The memories and scars produced by a fervent love affair are like a deep stain in one’s soul. On New Year’s Eve, Oki Toshio – a man in his fifties haunted by the memory of his long-gone young lover – decides to travel to Kyoto in order to hear the sound of the town’s bells. His mind is crowded by images of his former lover, Ueno Otoko, who now is a woman with a career in the art of painting. Although the time has gone and come and years and years have left their trace in fogging their memories, the imprinted images of their younger selves are deeply embedded in both of their memories.
Author Kawabata says of the early days of the lovers that both were greatly infatuated with one another. That kind of passion, that kind of gullibility, and that kind of fire can only make justice to those who have been so in love to yearn for more even if a great deal of it means tremendous pain. Otoko is depicted as a creature of out of this world beauty. She used to live with her mother, with whom she shares the same passion and stubbornness of tragic love. Oki, on the other hand, is described more as cold-hearted sort of man who would not blink an eye to get satisfaction even at the expense of someone as young as to be considered a non-citizen in the eyes of the law. As long as the consequences do not inflict pain in him, Oki would go as far as to sleep with one of his lover’s lover.
After the affair and tragedy, many years later, Oki finds himself haunted by Otoko’s essence and spirit. He needs to see her. His desire to see her catches up with him incarnated in Otoko’s protégé, Keiko, a woman of such beauty that no man could ever resist. Keiko, although a woman of extraordinary beauty and natural talent for the arts, is no woman to play games. Unfortunately for Oki, Keiko may match the talent and charm of a young version of Otoko, her temperament and charms are far beyond those of a naive flower in bloom.
Keiko, love-blinded, cannot bear in her jealous heart the possibility or even the thought of Otoko being still in love with Oki. Her heart, like anyone who has ever experienced the very first crazy love of early years, may know, gives birth to a turmoil strong enough to destroy anything on her way, the way to Otoko’s heart, to be the only and unique one. What another thing can, but romantic love, cause such dementia in a woman? Keiko, in search of compensation for her shared love, tries to take revenge with her own hands and the whole of Oki’s family is condemned to pay for a past mistake.
The author describes each character with exquisite precision. The tenderness in his words and the softness of his way of narrating heart-breaking events make of this piece not only a very enjoyable journey but also a story worth to hear.