Fuon (The Crying Wind)
by Shun Medoruma
Little More, 2004, 205 pages
Fuon (The Crying Wind) tells a modern-day fictional story set in a small
village on the island of Okinawa. The skull of a kamikaze pilot, who was shot
down in a suicide attack during the Battle of Okinawa, has been placed on a
rocky ledge in a protected place near the seashore. This skull emits a crying
sound when the wind whistles through a bullet hole on its side and exerts an
influence on villagers and visitors. Both the film Fuon (The Crying Wind) and
this novel came out in 2004. Okinawan author Shun Medoruma, who won the
Akutagawa Prize for literature in 1997, wrote the film's script and the book,
and both have basically the same plot. However, the novel provides more details
regarding motivations and background of the characters. The
film review on this
web site has a plot summary, so this book review focuses on aspects different
than the film or elements not included in the movie.
Seikichi, whose father had recovered the kamikaze pilot's corpse and had
placed it in an open burial ground, now takes care of his 6th-grade grandson
Akira. The novel explains how Akira lost his mother three years before in a car
accident and how his father Moriya, Seikichi's son, turned to alcohol after his
wife's death and has been working far away in Tokyo for a couple of years
although he calls Akira two or three times a month.
A section in the book explains why Seikichi has a strong relationship with
Makato, whose daughter Kazue comes back from Tokyo with her 4th-grade son Masashi
to her hometown village in order to escape from her abusive husband after living
in Tokyo eight years without ever visiting Okinawa. Makoto's husband Kazuaki was
a fisherman like Seikichi who dove into the sea without any artificial breathing
apparatus to spear fish. However, Kazuaki lost his life while taking tourists
out to fish in his boat when one young woman fell off his boat without a life
jacket and then the young man with her dove into the sea to find her. Kazuaki
threw in lifesaving equipment for the two and also dove in searching for them,
but he also was never found after diving repeatedly with no success in finding
them. This episode, not included in the film, strains believability in that it
is very unlikely that a highly experienced swimmer and diver would lose his life
in such a manner no matter how emotionally upset he may have been.
Shiho Fujino, now 70 years old and dying of cancer, visits the small Okinawan
village and stays at a minshuku inn as she searches for information related to
her former boyfriend, who died as a kamikaze pilot after taking off from Kanoya
Air Base in southern Kyushu. The book explains much more of her background in
comparison to what gets revealed in the movie. Her husband had died ten years
earlier, and she has never told her son and his wife with whom she lives the
real reason why she visits Okinawa alone for her vacations. She researched the
stories of kamikaze pilots and the Battle of Okinawa, and she attended the
annual memorial service for all war dead in the Battle of Okinawa the first few
years that she visited.
A few details related to Fujino differ between the film and novel, although
generally they remain the same. In the movie, her boyfriend named Shin'ichi Kano
gives her a three-page letter when he visits her for the last time at her home
and tells her not to open it until the next day. In the novel, Fujino received
the following very short one-page letter by regular mail from Kano. It arrived
more than two months after they last met together and more than one month after
he departed from Kanoya Air Base on his suicide mission.
When you read this letter, I think that I will have made a sortie toward Okinawa.
My intention is to protect you and my family by carrying out my role as a shield
for our country.
The book mentions the reason why Seikichi chooses not to tell Fujino that he
has the fountain pen with Shin'ichi Kano's name on it, although he feels some
uncertainty about his decision. Seikichi feels that the village has had a
relationship with the skull for many years to the point of almost being a
spiritual connection, so he does not want that association to be disturbed. When
Fujino leaves the village by taxi in the film, Seikichi kindly tells her to
please come again, but the book does not contain these words.
The film highlights beautiful Okinawan scenery and nature, and it contains a
few hints of environmental damage such as when the elementary school boys catch
a fish but throw it back due to the water pollution. The novel has more
direct references to environmental harm and also discusses economic shifts in
Okinawa such as the declining fishing industry and some natives who move away for employment.
Both the book and film Fuon (The Crying Wind) give an insightful look at
Okinawa's wartime history and modern-day issues. The award-winning author Shun
Medoruma depicts lifelike characters in this story that covers Fujino's one-week
vacation to the unnamed village in northern Okinawa.