The Sound Of Waves by Yukio Mishima

I’ve officially dove into the Japanese Literature Challenge with Yukio Mishima’s The Sound of Waves. And what a beautiful way to start the challenge. The sound of waves captures what Japanes literature has always been about to me in the classic sense. What little I’ve read is very reflective, personal, and it explores the human psyche and our relationships between one another. This book makes no exception to these rules.

The Sound of Waves is basically the story of first love and it’s beautifully told through Mishima’s writing. Shinji lives on a remote island in Japan by the name of Uta-Jima. The island relies on fishing and pearl diving as it’s mainstay, men doing the fishing, women doing the pearl diving. Uta-Jima is a very traditional island. No TV, no movie theaters, no restaurants or big cities; life carries on as it always has and the island is steeped in traditional values. Shinji is 18 years old and has never had a girlfriend. He shows interest in a young girl named Hatsue who comes to stay with her uncle. He’s not the only boy who shows interest in her. Many do! Shinji and Hatsue become friends and we see their relationship begin to blossom into something a bit more than friendship through truly exquisite writing that perfectly captures the beauty of first love. However, there are those who are jealous of Shinji and Hatsue’s relationship and want to see it ended. Rumors fly around the village that they have acted hastily on their feelings and they are forbidden to see each other.

I’m not going to go any further into the story than that, but you get the basic idea of it. This was such a beautiful book. As I mentioned, Mishima captures the essence of that first loss of innocence, that first true love perfectly. He creates scenes where characters blush and we, the reader blush with them. The scenery of the island is described beautifully and Mishima actually makes the sea a character for the reader. He describes it so well that you can actually hear the sound of waves. We smile with the characters, we blush with the characters, our hearts break with them, and they are mended with them. I can’t recommend this one enough.

There are also some beautiful Japanese brush illustrations at the beginning of each chapter by Yoshinori Kinoshita. Very cool. 1 down for the challenge, 3 to go!

34 Responses

  1. This sounds like such a beautiful and gentle book. Japanese literature tends to do that, doesn’t it? Not that I know much about it, but in my experience one often finds stories that are subtle and full of grace and feeling. There is a quietness on the surface and a lot of emotions bubbling underneath. I hope that makes sense.

    You’re making me want to join this challenge! Thank you for the lovely review. Now I’m off to Amazon to add this to my wishlist 😛

  2. Nymeth, Somehow you’ve managed to capture the feeling of this book better than I have without even reading it! But you described my experience with Japanese novels perfectly. This one’s no exception. You should really join this challenge! It’s just 3 books in 2 months! You can do it! :p This one’s only 180 pages too.

  3. well, it looks like you are off and running on the reading! lol As nice as it sounds I don’t think I’ll try this one… (man, I am so glad when I can say that! LOL)

  4. Deslily, Isn’t it nice when you can say “I won’t be adding this to the wishlist” 😉 yeah, I don’t know if this one would be your thing or not. It was a sweet story though. It’s good to be back to reading! Now that I’m being laid off, I just sit in my office and read all day!

  5. Hey! Why can’t you still help some kids until you go?? That sucks!

    emial “hetford” and “B’Lena” to work to read lol

  6. Deslily, I was told not to open any new cases, so I only have 2 kids that I’m seeing right now. So that’s only 2 sessions a week. But I’m still seeing those 2 until I’m gone! Most of my job before that consisted of paperwork and assessments for cases that I was trying to get admitted into the program. Unfortunately, those kids won’t get services now 😦

    Great idea! I’m emailing Hetford and B’Lena now 🙂

  7. Oh my, this does sound like a sweet, beautiful story. It’s funny…I’ve always felt so intimidated by Japanese novels. Why? You got me. This certainly doesn’t sound intimidating at all…in fact, it perfectly lovely. I think I may just see if the library has this one. (Figure I ought to get my feet wet before I go adding to the ol’ wish list.)

  8. “Beautiful and gentle” is a good way to describe the book, definitely. My copy went straight onto the “good shelves” when I closed it.

  9. Debi, No reason to feel intimidated at all! It really is a beautiful story, and it has the feel of someone telling you a story. I definitely recommend you checking this one out. Beautiful book! Hey, you should join the challenge! That’s what challenges are all about – challenging yourself to read something new! Just what you need, huh? One more challenge 😉

    Bookfool, I’m telling you, Nymeth described this one perfect and hadn’t even read it! She’s getting psychic with her book reviews now! She doesn’t even have to read them anymore, LOL!! But yes, this was certainly a beautiful and gentle book and it’s on my “good shelf” too 😉

  10. Great cover, too!

  11. Waaay off topic, but there be somethin’ for you over at me blog!

  12. A wonderful review Chris! You’re making me want to read this right away. I think Nymeth described JLit, and the Japanese in general, very well. Quietness on the surface and a lot of emotions bubbling underneath.

  13. this sounds very delicate… wow…

  14. Great review (and could that book cover be any more beautiful)?

  15. You read it! I’m so glad! And I’m even gladder that you liked it. It really is lovely.

    Also, a shout out to Nymeth for a nice description of this brand of Japanese literature. I’m reading Kokoro by Soseki Natsume right now, and it’s got the same kinda feel.


    P.S. What’s with blogger suddenly not allowing you to link to anything but another Blogger profile? We need to fight so this place doesn’t become another Livejournal. In your face, Blogger!

  16. Tanabata, Thanks! You should read this right away 😉 It’s a great book! I’d love to read this one in Japan! You’re going to have fun with this challenge I’m sure!

    JP, It is a very delicate book. Beautiful…

    Stephanie, Thanks. I love the cover of this one. It’s very reflective of the feel of the book. Love adding covers like that to my library 😉

    Too Hotty, I did indeed read it based on your recommendation! And I loved it! Really great book, great character, great setting, and beautifully written. Couldn’t have asked for better. I didn’t realize that blogger wasn’t letting other sites link for comments. That’s so frickin stupid! Down with the powers that be!

  17. what is it about japanese literature, hey? i mean, i can’t really speak, having only read “kafka on the shore”, but i guess i also have a sense of it from films i’ve seen and manga.

    there just seems to be this deep reservoir of wisdom with them, and also an awareness of that which is lyrical, if you know what i mean?

  18. You’ll be thrilled to know that after I finished my current read last night I had a hankerin’ for science fiction and I went to my shelf and picked up Ender’s Game. I had read to page 94 the first time…don’t know why I got sidetracked because I was really enjoying it. I had stopped at the part:

    Spoiler Alert

    where Val and Peter begin to start blogging, essentially, in order to begin Peter’s plans to ‘take over the world’. I went back and read the beginning of that section again and was off and running. I have less than 100 pages to go and am loving it once again. My favorite parts are when Ender is the focus of the story, but the other parts are good enough to keep my interest until Ender becomes the focus again. I should finish this up this weekend and will be all primed to read the next one for the Sci Fi Experience.

  19. JP, I know what you mean. It’s reflected not just in their literature, but in their culture and their religion as well. Everything’s very “lyrical” in Japan. They’re a very reflective and calm group as opposed to us westerners who are constantly on the go with our starbucks in hand. And they seem much happier for it! I’ve been dying to read Kafka on the Shore! I’m going to read it after Norwegian Wood!

    Carl, Awesome! Yeah, my favorite parts of Ender’s Game were the parts with Ender too. I know what you mean. I enjoyed the other scenes as well, but when the focus switched back to Ender I was always happy! You’re in for a treat! My favorite part of the book, the part that really made me a fan of Card was about the last 100 pages of that book. I have all kinds of memories flooding back about that book now and I want to go back and read it! May do that if there’s time for the sci-fi experience. Enjoy! Oh, and if you like the character of Bean (or even if you don’t) He wrote a whole series that focuses on him. It starts with Ender’s Shadow. Ender’s Shadow is Ender’s Game retold through the eyes of Bean and it’s an amazing book! Then those books follow Bean while the other series follow Ender. Pretty cool.

  20. I just met Bean last night so I haven’t had time to form an opinion, but I suspect he will grow on me. So glad your gift spurred me on to picking this up. Just curious, as this is the Author’s Preferred Edition, do you know if he went back and changed any of the stuff about being on the net, etc. in later years to make it connect with current technology or was he really that far ahead of the curve in 77 when he first published this?

  21. Carl, The author’s preffered edition is an interesting thing…In the original story, the “N Word” was used in a couple of scenes and it caused much controversy. Card is by no means a racist and the point of the word being used was to make a point against racism. After all, Battle School is kids of many different backgrounds coming together for a greater good. Anyway, pretty much the only thing that is different between the original and the “author’s preferred” is the fact that the “N word” has been taken out. The publisher called it the authors preferreed edition, that was not Card’s decision. Crazy, huh? But he really was that far ahead with the whole being on the nets thing! That was in the original book! Not the short story though. Ender’s Game was first published as a short story in Analog in 1977 as a short story and then as a book in 1985.

  22. Even for ’85 it was wildly ahead of its time with the language and the concepts. Very cool. I look forward to reading Speaker after this one. Sorry to hijack your topic with Ender stuff, I should leave that for the comments in my review. 🙂

  23. No apology necessary 🙂 An Orson Scott Card hijack is always allowed on any post 😉 Warning, Speaker takes the series to a totally different place than Ender’s Game, but you’ll still enjoy it, I’m sure. At least I hope…it’s my favorite!

  24. Chris, you should have been a co-sponsor with me. You make me want to either extend the time of the Challenge so I can fit this in, or extend the limit to more than three. All this to say, you’ve totally captured my interest with your beautifully written review. Perhaps I may have to abandon my Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman for this book of yours.

  25. Bellezza, I hope you do fit this one in! I think you would fall in love with it. It’s a short little story, under 200 pages and it’s just great! I can’t recommend it enough. As far as co-sponsoring….nah, it’s all you :p You’ve done an AMAZING job putting this challenge together! If you don’t fit this one in this time around, put it on next year’s list.

  26. Just thought you needed to be the first to know. I just finished Ender’s Game. I have tears in my eyes, literally, and am blown away. I’ll be doing a review tonight or tomorrow. Wow!

  27. Next year’s list? Who says I’m doing this again next year?

    Well, maybe if Carl will join. 🙂

  28. Carl, I thought you might have that reaction. It’s the same that I had. You will indeed love Speaker, I’m sure as it carries the themes of the last 30 or so pages of Ender’s Game. I’m so glad that you enjoyed it! I’ve really never “met” another writer yet that captures human emotion and builds such empathic characters as Card does. I have the same reaction every time I go back to reread Ender’s Game. It’s just an amazing book, and an amazing series and it really is a true classic in the sci-fi genre…It’s almost hard to classify as sci-fi though! It’s kind of like The Time Traveler’s Wife…Definite sci-fi themes there, but it feels more like a human drama. Ok, so it’s definitely more sci-fi than TTW, but you know what I mean…All this is to say that I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

    Bellezza, You like the way I worked that one in there? 😉 yeah, we can get Carl to commit next year…

  29. this looks like a really good book, indeed. I’m still on the search for my third book.

    Btw, I saw that you have Gaiman’s Anansi Boys on your library list. I read that book a couple of years ago and thought it was very good. Of course, I’m a Gaiman fan 🙂

  30. Ms-teacher, This is a phenomenal book if you’re looking for a third 😉 I thoroughly enjoyed it! Gaiman’s one of my favorite authors! I’ve read everything he’s written and Anansi Boys is one of my favorites. Great book there. American Gods is one that you’d probably enjoy as it has some connections with Anansi Boys but nowhere near as humorous as Anansi Boys. American Gods is my favorite of his though. Very dark book, but a wonderfully written one!

  31. […] staying in Japan for awhile with The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima. I mooched this after reading Chris’ review, this story of first love in a small fishing village sounds wonderful. Then it’s another long […]

  32. […] to Japan for Yukio Mishima’s The Sound of Waves. I bookmooched this ages ago based on Chris’ review. Having read the book, I second everything Chris says! This is a quiet story that looks at first […]

  33. […] Stuff As Dreams Are Made On […]

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