Book Notes

Goodbye Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto
I recently read the novel "Goodbye Tsugumi" by Banana Yoshimoto.
I read it twice!
And I underlined my favorite passages from the book.
Generally I underline non-fiction book while I read.
But this is the first time I underlined a fiction book!
I loved it so much that I wanted to go through it again again...
So I typed all the underlined portions.
And now I am putting it here.
The book is lyrical and romantic.
One can get a glimpse of it from these passages...
Goodbye Tsugumi was made into a movie in 1990, directed by Jun Ichikawa.

“She had the best view in the whole building, one looking out over the ocean. During the day, sunlight glinted on the water, and whenever it rained the waves would turn rough and misty, and at night the lights of several squid boats could always be seen shining through the dark. The ocean out there was beautiful.”

“Birds would be swirling low under the tinted sky as the glittering sighs of the waves rushed quietly toward them. The beach, except for a single dog that was still running around, seemed to stretch on like a desert, wide and white, and out in the water there were a few boats being tossed about by the wind. Off in the distance, silhouettes of islands began fading into mist, and a line of clouds faintly gleaming with red was slipping away beyond the sea.”

“Her cheeks shine in the light of the sinking sun, and her face seems achingly fragile, like the overwhelming brilliance of the twilight sky, which keeps changing from instant to instant, never lingering for long.”

“Now that spring was drawing near, and each day was warmer than the last, and now that we were finally going to leave, all the everyday, nothing special scene I was so used to seeing, like the aging corridors of the inn, and all those swarms of bugs that gathered in the light of the sign out front, and the poles where we hung laundry, where spiders liked to spin their webs and beyond which the mountains jutted up… suddenly all of these hit me harder, with greater clarity. The Inn seemed bathed in a haze of light.”

“Early morning when the sky was clear the ocean always seemed to shine with a special brilliance. Something about the way the hundreds of millions of shimmering waves kept blinking into disarray and then rising up to start rolling forward again, with that chilly look to them – something in it seemed sacred, made you feel as if you had to keep your distance. Pooch would dash out and frisk around on the beach, running whenever he wanted to, stopping here and there to enjoy the affections of people out fishing, while I sat at the edge of the concrete embankment, looking out over the water.”

“I remember the walk we took one morning.
It was a gorgeous day, without a single cloud in the sky, and the colour of the ocean and the sky struck you as being vaguely sweet – they were that shade of blue. Everything glinted with gold in the morning sun, so bright you could hardly stand to keep your eyes open, and the outlines of things were pale and fuzzy the way they are sometimes in movies”

“And every time this happened I would realize that this feeling wasn’t quite suffering, no, but a kind of distress that was at the same time wonderfully exciting. Even as I rested there this sea of emotions continued to ebb and flow through my chest.”

“The gravel path that led to the Yamamoto Inn followed the bank of a river and eventually ran into this big bridge. The sea opened into view on the other side of the bridge, and the river flowed quietly into it. The light of the moon and the streetlamp shone brightly on the water and the railing of the bridge.”

“The whiteness of the flowers seemed to levitate in the dark. Everytime the crowd of petals bobbed under a puff of wind you were left with an afterimage of white that had the texture of a dream. And just beside that dream the river continued to flow, and off in the distance the dark nighttime ocean stretched the glow of the moon into a single gleaming road. The black water before us swelled up and fell back again, glimmering with tiny flecks of light, the dark motion extending all the way to infinity.”

“The scene seemed to rise up before my eyes: the clamour of television, the fragrance of the tatami; four women enjoying each other’s company. Yoko and I would saunter into the brightly lit living room, where my mother and aunt Masako would be sitting, and announce that we were back.”

“As soon as you turned the corner you would see the sign of Yamamoto Inn glowing out from among the bushes. Every time I saw that sign, and saw the long line of guest room windows, I would relax a little, feel a kind of relief. It didn’t matter whether there were lots of guests and lights shining in most of the rooms, or whether the whole place was empty and the windows were dark; either way it felt like I was being welcomed back by something big, something much larger than me. We would go around to the kitchen side of the inn and slide open the door to the main house, and Yoko would call in, “We’re back!” At that hour my mother was either still over in the inn or else sitting having a cup of green tea in the living room of the main house.  Once we’d finished our cakes and pies and whatever else, my mother and I would head back over to the guest house. That was the routine. It had been like that for ages.”

“Now I am having lots of fun, and I am really happy here in Tokyo, but every once in a while the memory of my life in that town hits me so hard that I can hardly stand it, and I start feeling sad. At times like that the very first memories that are resurrected in my mind are these two scenes: Tsugumi playing with Pooch on the beach and Yoko smiling as she walks down the path that night, pushing her bicycle beside her.”

“With the very first bite I took, the intense flavor of the soy sauce in the coating flooded my mouth.”

“The sky was brilliant with rays from the setting sun, and the subtle wash of its colors was reflected with infinite clarity in the rows of windows that covered the buildings, as vividly as if they were mirrors.”

“Life is a performance”

“Each one of us continues to carry the heart of each self we’ve ever been, at every stage along the way, and the chaos of everything good and rotten. And we have to carry this weight all alone, through each day that we live. We try to be as nice as we can to the people we love, but we alone support the weight of ourselves.”

“What makes you think she is hurting?”
“Take this, for instance.” My father tapped the slice of mackerel with his chopsticks. “Lately we have been having fish every night.”

“Sometimes when the wind changes in Ginza – a part of Tokyo I often walk around – all of a sudden you find yourself bobbing in the salty scent of the tide. During the few moments that the scent remains, I always feel as if I’m about to burst out screaming. This isn’t a lie, and I’m not exaggerating. Suddenly my whole body is drawn into this swirl of this fragrance, and I ache so fiercely that I can’t even make myself move. I feel like bursting into tears. Usually when this happens the weather is lovely, and the clear sky stretches on and on into the distance, and I feel like hurling away the bags I’m carrying from Yamano Records or Printemps or wherever, and dashing off to stand on that dirty concrete embankment beneath which the tide is forever dawdling, and just keep drinking in the aroma of the sea until my heart is full. It occurs to me that perhaps this is what people mean by “nostalgia: the pain of knowing that this powerful yearning will eventually fade.”

“Way off down the street we could see the leaves of the trees, looking as if they had soaked up tons of water, dazzlingly green. Their colour stood out beautifully against the blue of the sky, which was itself very precious – weather this nice is rare in the rainy season.”

“The busy sound of footsteps rushing back and forth in the halls of the inn. The commotion in the kitchen, the echoing moan of the big vacuum cleaner, the ringing of the phone in the lobby. There were always crowds of people in the house making all different noises, and at five and nine o’ clock the Town Association would broadcast a message from the speakers that hung here and there around the town telling kids that it was time for them to head home. The thundering of waves, whistles of trains, the chirping of birds.”

“Mixed in with the afternoon light that flooded the room, the glow of the reading lamp looked incredibly white. A string of melodies flowed quietly on and on in the background. We sat in silence until the record ended, listening to this music, reading our magazines. Then the room was enveloped in a blanket of stillness that was disturbed only at intervals by the quiet rustle of pages flipping, flipping, flipping.”

“Like a series of projections from an old roll of 8mm film, its colors faded, images of the town and the inside of the inn flashed through my mind. I saw Tsugumi lying there in that small room I knew so well, her skinny arm holding up the telephone receiver.” 

“No matter where you are, you’re always a bit on your own, always an outsider.”

“The waves sparkled so brightly in the glow of the setting sun that the glare was almost blinding, and across that water and beyond the orange sky it was just possible to make out the wharf, tiny and uncertain as a mirage.”

“Earlier I had been so hyper I could hardly sit still, but once I changed from the bullet train to the high-speed ferry the see-sawing of the waves had lulled me into an unintended nap, and when I woke up the excitement had faded. Still dull with sleep, I sat up a little and gazed out through the saltwater spray that covered the windows at the distant line of the shore. The familiar, well-loved beach zoomed closer and closer, like a movie sped up.”

“The windows were open, and guests returning to the inn after a swim in the ocean sauntered by just outside the screens, their laughter echoing cheerfully back and forth. By now the dinner hour had began at all the inns, and the whole town was alive. The sky was still light, and the sound of the evening news was streaming from the TV. The fragrance of the sea breeze swished across the tatami and whirled through the room. Out in the hall, hurried footsteps skittered up and down, and groups of guests heading back to their room after a soak in the inn’s spas ambled by, filling the air around them with clouds of noise. Way off in the distance you could just make out the cries of seagulls over the water, and when you tilted your head up to look out the window, a sky so wildly crimson it was almost frightening glowed between the power lines. It was an evening exactly like all the others.”

“Soaking up that gentle heat, a little tired from all the hustle and bustle of travel, I let myself savor an enticingly familiar sense of happiness.”

“Outside traces of light still lingered in the sky, and against that background the streetlamps seemed to shine more clearly than usual. Tsugumi kept being yanked along by Pooch, just the same as before.”

“Night had almost fallen, and the street was deep blue and heavy with heat, and all along the vague white blur of the beach children were out setting off fireworks. We walked to the end of the gravel path, passed by the bridge, and headed towards the shore. We walked up to the top of the embankment that stretches straight out into the sea, and set pooch free. While he tore off in the direction of the beach,Tsugumi and I climbed up on one of the huge concrete blocks that lined the edge of the sand and sat down, leaning back into two of its corners. Then we opened the cans of cold juice we’d just bought.

The wind felt good. Here and there the final glow of twilight would shine through holes in the thin sheet of grey clouds that hovered up there, flowing off into the distance, and then the light would blink out of sight again.”

“The dusk surrounding us was a mass of any number of colours piled one on top of the other, and everything around us seemed to hover in space, deeply blurred, as if we were in a dream. Every so often a wave would hit up against the awkward silhouette of one of the breakwater’s concrete blocks, and the water would dance. The first star glittered brightly in the sky, looking like a tiny white bulb.”

“It wasn’t narcissism. And it wasn’t exactly an aesthetic. Deep down inside, Tsugumi had this perfectly polished mirror, and she only believed in the things she saw reflected there. She never even considered anything else.”

“Here and there along the road the shadows of summer lay hidden. There was something sweet about the night air and the energy that surrounded us, something that seemed to infuse the evening with an excited vigor. You felt as if it colored even the fragrance of the breeze. The people we passed were all full of spirit and very boisterous. Everyone seemed to be having a blast.”

“It’s odd, but impressions of the program itself have faded, become lost in a shroud of mist, and all that comes back to me is the feeling of what it was like to watch it – an excited memory of thrill we felt. The lighting in the TV room, the flavor of the Calpis drink we always had when we watched the show, the vaguely warm breeze that blew out from the fan – all this comes together again inside me just the way it was, vividly real.”

“The moon had climbed up high overhead. A line of fishing boats stood along the edge of the road that led up to the peak of the mountain, all of them sunk in such a profound sleep that you would think they were just rotting away. This wasn’t the town we knew. It felt as if we had arrived someplace unrecognizable, fantastically distant from everyday life.”

“There was no one else on the road that climbed the mountain, and it was as black as a cave. The high bluff that bordered the road cut off the moonlight, plunging us into shadow, and we had a hard time just making out the ground beneath our feet. Yoko and I held hands and walked on carefully through this blind world, as if groping our way through the dark. Tsugumi strode rapidly on by herself, a little bit off to the side, keeping in line with the two of us. Her footsteps were so steady and sure that I remember looking at her and finding it hard to believe she was actually walking in the dark like us. The darkness was frightening.”

“But we had totally forgotten that now, and as we trekked over the peak of the mountain, deep in the heart of night, surrounded by the wind shaking through clusters of trees, we felt a sort of eager excitement. As we made our way farther and farther down the slope of the mountain, the neighboring town, a small fishing village, appeared before us under the dark cover of midnight. Before long the beach came into view.

The rocky shore was lined with little stands and shops that only stayed open for the summer. They were all boarded up, with an aura of emptiness about them that made you think of ghosts. Way out in the water the flags on the buoys were swaying vigorously back and forth, in time with the roar of the waves. The slight nip in the wind cooled our burning cheeks. We all bought sodas. The clunking of the vending machine in the night seemed to send a shiver of surprise across the entire pitch-black expanse of the beach. The dark ocean undulated before us, blank and vague. Way off in the distance, the lights of our town glittered faintly, like a mirage.”

“The wonderful scent of the wind – a fragrance reminiscent of the aura of the mountains and the sea, which weaves slowly, translucently through every little nook and cranny of our town. I knew this night would never be back, but that didn’t matter. Just having the possibility, just knowing that I might find myself in a night like this, in some other summer, was enough to make it all perfect.”

“It had been raining since morning. A salt-scented summer rain.
And I was bored. I’d been holed up in my room for hours, reading.”

“Outside the window, way off in the distance, I could see the ocean. It was deep gray, and the tossing waves were so wild and jagged that it was actually sort of scary to look at. The whole vast expanse of sky and ocean stood on the other side of a monotone filter of mist.”

“Time and time again, images of the raindrops that kept streaming like shooting stars across the windowpane glimmered across the movie screen inside my head.”

“I get the feeling  that in towns near the sea the rain falls in a more hushed, lonely way than in other places. Perhaps the ocean absorbs the sound? When I moved to Tokyo, the exaggerated roar of the rain there was one of the things that surprised me most.”

“I went through the same routine in autumn and winter and spring, but for some reason when I think back on those days now it seems as if it was always summer. When my father stepped down from the bus his face would shine with a powerful smile, as if he had been holding in something unbearable, and the sunlight was always so bright you could hardly stand to look.”

“Silhouettes of dragonflies would dance against a deep purple-blue sky while I licked away at the Popsicle they had bought me. Usually the wind had died down by then, and the hot air that lingered on the beach hung close around us, smelling of the tide.”

“The sand settled  into patterns like waves in the tracks of the wind, and the only sound that echoed across the empty beach was the almost too loud pounding of the waves.”

“The sun was high and brilliant, beating down with such ferocity that it bleached everything on the shore, turning it all vividly white. The sea was so calm you would almost think it was a lake, hardly a wave out there.”

“I am in love with the moment when the water switches from being so cold you want to leap up into the air to something that feels just right against your skin. Looking up, I saw the mountains that encircle the sea flashing their shimmering green out over the water, soaring up against a blue background of sky. All this greenery so close to the shore looked unbelievably thick and clear.”

“Light exploded on the water into millions of individual flecks, an array so dazzling that it made me catch my breath.”

“Kyoichi had the same sort of unbalanced view of the world as Tsugumi, where you focus your entire life on a single thing and just keep digging down deeper and deeper into it.”

“There was a strong wind blowing, and I could feel sand swishing about in tiny swirls around my feet, then whirling off.”

“Tsugumi plopped down on our plastic spread. She gazed out at the ocean, squinting against the light. Just beyond her, the curve of our beach umbrella cut sharply into the blue sky, flapping crazily, noisily in the wind. It was such an amazingly bright, vivid scene that I lay there unable to tear my gaze away. My heart felt as if it might flutter off to some place far away.”

“Right around the time when the hustle and bustle of preparations for the festival take ahold of the town, all of a sudden you find yourself noticing that autumn has begun weaving itself into the rhythm of your days. The sun is still just as strong as before, but the breeze blowing in off the sea has turned just the tiniest bit softer, and the sand has cooled. Now the rain that quietly drenches the boats ranged along the beach carries the damp, misty smell of a cloudy sky. You realize that summer has turned its back on you,”

“The contented smile that lit up her face seemed as pure as rare as the final flurry of spring snow on a mountaintop.”

“Gazing up at the Milky Way where it shone mistily in the sky, we strolled to the end of the street and passed the beach. The music for the o-bon dance that streamed from the speakers up at the shrine was buoyed along on the wind, so that you could hear it all over town. The sea looked much blacker and choppier than usual –  perhaps because of the way the beach glowed in the light of the lanterns that lined it. People walked more slowly than usual, unwilling to see the summer go. Every little alleyway was crowded with people; it seemed like everyone in town must be out in the streets.”

“The singing of flutes, the waving fans, the passing breath of a salty breeze – all this projected itself slowly onto the night, flowing on and on like paper lanterns adrift on a river.”

“The stars are pretty tonight, aren’t they?”

Yoko was gazing up at the sky. With the soft glow of the Milky Way at its center, the whole wide expanse of night sky was flecked with fragments of starlight that seemed to bleed outward until they were all stuck together.”

“But if there were one thing that I wanted to hold on to even with this knowledge, to retain just as it was, it would be this evening. I didn’t need anything else, I didn’t need anything more – that’s how happy we were then, how full the air surrounding us was with a small and quiet joy.”

“Looking up we saw an enormous globe of fireworks blossom in the shadow of the inn and continue to expand, growing wider and wider. We ran for the beach, chasing the booms that began a moment later.

The sky over the ocean was wide open, with nothing to obstruct our view, and it was strange to see the fireworks unfurling way up there, like lights from outer space. The four of us sat in a line on the beach, hardly speaking at all, gazing up at the unfolding sequence of fireworks, enchanted.” 

“The fire was small, but the warmth it gave was just right for a slightly chilly night like this, a night when the wind was strong. Firelight flickered out across the dark troughs of water that hung between the waves.”

“The crackling of the burning wood mingled with the sounds of the waves and the wind, and it was as if the sound were being blown away into the darkness at our backs. And the ocean continued to roll its black, sleek surface onward toward the shore.”

“Evening was drawing closer, and rays of sun played across the surface of the ocean, flooding it with gold.”

“It was near dawn now, and when I looked out the window the eastern sky held such a dim hint of light that it seemed I might just be imagining it. After a while I got up and sat staring out toward the dark ocean. But that ocean – the expanse of water that I knew was out there, that had to be out there – was still sunk in the blue depths of the night, so that it seemed to have dropped utterly out of existence, leaving nothing but an enormous void. Gradually this scene worked its way down into the core of my sleepy head.”

“The crashing of the waves echoed through the darkness that surrounded us, and as we stood there heavy drops of rain started tumbling down through the strong wind, pounding into us. The lights burning on the boats sailing by in the distance looked blurry.”

“Like the lanterns on the boats that dotted the ocean, revealing its contours, Tsugumi’s life shone.”

“I sensed a faint breath of salt in the cool breeze – it was as if the ocean that surrounded the peninsula had enveloped every nook and cranny of the town. Walking along the darkened street, I felt a little bit of an urge to cry.”

“The next day the sky was as clear as it could be, and a hot sun burned down with such blinding strength it was like the middle of summer. Even so, the incredible clarity of the rays made you feel the autumn.”

“The row of old inns that lined the narrow street leading to the bus stop. The withered shades of the bindweed flowers that had been planted everywhere, all along the street. My memories will remain here, closed within this dry noon. Encased within the unique feeling of noon in a town by the ocean.”

“It was a lovely morning.
Autumn was definitely here. The sky echoed with the clear tones of a pale faintly greenish blue, the blue stretching on and on as far as your eyes could see, and the trees swayed slowly back and forth, cutting wide arcs into the sweeping autumn wind.”

“Everything was steeped in the tranquil fragrance of autumn, and it all came together to form a soundless and translucent world. It felt as if it had been ages since I’d tasted the joy of a morning this dazzlingly bright, and for a while I just sat there with a blank mind, gazing out at the land before me. It was all projected so clearly into my head that it made my heart ache.”

“I lobbed the phone over to my mother and went back to my room, then snuggled down into my bed. Washed in the morning sun, I closed my eyes and went to sleep listening to the distant murmur of my mother’s delighted voice. This time I was able to fall asleep right away, and I was very solidly out.
It was a deep, gentle sleep.”

“I sat down on the chair next to our phone and kept chatting with Yoko, gazing up at the sky outside. The noon sun poured down, lighting up the room and its squareness. And I felt a quiet sense of determination rising up into me, slowly flooding me, but without assuming any particular shape, and, of course, for no reason I could understand.
From now on this is where I will live.”