidently it wasn't enough for him to enjoy the easing of his senses in silence.
"Every one of my guests is so busy I think it would be a virtuous deed on my part to have all of you relax for half a day. Today I decided to reverse my usual role, regard myself as a son and the guest presidents as my fathers, and think what I do is a good form of filial piety."
Okano felt annoyed and kept silent, eyes closed. Komazawa with his poor associations seemed never to tire of applying a familial metaphor to everything. Soon, though, as if he had guessed what Okano had in mind, he suddenly made a little speech.
"When I reached my present age, I began to think that business and artistic interests are one and the same. In farting, in running a business, in making love to a woman, in observing your faith, you must get into a frenzy, do whatever you do with selfless intensity. You must leave some room for enjoying yourself, but you must enjoy yourself with selfless intensity, too. Once you start doubting, that's the end of it. Once you start thinking what in the world am I doing this for, that's the end of it.
"For a while, I had arranged it so if a machine broke down during a night shift, I'd have myself pulled out of the bed, even on a winter night, and wouldn't leave the factory even if I had to have a fight with the factory manager over it. By doing that, I found a way of preventing thread-snapping by installing humidistats in the factory."
"When you went to the factory floor at midnight," Okano couldn't resist asking, "were your employees pleased?"
"Of course they were. Little wonder once they start working here they begin to feel they'd give up their lives for this company."
Komazawa's assertive explanation of other people's feelings always gave the impression that he spoke for them with the confidence of a first-person narrative. His world never failed to faithfully delineate the image he projected of it.
Komazawa lifted his head and said, "We're getting to the `Clear Storm at Awazu.'" But Awazu was now wholly a factory town, and the number of pine trees that were left standing, without withering, was negligible when compared with that of the smokestacks that crowded the sky.
It appeared that Komazawa napped deeply for about five minutes. But as the yacht entered the Seta River, he bounced up and headed toward the first-class cabin for what he termed "tending to his guests." As Okano noted with astonishment, the meager five-minute sleep had filled the man's cheeks with a lively color, tightened up his drooping eyelids, and made his normally ruddy face practically shine.
Only two of the eight "spectacles" were left to see: the "Evening Sun at Seta" and the "Autumn Moon over Ishiyama." The sun was still too high for an evening glow, but the westerly sun brilliantly illuminated the stands of trees on the eastern shore of the river. And as the yacht proceeded downstream with a detailed view of houses after a lake cruise with so much water, a quiet joy was born in Okano's heart. Komazawa's guests all began moving to gather on the fore upper-deck to see the Chinese Bridge of Seta. Okano followed suit. At some distance a flat bridge blocked the way ahead; like a dining tray held chest-high, it gradually came closer to the guests.
Murakawa was there along with his secretary, who held his camera ready. But the secretary, without instructions from Murakawa to shoot, could not push his shutter even as the black ornamental knobs of the bridge posts clearly came into view, gleaming in the rays of the sun that fell at a right angle.
The Chinese Bridge divided into two at the isle in the river, the one to the left of the isle long, the one to the right short. The isle itself was made into a small park with drooping green willows, deep growths of grass at the water's edge, and stones arranged beautifully. It was all for the better that it didn't have flower beds.
There were several people on the isle, one of them waving a large banner, the rest waving their hands. They were apparently in a frantic state, and the impression was intensified as they restlessly moved about with their own long shadows cast by the westerly sun. From the distance they looked like children, but it turned out that they were adults in business suits. Furthermore, the large banner being waved had that white horse jumping about--the company banner of Komazawa Textiles that had already become so familiar to the guests that day.
"My, it's going to be an extravagant welcome this time around," said the president of Yamaguchi Textiles with his arm on the shoulders of the young geisha, with some sarcasm. "Waving a banner like that."
"What's that?" Komazawa himself said, surprising everyone.
"Shoot them. This is interesting," Murakawa ordered in a low voice. One of Komazawa's executives came to whisper something to Komazawa, and the two of them hurried up the ladder into the steering cabin.
"What is it?" Murakawa asked.
"I wonder," Okano replied. "It doesn't seem like an ordinary sort of welcome. They seem to be telling this boat to stop."
Soon Komazawa's executive emerged with a smiling face. The yacht would stop at the isle for some minor business, but it would be only for several minutes, he explained; after that, the boat would head rapidly for Ishiyama, and there shouldn't be any trouble with the original schedules. None of the guests would ask why out of politeness, but their faces showed they weren't terribly amused that Komazawa had to stop the yacht for company business when the guests he had brought were all busy people.
The yacht stopped. Because the water was shallow, a long gangplank was lowered. Several men on the isle immediately ran up, leaving the banner behind. Okano recognized an unusual tension in their faces. He then noticed a large blue car parked on the bridge.
Several minutes passed after Komazawa, his two executives, and the men from the isle shut themselves up in the captain's cabin. As soon as the door opened, the two executives and the men hurried down the gangplank. While the crew slowly pulled up the gangplank to get ready to move again, the guests saw the men stumble up the stone stairs on the isle and push themselves into the blue car on the bridge, which then sped away toward Hikone.
"Looks like something extraordinary," Murakawa said, delighted.
"Yes, it does," Okano said. "But until we hear about it on the radio, we won't be informed of anything."
The rest of the trip. The westerly sun that made the river glitter beautifully. The green of the trees on both sides of the river that grew darker as the yacht proceeded downstream. Soon, high up on the cliff above the woods on the west side appeared the Moon-Viewing Gazebo, hanging in the air like a light, mysterious palanquin....
What still remained in Okano's memory far more vividly than any of this was Komazawa's face after the yacht left the isle. It was a landscape more fascinating than any of the landscapes presented--a face that became more fascinating the more Okano thought about it later, and that, if he were allowed to say it, carried with it a hint of nobility even.
Komazawa cruised among his guests smiling more readily than before, careful lest he neglect any of them, but his loquaciousness lessened somewhat. Okano noticed that a talkative man like him could look more natural when he wasn't talking. Behind his smiles anxiety could be detected faintly, while in his eyes gentle feelings and a hard, cold soul were seen alternating like spells of clouds and sunshine.
For a brief while, Okano watched him from a distance, leaning alone on the railing on the west side, his face exposed to the westerly sun. The sun was at the rim of the hill on the western shore, and Komazawa, with the sun directly hitting his face, had narrowed his eyes, but the strong golden sunlight of the first of September aimed intently at his eyes, which were narrowed to almost invisible thin lines, as if to pry them open forcibly. Then, the truly innocent profile twitched, an eye blinked, and a tear glistened; it was perhaps a moment as effective as the five minutes during which he had napped. Immediately, his inelegant, squat fingers hastened to wipe off the trace of the tear from his cheek, rosy and smooth as silk.
As it was revealed later, that day, two hours after the Lake Moon set sail from Hikone, just about the time it left the Katada port, a terrible accident had happened in the Komazawa factory.
As one of the programs to welcome the new employees early that summer, Komazawa had wanted to show an industrial relations film called Young Women Will Carry Tomorrow. But the film couldn't be easily obtained and the screening had been postponed. It happened that just before Komazawa's important guests arrived, the film had also arrived, so it had been decided to screen it after the employees had seen the guests off. About seven hundred of them, both men and women, were gathered in the main hall of four hundred tatami mats. Black curtains were put up to cover the windows and, after the factory manager's greetings, the screening began.
The film started, and the title came up. But the operator wasn't too experienced and the screen was slightly out of focus. At once he tried to make the adjustment with an amplifier. The film snapped and caught fire. The operator's next action was an appropriate one. He immediately knocked down the projector and slapped at the flames with a cushion. The fire merely left a burn mark on the tatami before it was extinguished.
Then the disaster struck. At the sound of the projector falling and at the sight of flames suddenly rising high in the darkness, a young woman nearby screamed. Those who were near the entrance started to run toward the stairway. In the ensuing confusion there was no time to turn on the lights in the room or remove the curtains from the windows. In that darkness several hundred people rushed to the narrow stairway.
The stairway was nine feet wide and L-shaped, with a small landing in the middle. Those who managed to get out fast were all right, but once someone stumbled and fell, those who followed fell like dominoes; worse, the railing midway tore off, and several people dropped straight down.
In the midst of the screams and cries, some shouted, "The fire's out!" but no one paid attention. People pushed and shoved, trying to get out. Those trying to step over their fellow workers who had been knocked down and couldn't even moan would themselves be pushed by those who followed, and fall forward.
Someone finally managed to turn on the light at the landing. The window there was also covered with a black curtain.
The light at the landing was a dim one to save electricity. Still, the lighting suddenly brought the people back to sanity; what they saw was a horrible lump. A mountain of people in light-green uniforms filled up the stairway, writhing, groaning, bleeding. From below the stairway, in semidarkness, rose the cries of many. The sight of this vivid scene froze all the rest.
Twenty-one people were crushed to death. Five suffered serious injuries, such as broken bones. Three hundred and fifteen, or nearly half of those who were there, had bruises or other milder injuries.
--It was this news that had been brought in great haste to the isle under the Chinese Bridge of Seta.
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