“The Road to the Sea”: (short story) by Takashi Ishikawa
From Apostolou & Greenberg’s The Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories (1989)
Originally from Richard S. McEnroe’s anthology Proteus: Voices for the 80’s (1981)
Currently available from Kurodahan Press’s Speculative Japan (2007)
Original: Japanese, 1981
Translated by Judith Merril and Tetsu Yano, 1981
“A boy searches for the sea he’s never seen” (58)
Synopsis: Having seen the sea in picture-books alone, a boy sets off to see the sea with his own two eyes. On the way, the boy meets an old man at the end of town who locates the sea in the sky alone. Unperturbed by his ill logic, the boy continues on foot over mountains and plains to chase his imagination, filled with whales, sharks, mermaids, octopi, kelp, coral, and pirates.
Analysis: Starry-eyed from the fictitious tales in his storybooks, a boy lives a fantasy in his head of all things oceanic. Seemingly without supervision, he sets out on his own to witness the great expanse of the sea not knowing the distance of location of the same sea. His youthful innocence and inquisitiveness are admirable, yet the old man who stops him is the hurdle in his quest: heed his advice and turn back or push through and seek out.
Though erratic in his words and actions, the old man—a fork in the road of the boy’s journey—is wise with age and his peculiarities may have a grain of truth. Too young to appreciate his elder’s advice, the boy pushes on. Did his culture not engrain in him the importance of heeding advice from his elders? Even if he had accepted this tacit custom, should he allow the subjective truth from one man to smother his dream.
Like the many pinches of salt in the ocean, the boy takes the old man’s words with a grain of salt and pushes forth, directionless, toward the ocean which surely must be over the horizon. He sleeps and walks, repeats these actions, and eventually stops to look at the stars in the desert night, longing for home to which he can never return.