“That is very hypocritical!”
“It is the social law,” replied Kamimura. “In Japan the family is the important thing. You and I are nothing. If you want to get on in the world you must always be subject to your family. Then you are sure to get on however stupid you may be. In England you seem to use your families chiefly to quarrel with.”
“I think our relatives ought to be just our best friends,” said Asako.
“They are that too in a way,” the young man answered. “In Japan it would be better to be born without hands and feet than to be born without relatives.”
Hono-bono to Akashi no ura no Asa-giri ni Shima-kakure-yuku Fune wo shi zo omou.
My thoughts are with a boat
Which travels island-hid
In the morning-mist
Of the shore of Akashi
After Hongkong, they let the zone of eternal summer behind them. The crossing from Shanghai to Japan was rough, and the wind bitter. But on the first morning in Japanese waters Geoffrey was on deck betimes to enjoy to the full the excitement of arrival. They were approaching Nagasaki. It was a misty dawn. The sky was like mother-of-pearl, and the sea like mica. Abrupt grey islands appeared and disappeared, phantasmal, like guardian spirits of Japan, representatives of those myriads of Shinto deities who have the Empire in their keeping.
Then, suddenly from behind the cliff of one of the islands a fishing boat came gliding with the silent stateliness of a swan. The body of the boat was low and slender, built of some white, shining wood; from the middle rose the high sail like a silver tower. It looked like the soul of that sleeping island setting out upon a dream journey.
The mist was dissolving, slowly revealing more islands and more boats. Some of them passed quite close to the steamer; and Geoffrey could see the fishermen, dwarfish figures straining at the oar or squatting at the bottom of the boat, looking like Nibelungen on the quest for the Rhinegold. He could hear their strange cries to each other and to the steamer, harsh like the voice of sea-gulls.
Asako came on deck to join her husband. The thrill of returning to Japan had scattered her partiality for late sleeping. She was dressed in a tailor-made coat and skirt of navy-blue serge. Her shoulders were wrapped in a broad stole of sable. Her head was bare. Perhaps it was the inherited instinct of generations of Japanese women, who never cover their heads, which made her dislike hats and avoid wearing them if possible.
The sun was still covered, but the view was clear as far as the high mountains on the horizon towards which the ship was ploughing her way.
“Look, Asako, Japan!”