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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.

Shiho Fujino,

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.

Shin'ichi Kano

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.